It’s been two years since the last time we’ve featured the work by Sara-Vide Ericson and we figured her breathtaking presentation currently on view at Skellefteå Konsthall in northern Sweden certainly deserves the attention. The 22 paintings comprising Ditch Dance are based on experienced, fictional, and emotional stories that she has directed and staged, using herself as the main character and her imminent surrounding as the setting.

In these scenes, the human characters are presented as somewhat of a savage, existing on the thin line between the untouched wildlife with a mere suggestion of a civilized world, celebrating primitivism to some extent. Primitivism in a sense that portrayed life isn’t polluted with the urban, modern-day elements, or any of the features of the man-made world, but focused on one’s humble relationship with their natural wildlife surrounding. Captured in both visual and functional harmony with the monumental scenery, yet often depicted as its small fraction, the human protagonists are usually accompanied with a blood-red item, suggesting their ultimate vulnerability. Although regularly shown in midst of an activity, there are no clues given in terms of the actual narrative, which adds a sense of mysticism to otherwise imposing yet unassuming scenes. Such atmosphere extends to the smaller works, in which careful framing of material choice turns the prosaic setting into an abstract composition in which familiar elements are playing a hide-and-seek game with the viewer’s eye. 

As a whole, the body of work correlates with the poetic and intense story written by Karin Smirnoff, respectfully glorifying life in the unforgiving wilderness of northern Sweden. “I wanted Smirnoff to write since she relates to a long tradition of writers, such as Sara Lindman, who are connected to northern Sweden, where I live,” Ericson told Juxtapoz about the importance of the text that is accompanying the exhibition. “Something that both Smirnoff and Lidman have in common, is how well they write about the harsh landscape and how it actually affects you and your choices. In an inspirational and such a beautiful but violent way they depict what power the landscape has on ourselves and our actions, and how we, humans, are not so solitary as we think and want to be. More of vessels for our history.” Artist’s meeting with the writer and the resulting text directly informed some of the works in the presentation, creating a multi-sensory experience between the two artistic forms by two women with correlating yet extraordinary life perspectives.

In order to capture the harshness and the vigor of nature as the main protagonist, Ericson continues to explore all that is within such scenery, almost capable of adding the hum of the wind in between trees or the rumble of a river stream beating against the boulders. This highly energized atmosphere is achieved with the application of expressive, organic, broken brushstrokes, that are continuously touching up the surface and carefully building its color scheme and content. Simultaneously, this process pours the sunlight into the canvas suggesting the play of atmosphere and the everchanging nature of it all. The coarse appearance of the untouched forest is captured with raw, brushstroke-rich textures built from earthly shades of brown, grey, and beige, often pinpointing the season in which the image is taking place. Applying different painterly techniques for different elements, from the sophisticated, smooth surfaces of manmade objects and human skin, to raw, impasto renditions of the ground, the trees, water, and other natural elements, Ericson is forming a believable puzzle that holds the plentiful image together. By persistently and meticulously capturing all aspects of natural light, color shades, and interactions between the elements without any artistic alternations, the existing, actual ambiance is appropriated into an imaginary narrative, successfully constructing a plausible reality on a picture plane. —Sasha Bogojev

Ditch Dance will be on view through December 8, 2021.