The Anchor Hits the Sand
Expanding on the characteristic motifs and imaginative spirit that have come to define the artist’s broader oeuvre, Nordström’s light and shadow environments employ a cast of objects within a fantastical and psychologically charged environment that is at once vaguely familiar, evocative, and meditative. They are encountered by the viewer through a veil composed of semitransparent paper (in fact, the same paper used to create his collages); behind which cutouts of buildings, trees, and animal and human forms—recurring motifs in the artist’s work—are suspended between the ceiling and floor by rotating wire mobiles that are illuminated by color wheels, animating the surface of the paper in a whimsical play of light and shadow. The sound element, a “collaged” musical composition of found and new sounds, recorded in collaboration with the music producer Rudolf Nordström, the artist’s son, lends another dramatic dimension to the overall work. Taken together, the result is “part fantasy, part dream, and entirely analog. It’s a work out of time or place.” The new graphite drawings and watercolour collages included in the exhibition expand on the motifs and imaginative spirit that have come to define Nordström’s broader oeuvre. Each work is populated by a cast of anonymous figures whose relationships and identities are never fully revealed. Nordström cuts out and paints the individual humans and animals he uses in the collages separately from one another, later bringing them together within the composition in surprising, humorous, and mysterious ways. In Farväl/Farewell, for example, figures can be seen engaging in a variety of discrete actions. A large cat scratches another figure’s back. Naked and seminude characters are crouched and bent over in compromising or suggestive positions. Others appear to be singing and dancing for their own pleasure, unaware of the actions of those around them.
As with the collages, Nordström’s graphite drawings often feature characters in antiquated attire going about their daily routines. The scenes unfold across domestic interiors, public spaces, municipal buildings, and art galleries, among other locales. The depictions appear like discrete vignettes, yet they are rife with detail and nuance, suggesting larger narratives and events that previously occurred or that are unfolding outside of the frame. In Över sten och trapp/Over stone and steps, a man lies at the foot of some stairs between two standing figures. Yet the relationship between the three is ambiguous. Did the adjacent figure push the man to the ground? Or are they friends, stumbling home from a night out together? Likewise, in another drawing, Förändringen/The Change, two men in top hats stand in what appears to be a construction site. There are no workers around, and despite the two figures’ formal attire, it remains unclear whether they are business partners or merely two unrelated passersby. As Katarina Wadstein Macleod notes, ‘[Nordström’s] pictorial worlds … form a parallel universe that is seemingly recognisable; visually similar to our own, but governed by other rules, like a dream.’2
Several of the works on view also incorporate photographic elements, specifically, cutouts of heads that float like celestial orbs within the compositions. Culled from magazines, as well as books from the artist’s personal library, these cropped portraits and body parts are separated from their original sources and contexts and reconstituted as Dada-esque photomontages. In works such as Historien and Pedagogik/Pedagogy, fragmented heads are isolated yet full of expression and character, making the interrelation of the imagery humorous but also cryptic.
Together, the environment, drawings, and collages in The Anchor Hits the Sandoffer a unique opportunity to view the full breadth and ingenuity of Nordström’s singular style and approach to art-making.