Cecilia Edefalk Explores Outer and Inner Worlds

Her work at the Berkeley Art Museum bears out Picasso’s dictum.


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Cecilia Edefalk's Silver Roots.

Cecilia Edefalk, Courtesy of Gladstone Gallery, NY & Brussels

The notion that traditional media and themes are superseded by new media and new ideas is still accepted by “dedicated followers of fashion,” to quote The Kinks—even though the recent theory that all art is socially determined, i.e., in service to ruling elites, and thus fraudulent, suggests that even the new is fatally contaminated, so why bother? The fact that people still visit museums, and, these days, in ever-increasing numbers, argues for art’s continued relevance; that, as Picasso, the king of thieves, said, “What is art stays art.”

The work of the Swedish artist Cecilia Edefalk, now at the Berkeley Art Museum under the aegis of its MATRIX 261 program, bears out Picasso’s dictum. Her paintings on canvas, bronze sculptures, and photographs explore subjects as old as art—“historical memory, fluctuations of time, and the symbolic significance of light,” according to a press release about the exhibition—as shaped by a contemporary sensibility. Her subjects, whether taken from nature or culture, undergo metamorphoses during the creative process of analysis and interpretation, emerging transformed, rich and strange: nature, seen through a temperament.

Edefalk’s interest in the natural world is evident throughout. Almost 40 years ago, the artist made a three-year trip painting watercolors of the coastal wildflowers of Spain, Portugal, and Italy, and 20 of the 160 paintings that she made for a book that was never published are shown here. A dandelion field near her home in Stockholm is depicted as a photograph glowing and immanent with reflected light. A familiar neighborhood birch tree, cut down, finds a second life (or immortality) in surrealistic bronze sculptures using casts from its branches, bark, and leaves.

Culture is, of course, part of nature, too, as well as a human microcosm. Edefalk’s fascination with a marble Roman mask at the Malmö Konstmuseum of the emperor and Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius resulted in a series of paintings, high-key and ethereal; bronze sculptures, including botanical wreaths or sprouts; and photographs, with the sculptures juxtaposed with the paintings.

Cecilia Edefalk runs through Oct. 16; Berkeley Art Museum, 2155 Center St., Berkeley; 510-642-0808, BAMPFA.org. 

This report appears in the August edition of our sister publication, The East Bay Monthly.

2016-08-17 08:00 AM

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