Swedish Artist Mamma Andersson’s Haunting, Nordic Scenes on Paper

A celebrated Swedish contemporary artist, Andersson is known for her eerie, understated paintings and prints centered upon what she describes as “life in a distilled form.” In juxtapozed dark and muted tones, and with an expressive touch, she concentrates on depicting sparsely populated landscapes; introspective human figures, who seem isolated even in groups; and domestic and interior scenes oddly emptied of life. “My style follows a very Nordic painting tradition: landscapes, interiors, relationships, and dramas. I am very much inspired by theater and film,” she once said, summarizing her work.
Though Andersson is now based in Stockholm, her Nordic sensibilities are rooted in her upbringing in Lulea, a rural community on Sweden’s northern coast. When Crown Point Press called, however, she left her country behind and took up temporary residence in San Francisco, where she spent her days working with master printers to translate her singular visions into elegant etchings. Together, they discussed and perfected color and composition, resulting in a suite of limited-edition prints.
Among these prints is Saga (2013). Dominated by tones of gray and cream, the composition is centered upon a nude woman, shown simultaneously from the front and behind. She appears at the left-hand corner of the composition, cut off at her lower back and bending slightly sideways into the scene. In front of her, a curious opening within a seemingly curtained wall resembles both a mirror and a window; the woman’s reflection can be seen in the opening, but its wooden frame and the additional presence of trees recall a window, with a view opening onto a quiet landscape. Such perceptual uncertainty characterizes not only this particular print but Andersson’s work in general. It keeps us wondering, absorbed in the compelling mystery of her images, through which, as she says, she “make[s] [her] own history.”
Karen Kedmey