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Selma Morshedi

Something that never ceases to amaze me when meeting paintings is how there is no before or after. The image lives its own life, even in works with a clear figuration or narrative. In that way, the image is a mystery, a riddle. The Swedish painter Ola Billgren called the image just that, a riddle, saying “Everything is image, and when it all comes around, the image is just a riddle. You can move around it, but never really grasp it.”1 The riddle: an enigma, an intractable problem. Still, painting seems to hold some kind of magic. How else could one describe the way a flat surface can possess so many bodily sensations and emotions?

The Italian architect and art theorist Leon Battista Alberti wrote about the “divine power” of painting, stating that “a painting lets the absent be present.”2 To catch a glimpse of life, and experience the presence of a deceased, through colour alone, is in fact magical.

Going back to Billgren, I consider some of my images to be riddles. They often contain both a deep melancholy and a laconic humour. By choice, some of my paintings are “solely” stories. However, a riddle can act as a story, since at times stories have a tendency to be incomplete, vague, unclear. In the choice between image as story and image as enigma, an interesting contradiction takes place. If I am lucky, the painting decides for itself. I work with this paradox in the exhibition space, jumping between puzzling, peculiar images, and images with a clearer composition or narrative.

By painting, drawing, and carving, I try to understand both what it is to be a human being and the surroundings made, or affected, by human hands.

This task of understanding is often based on purely existential questions and is rarely easy.

  1. Ola Billgren, Måleriets liv och död (Lund: AB Propexus 2006), p. 90 (Translated from Swedish by the author).
  2. Leon Battista Alberti, Leon Battista Alberti: On Painting: A New Translation and Critical Edition, ed. Rocco Sinisgalli, 1st ed. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011), p. 44.
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