At first sight, Yrjö Edelmann’s work caused that familiar reaction we have to contemporary art. A single eyebrow-raise and sarcastic smirk, followed by the world’s best expression of incredulity: “pfft!” accompanied by the old age question “they call this art?” As I came to inspect the Swedish artist’s work more closely, my body responded in the opposite manner. Both eyebrows shot up into my judgemental forehead and my jaw drop down all the way to my feet. The expression became, “holy wow”, as I realised that Edelmann’s badly wrapped packages were actually incredible hyperrealist oil paintings.
Through his phenomenal understanding and execution of shape and shade, proportions and colour properties, the artist succeeds in challenging our senses considerably. In his flawless depictions of poorly wrapped packages kept together by boring ribbon and clashing tape, he captures every bit of imperfection perfectly – tears and wrinkles are not spared. Edelmann’s combination of classical style and contemporary imagery gives his paintings a tone of mystery and humour. From this I draw the conclusion that he is influenced by the famed surrealists who strived in representing the irrational and the dreamlike.
Man Ray once said, “Of course, there will always be those who look only at technique, who ask 'how', while others of a more curious nature will ask 'why'. Personally, I have always preferred inspiration to information.” I found myself asking both of these questions while gazing upon Edelmann’s work, which to me seems to be about binaries and fine lines of life - between ugly and beautiful, reality and fantasy, dream and experience.
Sometimes floating amidst heavenly landscapes, sometimes sitting on their own against white backgrounds, Edelmann’s parcels have a perpetually three dimensional, lifelike presence. It’s hard to deny that his work is hauntingly sensual; it will stay with me for hours, days, weeks. I can’t help but wonder what’s inside of those packages. Does he know? Is what matters on the inside?
To the cynical me who raised her sarcastic eyebrow at first glance: in your face! Edelmann is not only an artist but also an implausible illusionist.
Words / Ana Gomides