Tall stems of flowers, grass and reeds tower against the sky as soft sunlight streams through their leaves. Norwegian artist Vibeke Slyngstad’s exquisitely rendered paintings take the perspective of a small child playing in the earth, running through fields, wading through streams, squinting into the sun. These are not, however, works of nostalgia; the beauty Slyngstad depicts is fragile and wavering just as the landscapes themselves are transitional, caught between the rural and the urban, the land and the sea. Dor Beetles Slumbering at Dusk, the artist’s solo exhibition at Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery London, takes these rugged, mysterious edgelands as a way of exploring complex psychological states.
Slyngstad works at a slow, meditative pace, precisely rendering each image using a single layer of paint so that the finished surface has a delicate, almost translucent quality, reflecting wider notions of liminality. Although thecompositions are inspired by the artist’s photographs of real-life encounters with nature, the vivid hues and magnified perspective of the plants against a blank, white sky are suggestive of a heightened perspective or dreamlike state rather than any specific geographical location. Meanwhile, Slyngstad’s plays with materiality to evoke a fluctuating sense of perception almost as if we are dipping in and out of consciousness. From a distance, the exacting details, blinding bursts of light and contrast between sharpened and blurred edges, which mimic the flash and zoom of a camera, create a startling impression of photorealism, but on closer inspection, the artist’s presence becomes visible through fine, irregular brushstrokes and subtle imperfections where the colours bleed out of the lines or the paint smudges. “It is very important to me that the works have a humanity and honesty about them,” says the artist. “The viewer is able to see every mark.”