A Danish Painter Channels Freud’s Excavations of the Mind in “Surreal Universe”

At Gallery Elena Shchukina in London, “Surreal Universe” marks the UK debut of Danish painter Ida Kvetny, and what an introduction it is. Her dense, haunting paintings feel right out of a dystopian fairy tale or horror movie.

These psychedelic works are warped and fantastical, dripping with saturated colors. There’s a dark, Dalí-esque feel to Heat Wave (2015), a composition thick with amoebic monsters and horned creatures, their innards exposed, the landscape strange and threatening. Meanwhile, the floating forms and deep blues of Pompeii (2015) call to mind Chagall.

It may come as little surprise that Kvetny was also inspired by the teachings of Freud, self-described “archaeologist of the mind.” Like an archaeologist conducting a careful excavation, Freud worked to uncover buried thoughts and feelings, to place them in context, to try to understand the relationships between them.

Kvetny’s works look something like an archaeologist’s lab turned upside down, with strange, unidentifiable organisms and artifacts left and right. In fact, Kvetny takes the archaeology metaphor one step further. Displayed alongside her paintings are tiny figurines she calls “fossils”—sculptural relics of the strange universe she’s created.

Using what she calls an “ancient language that transcends time, place, and culture,” her nightmarish landscapes provoke thought and wonder and dread. Philosophical and artistic influences aside, this dark world is all her own.


Bridget Gleeson


Ida Kvetny: Surreal Universe” is on view at Gallery Elena Shchukina, London, Feb. 11–Apr. 14, 2016.

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