It would be understandable to overlook the works currently on view at Herald St. in London as paintings by Norwegian artist Ida Ekblad. The young painter and sculptor, whose work so often mines the scrawling hands of graffiti writing or mixes in cast-off detritus from her daily daily wanderings, here has taken a decidedly more contemplative route. Over a small series of paintings, she embraces a distinct sense of foreground and backdrop, mining new ground to create a particularly compelling body of works.
To be fair, the impulse behind these works are definitely characteristic of Ekblad’s practice, a bricolage of both detritus materials and personal resonances twisted into some free floating, abstracted concept. Yet here the artist’s work settles on the landscape of the mind, pulling together memories of her youth on vacation in Venice (several Murano vases are included here), her own love of music, and the various iconographies of a Britain past. In one work, the word TUFF (ostensibly a reference to dub producer Prince Far I’s CRY TUFF label) spins around a record sleeve, complemented by a bust and shimmering light that gives it a sense of distended reality, pulling the record label away from immediate legibility in favor of a space populated by Ekblad’s own experience. In another, a Murano vase is accompanied by the text London Soul, calling to mind the famed lineage of Northern Soul clubs that left a long-standing mark on British musical history. Ekblad mixes her own images, these specific objects from her own memory, with a historical engagement with her surroundings, one that is equally invested in her own personal experiences in the city, and in her memories looking out from it as she completes these pieces.
With that in mind, it’s no stretch to say these are distinctly London paintings, mixing together the city’s history of all-night soul dances, dub reggae and connections to the rest of Europe by way of a distended, abstracted accumulation of images, a juncture that Ekblad manipulates to form her own muddled series of engagements with the city. Ekblad plays a masterful hand here, creating a body of works that feel distinctly fresh in the face of their engagement with specific memories, concrete ideas and immediate reference points. While previous work gained its strength from generality and a sense of shared experience, these pieces are personal to the point of universality, showing a passion for her subject matter, and perhaps more importantly, a distinct sense of care for its depiction, that makes these works so alluring.
The show is on view through January 28th.
— D. Creahan
Ida Ekblad: Proper Stuff [Herald St.]