Presence in Absence: Eloise Ghioni in conversation with Sigrid Sandström

studioshot6Eloise Ghioni: In one of your texts “De involverade” from 2012, you define painting as a ‘time capsule’, assigning the physical object a transcendental meaning, where semiotically it represents a stargate for a refined and analytical mental process. Through your work I can perceive the profoundness of an infinite world, especially a philosophical and conceptual one. Could you describe the paintings for me in more depth?

Sigrid Sandström: I see my paintings as rather matter of fact. In them I am after the simple sensation of retaining an awareness of the few elements that make up a painting: paint, canvas, stretcher bars, and yet those limited elements have the ability to communicate sensations of immediate presence that go beyond the obvious. The paintings establish a dialectic between an experiential and an analytical point of view, and relate to the different types of decoding of these respective view points. The goal is to achieve a moment of instability within the experience of look; where the visual impact supersedes post experience rationalization. A trompe l’oeil trick unfolds slower than a sensation of a punch of visual information through shape and color. It exists within the dynamic of its deception, how it hides in plain sight then reveals itself to the viewer within the analytical encounter. As to the temporal references to the past, is to understand the paintings as pertaining to a phenomenological time-space in which the protention and retention of a painting’s lineage and future are encoded. Rather than being a spiritual quests of transcendental from a theological point of view, I see it in a Kantian sense of transcendental knowledge the means in which we can experience those objects as objects.

EG: Space-time or the structure that in physics defines the universe through four dimensions. This relationship determines an equivalence between space and time, according to the theory of relativity and is widely found in the quotidian reality that we live every day. However, what Einstein introduced with the theory of relativity, is an evolution of the concept of time. It leads me to the description you give to your painting, understood as an immobile space which encloses an excess of the fullness of time (past-present-future). Could we, therefore, define your painting as the physical place where different realities coexist?

SG: That sounds very grand! Yes and no, as each object has its history and can still imply a future usage, but I think the reason I brought this up in referring to my paintings is that unlike photography or film the painting usually hides its reference, its past, through layers covering things up. Also we view a pre-modern painting as a story to de-code where as modern and contemporary paintings alternate between being objects and being a surface which provide information that can be de-coded and further contextualized. In that sense the modern and contemporary focus on the objecthood of a painting makes it static in current time to some extent where as the content/image of the surface can slide more easily through temporal references (backward, forward, present time). And materially the fluidity of paint allows for a direct time based experience for a painter, an existence in the present tense by using a medium of wet paint that easily moves in time, but the final painted implicates and rests with its past. It is quite pragmatic approach to painting.

EG: «The picture is the tangible representation of the action of the painter. It is the visual memory of a gesture and at the same time the absence of the body which carried it out», according to your description, we can thus define painting as the trace of a body thought?

SG: I see it as a trace of a body, a presence in absence. Within the painting it is the evidential and circumstantial indexical result of a previous presence. The potential thought of the painter is re-considered through the viewer who brings her/his thoughts into the “reading of the painted gesture”.

EG: What compels a contemporary artist to investigate multiple directions that are seemingly very far from the ‘modus operandi’ of a classical painter?

SG: Contemporary painters are part of the contemporary paradigm, which effects how we view the world and the role of art in it. A pluralistic force of information will naturally have an impact on how painters understand and operate within this world.

Feb2015.1.EG: It would be great if you could take me through your working process. How does your work come about, how does it evolve and what identity does it assume once it is finished? If it is true that for each of us there is a cognitive vision of what we see and assimilate in relation to our background, I’d like to ‘see’ with your eyes one of your works.

SG: To me each painting is an extension of the last one finished, that is, the process is somewhat like a snow ball effect, or I could describe the paintings as relatives of sorts, where parts are inherited, warped and reconsidered, as if I look at the same painting from multiple points of views. Sometimes I paint a previous painting from memory, sometimes I invert an image of a finished painting to be a starting point for the next. The inversions, mirroring aspects function as a dialogue I have with myself in trying to identify what they do and what they do not do as proposals in the room. I think about them as images, objects, illusions, projections, evidences and echoes. I see how the abstract meets the anecdotal, how image is seen as fact.

march2015.1.EG: Travel is a constant in your life. Do you believe it is fundamental for a contemporary artist to confront oneself through a kind of modern ‘Grand Tour’?

SG: There is no necessity to travel. You can be the most amazing contemporary artist not leaving your home, as long as someone knows that you are there. Travel comes with privilege. It is an extension of a colonial tradition of expanding your viewpoint and your territory. I have had opportunities to go places as an art student, as an art educator and as an artist. I am restless and having relatively recently moved back to my native hometown after 16 years abroad more so than ever. Traveling is a way to escape, to get distance and to forget yourself.

EG: Where does travel – or perhaps better stated – your journey take you?

SG: When I was younger and living alone far away from my home country I had a sense of directionless longing for an undefined place, for belonging and for recognition of sorts. This projected longing made out the motives in my paintings. As I now live and work in my hometown most of the longing has evaporated into a very matter of fact in the moment approach. Maybe this is due to time limitations but I also think at this point in time the painting process itself has become the site of investigation and that the longing for something distantly undefined, instead for now has arrived in a focus upon the present tense, the actual act of painting. To me painting seems to reflect my life, and thus at this moment the paintings come out of the discoveries within an immediacy.

Sigrid Sandström was born in 1970 in Stockholm.

Eloise Ghioni
© Sigrid Sandström, Eloise Ghioni

Courtesy Sigrid Sandström, Anat Ebgi Los Angeles CA, Inman Gallery Houston TX and Galleri Olsson Stockholm

Editing text: Andrew Smaldone

Editing: Eloise Ghioni


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