© Images Roman März
29 JULY – 4 SEPTEMBER 2022
KÖNIG GALERIE presents its first solo exhibition of Camilla Engström in the ST. AGNES | CHAPEL in Berlin. Engström’s practice encompasses painting, drawing, and sculpture, operating between colour-rich landscapes and figurative expression. For her exhibition in Berlin, Engström has created five new oil on canvas paintings that showcase her characteristic trippy, hallucinogenic palette and voluptuous curving forms in sorbet-coloured hues. With these new works, Engström channels both the erotic charge of Georgia O’Keeffe and the spiritual vigour of fellow Swede, Hilma af Klint.
These new paintings dive deeper into the texture of landscape, abandoning the human form in favour of imaginary settings – brightly lit and undulating with Engström’s curvy lines. The resulting images are sunbathed, from a light source that emanates from somewhere outside the picture frame, as the sun as object is featured in all but one of the paintings. There is a warmth and quiet stillness in all of the works, reflecting Engström’s long-standing meditation practice. She refers to herself as a mostly self-taught artist, having previously studied fashion, making her way to the canvas mostly through drawing.
The Los Angeles-based artist spent time in New York and assisted other painters in her friend circle to realise their own projects before embarking on her own. The sun plays a large role within Engström’s work, both as subject and as context, where her images often feature a small, glowing circle, and seem themselves to be illuminated by an inner light. For the works in this show, it appears as though the sun is on its way up, a distant figure that playfully hovers above a luminous daylight in all its sensuality. In YOU SEE YOU, foreground and background have merged, leaving us face-to-face with an ocular-shaped orb, a direct address leaving us with nowhere to hide.
In SOFT SMOKE, YELLOW EARTH, SHY SUN, and ORANGE EARTH, Engström has built her rippling landscapes vertically, each curved line standing one on top of the other, like layered segments of the earth exposed to the intensity of a blazing star; or, as bodies stacked on top of one another. The foundational pictorial element of these topographies is Engström’s dizzying, liquid lines, which take shape on the canvas almost autogenously – as if they were always there. There is no beginning or end to these languid strokes, other than the limit imposed by the frame itself, a device used to contain the vitality of these embodied scenes.
What makes Engström’s paintings unique is the way in which they merge a near-digital palette – saturated and uniform – with earlier painting techniques, from the surrealism of Henri Rousseau to the mysticism of De Fem, with a tinge of psychedelia mixed in for good measure. This combination has allowed Engström to slow down the breakneck pace of the migration of digital imagery, using its effects to create an otherwise static picture, a painting, which embraces mood and temperament as well as levity and humour.