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Over the Influence Bangkok is pleased to present Undercurrents, an exhibition of 16 paintings by Camilla Engström. This is the first time the artist has shown in Thailand.

Camilla Engström paints the seasons. In the summer her work is exuberant and cheerful, demonstrative of a spirit embracing the exterior world, overflowing with abundance and energy. In winter, the artist says she goes inward. She hibernates. Her usual technicolor palette cools, her sun is eclipsed by a moon, and the energy slows to a near stillness. Or least that’s how it appears on surface. But beneath the visage of darkness, and stasis, new life and revelations continues to burn brightly. Undercurrents explore the profound transformation that occurs beneath the surface of the earth, and the human body, during times of perceived stillness and rest. A theme that mirrors the artist’s own practice, who during her blue (and emerald green) period, generated sixteen paintings capable of capturing the whole of the human condition in chromatic luminosity.

The first painting Engström made for the exhibition, Saffron Hills, acts as a portal, a transition from the elation of summer to the introspection of winter. By physically adding the autumnal tinge of fall, in the form of ochre paint, to the vibrance of summer, a yellow-orange paint, she renders a landscape in the golden cast of a sunset. A sinking sun is mirrored by a bourgeoning moon in a painting that preserves, as if in amber, the liminal space between day and night. Orbs and circles figure heavily in the exhibition taking the forms of celestial bodies, wombs, lakes, and irises. Full, organic, and biomorphic, they call attention to the cyclical nature of life and death; the unity of all things; and the wholeness of the self, body and mind, conscious and unconscious, visible and invisible.

In Protector and Remembered Lands the artist gives mother nature a human corporality. In Protector the bulbous belly of an abstracted female form holds in gestation the blooms of the spring to come, while in You are the Earth the land itself is attributed anthropomorphic qualities such as erect nipples and a full derriere. In Sweet Stillness and Sweet Stillness at Dusk the figure’s boundaries are entirely erased rendering it impossible to locate where the face ends and the sky begin. Beyond exploring the intrinsic connection between the feminine and the natural world, the fusion of the organic and the human calls attention to man’s interdependence on the earth and generates a level of empathy that is often exclusively reserved for the human species. If not our mothers, who then are we willing to save?

The artist explains that while she does retreat to nature when looking for inspiration, the world rendered in her paintings is less a depiction of a particular place and more a manifestation of a feeling she experiences while there. “Nature is already so beautiful, I don’t need to recreate it,” says Engström. A testament to the artist’s remarkable ability to convey tone with specificity and immediacy, one would be hard pressed to walk through the exhibition, and not feel an indelible wave of comfort, peace, and gratification. The voluptuous curves, undulating lines, and lush palate all but envelop the viewer into the artist’s wonderment.

Engström’s alter-ego, Husa, a familiar character in Engstrom’s oeuvre, makes numerous appearances in a multitude of forms. “They’re all Husa,” says the artist, who goes on to explain how Husa has transformed along with her over the course of the last several years. Within Undercurrents she manifests as a child or as a mother and other times as a young woman somewhere between the two, not unlike the artist herself. In Inner Sight, Husa lays daydreaming, her hair floating like a cloud above her, hand dipped in a blue iris doubling as a limpid lake, while in Mountain Blanket, she pulls a mountain range over her face in preparation for a night full of dreaming. Both works, as with many in the exhibition, offer symbolic nods to the surrealists, such as Rene Magritte’s clouds, Salvador Dali’s flames, and Man Ray’s eyes. Allusions that underscore the artist’s metaphysical ideas about the practice and process of art making, self- reflection, and the mystical/meditative nature of inspiration.

Glowing orbs, blazing fires, and luminescent clouds float from painting to painting, a poignant reminder of what is only visible at night, and perhaps, a call for us all to continue to seek the light, literally and metaphorically, as the days grow shorter and the temperature lower.