The Shadow's Call
Ylva Carlgren, born in 1984 in Luleå, lives and works in Stockholm. Graduated with an MFA from Valand Academy of Art in Gothenburg 2012 and has since then exhibited at galleries and museums around Europe. The Shadows’ Call is Ylva Carlgren’s second solo exhibition at Gallery Steinsland Berliner.
In her earlier works Ylva Carlgren explored the imperious subject matter of perfume advertising through precise, time-consuming watercolours. The fetishization of the perfume flask’s sensually alluring facets, curves and colours; light enmeshed in prisms, reflections and refractions. Over and above a purely visual value there was an elucidation of a commercial world that has succeeded in penetrating our desires with fragrances that have become extensions and enhancements of the self. In Carlgren’s carefully considered paintings every brushstroke is a quest for perfection just as much as it is a notion of the unattainable.
In her second exhibition at Gallery Steinsland Berliner, Carlgren leaves the objects from her earlier works behind and allows only their illuminated backgrounds to endure. Immediate narrative has been dispensed with and room made for reduced shades set against elementary geometric forms. Left lingering are the silhouettes of a semblance of objects just outside the paper’s edge. An intimation of that which is not there or that which we do not see. There is an almost unfathomable tactility to the works, as their spatiality is carefully built up by means of subtle gradations.
In the film noir of the 1940’s the Venetian blind serves as a psychological underscoring of the protagonist’s search for hidden truths. Light filters in through the gaps in the blinds and casts a striped shadow across the room’s décor. In Carlgren’s paintings, lines fade from black, implicit objects fade into unpainted surfaces and the veiled is left unspoken. In one series, consisting of three works, there is a circle that can be seen floating like a sphere in a space devoid sound. The gradual shifts in colour move like an eclipse from the white of the paper to grey before finally terminating in darkness.
The title of the exhibition is inspired by Japanese author Junichirō Tanizaki’s essay In Praise of Shadows. In a defence of Japanese aesthetics, and its consideration for the potential of both sun and candlelight during all phases of the day (dawn, day, dusk and twilight), Tanizaki emphasizes the patent contrast to the Western tradition and its inclination towards the complete illumination of surfaces. In part, thanks to the introduction of electricity and the calculated elimination of shadow. Carlgren’s work encompasses both ideals. Shadows and stark scenes are conjoined through careful preparation and digital pre-studies, the traces of which lay bare an element of artificiality.
Watercolour’s propensity to float outwards, and to create drama in the process, is restrained so that the paper, much like a wall, becomes but a surface for a subdued play of light. The sparse shades seem to lie within the very eye, and mood, of the beholder. Through this investigation of the perfection of fundamental forms and the capabilities of shadow, Carlgren creates a space where silence and serenity defy emphatic narrative.
Text by: Ulrika Pilo