Editor’s Pick: Maren Karlson Cypher

Sigil I, 2022
Oil on canvas
60 × 90 cm

The experience of looking at Maren Karlson’s paintings is one of uncanny recognition: a simultaneous coming to and an evacuation of the senses. In Cypher, we encounter the artist as she repeatedly transforms either-or into and-also: man made devices and-also nature’s most intricate forms, the sublime and-also the abhorrent, the space and-also the void. Through this conscious multiplicity, Karlson renders static ideas of existence contingent and fluid, a compelling or worrisome proposition depending on who you’re talking to.

Vagus (the wheels my masters), 2022
Oil on canvas
70 × 220 cm

Regardless of the varied and otherworldly character of many of the forms she depicts, all of Karlson’s motifs attest to dynamism, ecstasy, and pathos. The living leads her to the invisible, to the vulnerable, sometimes the shadowy or the unseen. Karlson detaches forms from organism and grid alike, and in their newfound isolation, conjures a sense of spirituality as well as a relationship to liveliness. Her combination of freehand drawing and painterly precision result in pillowy compositions anchored by a strong sense of line.

Cypher, 2022
Oil on canvas
40 × 50 cm

Lumen, 2022
Oil on canvas
85 × 130 cm

In the works on view as part of Cypher, Karlson’s interests in body, landscape, and structure coalesce. Her paintings inhabit the inter­section of a shift in perception and an assessment of reality, cosmically penetrating a geometric process. Many of the works possess what Karlson has described as an “anti-petrifying effect,” a reminder that any interest in death is only another expression of interest in life. Indeed, one is struck by forms that recall a rib cage, spine, or perhaps a tomb, as much as by the sensation that Karlson is pulling us closer to something redolent of death in order to enliven in us a stronger, more certain sense of life. — Isabel Parkes

Images courtesy the artist and Soft Opening, London Photography: Theo Christelis