Ringvägen 86, Stockholm
30 mars-1 april 2016
Bo Melin (b.1964, Sweden) graduated from Konsthögskolan Valand 1997. Melin is an intermedia artist. Besides large scale sculptures, his methods include: portrait drawings, installations/surroundings, performance/happenings/workshops, land art, graffiti and digitally manipulated photography.
His main practice seems to defy borders of the Artwork within public and gallery space. He has a strong interest in making the ordinary-extraordinary, making pedestrian-fantastic. The spirit of art making draws from playfulness and a childlike sense of adventure.
Favorite materials of use like hay, pancakes, and banana boxes, hint to Swedish “country-urban” mainstream culture, while people, lakes, the ground, and nature itself, are his “material” as well.
By combining country life with the urban surroundings Melin is being critical of Swedish society using humor and without taking himself out of the equation. One of his works “Queue” (25 people got together one day and formed queues on five different locations in Stockholm city centre, Stockholm, 2005) exemplify this perfectly.
The intervention in “realities” is subtle and gives the feeling of a non-artwork (in the most wonderful way) perhaps as a mean to “trap” some public attention and engagement. Determined to connect with a less ordinary art viewer (a more casual viewer) in streets, junctions and airports, Meline gives the idea of Land Art and taking a piss at it. By referencing he claims how porporturos it is to commit to an ego driven artistic act to interfere with nature. Melin demonstrates this in homage to American artist Robert Smithson (who is known by his monumental land art pieces) in the work Rolling Woods "Robert Smithson" (Fotogalleriet, Oslo, 2007) - a humble mobile pasado nature piece with a mock tree and a cluster of swedish Kantarell mushrooms.
Melin is known for his work of making pancake mountains and banana boxes fortress inside a slick gallery space and also “mobilising” these immobilized works by sticking them to a car as a possible mock to a false sustainability facade. Melin roleplays as a “Street Artist” that mimics the existing details of the urban space with doubling street pigeons/birds/nobs/water clocks and ashtrays instead of writing a political message or his own name. Melin photoshops swedish squeaky clean “urban” suburbs with graffiti create a more chaotic, multicultural city - seems as wishful thinking driven by a reverse impulse to a photographer's aspiration for a perfect frame.
Melin sculpture style as demonstrated here, while monumental and massive “Pop Art” inspired, shows more visual closeness to folk-art, theatre sets, something taken from country fairs and arthouse film productions than to “Claes Oldenburg lookalikes” (which is what expect to find in a museum/ Gallery).
This gigantic young scandinavian looking guy is sitting quietly still, wearing urban clothes, waiting among the normal life-size ”trees”, with a pair of binoculars hanging from his neck; a bird watcher.
Serenity-like atmosphere came over me. What I felt was surprising in relation to the size of the work - I felt small but calm, like in a natural surrounding standing near a big tree. It was the room that felt silly and not the super-sized-cartoon-like character made out of hay. The space felt like a white box that is too small to contain a larger-than-life notion of freedom - I felt the installation “projected”. A White Cube (no matter how ragged it is, like here in Hangmenprojects) is made as such for viewing artwork in a clean quiet space - without interventions from the outside.
It somehow fails to do its job here though; it’s confined and stuffy yet inseparable from the idea of the work.
Melin has invited Mattias Norström (b.1971), a Konsthögskolan Valand graduate artist from 2002.
In this show, Norström exhibits a surrealistic, funny and disturbingly enormous white pole that curves through the narrow gallery corridors and ends by hitting a wall. It is actually a humongous swedish flag pole, as if it was taken from an extravagant country house yard and shoved into a tiny space it does not fit. It feels so gross and unnatural. it's hard not to read this as a strong critic of the idea of any nationalism. The two works converse perfectly about “Swedishness” and “Swedish nature” (if there is such a thing) leaving me wondering long after exiting the gallery space…