Erik Thor Sandberg: Beautifully Disturbing

Allie Schaitel

June 30, 2015

Oil painter Erik Thor Sandberg‘s art is anything but typical, plain, or mundane. His Facebook page‘s “Personal Interests” section describes his aesthetic best: “Dead things, naked things, vintage things, antique things, disturbingly cute things, acutely disturbing things.” The works produced by this American artist are beautifully rendered scenes that shy away from the conventional with additions of the grotesque, nudity, and symbolism. It could be said the work falls in the camp of ‘Magical Realism’, similar to the work of Dutch artist Hieronymus Bosch. Some paintings encapsulate a spirit of intimacy, as if the viewer is falling upon a humorous, strange scene. In some, characters are complacently frozen in time, seldom making eye contact with the viewer, lost in their own interactions and daydreams- nudes absentmindedly spray-painting in the woods, deer lounging with a plethora of ladies. Other pieces are more chaotic as scenes in arbitrary spaces fill with wacky characters.

Figures are placed in landscapes reminiscent of a dark fairy tale, fit for our wildest dreams. This work seems to surpass the confines of the subconscious and catapult us into a dreamland where humans and animals find themselves in strange situations, interacting in unnatural ways. Erik favors including animals in his work due to the classical and personal symbolic interpretations they evoke. Flaws and folly are brought to the forefront in the stories these pieces tell.

The figures Erik renders aren’t idealized or perfected either. His fascination with humankind’s weaknesses is translated quite literally by blatantly disfiguring and misconstruing some figures. While some details showcase the skill Erik possesses, he chooses to forgo letting his talent take the lead and instead pushes the boundaries of what we think art encompassing the classic, traditional fine art style should look like and represent. It’s as if the paintings are wearing a mask disguised as traditional, when the top layer is pulled away the contemporary premises shine through. The oddball, narrative quality makes these oil paintings unforgettable.