Catalogue Martin Ålund Never Never Land
On Witnessing the Indefinable
I find myself on occasion starring mesmerized into the pot of milk for my intended latte as it boils over. The white skin rises up, ruptures, changes colour, rises up again, wrinkles, yellows and darkens. There I stand riveted until a more clear-headed part of me says it’s time to wash out the pot. What I experience here is an act of painting that daily life can be full of, if one chooses to see it that way.
As I view the paintings of Martin Ålund and the colour and material sensations he works with, I am reminded of my boiling milk. This in turn makes me aware of the way in which Ålund makes use of the haphazard and ever-changing improvisations that take shape on the canvas. It’s about the act of seeing itself, as when I gaze at the sky and the clouds and experience a magical theatre where the blue colour is not merely blue, but orange-blue-purple with accents of pink. In a similar way, I can study Ålund’s paintings and discover new unpredictable events and combinations. A simple horizon impossible to spatially position, or the blurry quality of several of the paintings often enhances the paint itself and its tactile qualities with the cracks, drips, erasures and brush strokes. He rarely engages in details, and if details and figures do appear, they are often open to interpretation. One can detect a strong searching quality to Ålund’s art, a strain of uncertainty amidst all the painterly experience and proficiency, as though his intention is to surprise both the viewer and himself.
What personally appeals to me the most is the melancholy and monumental obstinacy. It is as though Ålund is constantly painting the same world, although from different angles. Inner landscapes and images are terms that easily come to mind. This could aptly be said of these more or less abstract paintings, while at the same time referring to hundreds of other painters. But I feel the metaphor “inner landscape” often tends to be too simple. Instead, I would use the term poetic to describe Ålund’s painting. The choice of a landscape as a motif is not an end in itself, but rather a point of departure. This consistent world, with clear connections to the Romanticism of Caspar David Friedrich, Arnold Böcklin and indeed even J.M.W. Turner, is unique and dream-like in its determination and repetition. This is an archaic pictorial world of sorts. Often a vertiginously beautiful one in its grey tonality or blurriness. This also applies to Ålund’s earlier paintings, which were more figurative and post-modern, often with suburban environments depicted in an Italian Renaissance type of painting. In his latest works, he is less interested in contemporary interpretations of art and painting, and more focused on psychoanalysis and natural phenomena where emotional states are depicted. There is a strong movement forward in his painting, as well as a liberatingly unpredictable dimension. This reminds me of concepts often associated with photography, of witnessing something, of standing face to face with something one cannot entirely grasp. I search inwardly, thereby becoming involved in the creative process. This ambiguity allows for a wide variety of interpretations. The nub of the image, the point from which everything emanates—that which is needed to logically motivate all the other parts and make the painting work, has a hidden focal point.
I enjoy looking at classical Italian painting and often find myself starring at a detail, draping folds of fabric or a section of sky. Lingering on such a detail can often be a way of avoiding an all too cumbersome entirety. In Martin Ålund’s painting, I get the impression he has selected that specific detail for me—in concentrated form.
Roland Persson, artist
Translation Richard G Carlsson