May 20th, 2011
Mother’s Day, 2010, Oil and egg tempera on canvas
Oppenheimer’s Garden, 2010, Oil and egg tempera on canvas
Still Life, 2010, Oil and egg tempera on canvas
Three lovely, unsettling works by Lars Elling. I’m enamored of this painter right now. The three works I’ve selected (all from 2010) feature some of the characteristics of Elling’s work I find intoxicating and compelling — Francis Bacon like facial/bodily disruption & blurring, a sense of unresolved memory palimpsesting upon the canvas, psychosexual elements and symbolism, a muted muddy palette full of mosses & greys & forest-floor/rotten-leaf browns, peripheral suggestions of violence.
Take “Mother’s Day” for instance — what a piece. Reminds me of some Max Beckmann canvases (“The Night”, “The Dream”) with their crowded casts of characters, multiple points of visual interest, the unmistakable nimbus of dreamtruth. Look at the strung up woman in the back, the strange naked beating taking place in the painting on the wall, the accompanying violence done to the mother’s face & the picture’s frame, the scratched out young boy’s face, the incomplete chair and piano. It’s like a psychic snapshot of the brain at peak emotional turbulence (either awake or asleep), with the blurred and defaced elements corresponding to the things we don’t want to focus on or can’t bear to think about for very long. Other unanswered questions: why is the mother wearing a birthday hat? Is the child being given a surprise gift, or reacting to the gift she gave the mother? Is the child the mother from decades ago? Who is the tortured woman in the back — the mother in physical (or psychic) agony? Bound up in the throes of BDSM delight? Why is the boy upset, and uncolored? Perhaps the entire scene is just what the mother is thinking of on this, her day of reflection, a super-dense barrage of conflicting deep-Id emotional impressions spanning years & all occurring in her mind in the space of an instant. So much compression of detail, all throbbing with urgency. Everything means something here, in the same way our own nightly dreamwork tries to sort out emotional conflicts we don’t have the strength (or will) to face in our waking lives with its alien — but dimly knowable — logic.
Please check out more of Elling’s work at his website.