David Zwirner recently featured ‘The Anchor Hits the Sand’, a solo exhibition by Swedish artist Jockum Nordström. Upon entrance, visitors encounter a collection of Nordström’s watercolour collages. The motifs that comprise the works illustrate Nordström’s imaginative spirit and oeuvre. Each composition is peculiar and ambiguous, characterised by various scenes, with figures who seemingly have no apparent relation to one another.
‘Fortfarande, från sidan/ Still, from the side’ (2019) is a collage picturing two different scenes. The top pictures two figures who are standing in a room and lack interaction. The bottom, on a separate but conjoining paper, shows two figures who wander outside amongst a cutout tree and mountains in the distance. One character wears a top hat and walks with a cane. The other dances in nothing but briefs and has wild blonde hair. The scenes are connected yet inconclusive. The same ambiguous interpretation ensues observing the scattered motifs in ‘Farväl/Farewell’ (2019) and ‘Farväl II (Tralala-Lalala-Lalala)/ Farewell II’ (2019). At first glance, these works resemble drawings from a children’s book. Upon closer inspection, the brittle cutouts have an adult edge. Nordström has strategically placed top-hatted men, naked women and animals to engage in acts of frivolity and sex - lots of sex! Several other works are composed of cutout photographed heads that float against the papered canvas - aesthetics that recall dada-esque photomontage and avant-garde practices.
After grasping the ingenuity of Nordström’s style from the ground floor, visitors are drawn upstairs by an enchanting musical composition. The dimly-lit space accentuates the dreamlike trance connected to several graphite drawings on the surrounding walls. There are illustrations of undressed women and also figures in antiquated and dandy-ish attire who meander through typical daily renderings. A cryptic and uncanny nature permeates the atmosphere. The whimsical music, reminiscent of the innocence of childhood, further leads visitors into a separate room which contains an installation that shares the exhibition title and is composed of a curious display of figures created by shadow and light. The installation is referred to as an ‘immersive environment’ which allows visitors to choose their own viewing experience. From the front, shadow figures are projected on to a transparent veil of paper by a prism of colour. Observable from the back is the rotating mechanisms that suspend the delicate cutouts and the illuminated colour wheels that project the shadows. The dynamic intensity of Nordström’s compositional process is compelling, as are the cutout figures. Instead of the familiar themes of erotica, the cutouts here render a curious impression of a dreamlike wonderland. There is a traveler with a walking stick, playing cards, crabs, anchors, hands, and leafless trees. The details of the environment are mystifying and willfully melancholic.
‘The Anchor Hits the Sand’ (2019) is uncanny. It brings to mind memories of the early sentiments and fantasies of childhood, each of which are inherently subjective. The figures are familiar and strange, stimulating and frightening. Nordström’s work is part fantasy, part dream, and utterly devoid of place or time.