Henrik Soderstrom

Art

 

My work explores and is created in moments of transition, states of almost-but-not-yet. I am interested in Barry Schwabsky's articulation of the “latent state of the image” and the “latent state of abstraction.” The highly porous boundary between image and abstraction is, in my studio practice, a visual bi-product of systematic transition.

Transitional states between abstraction & representation, familiarity & strangeness, and diffusion & articulation are reminiscent of the Kingdom of God, which is simultaneously already among us and on the way. I am interested in the ways that the Lord manifests stability in the midst of instability, reconciles fractured experiences in to the wholeness of His plan and sends the peace of the Holy Sprit to rest on us even as we live scattered lives. There are several visual themes that interest me because they relate to transition and states of already-and-not-yet.

Multiplication

Geometric shapes, sheep, lines, and “frames” are repeated in foggy layers in many of these works. I am interested in multiplication because it relates to provision, freedom, and love in the Kingdom of God. Heidi Baker is a missionary in Mozambique who describes chicken being miraculously multiplied in her oven to feed people at her orphanage. Jesus multiplied bread and fish to feed a crowd. Love expressed with abandon has a multiplying effect in that Love shown freely emboldens the expression of more generosity.

In kindergarten we sang a song with the refrain Love’s something, if you give it away you’ll end up having more. This is profound. In Matthew 10, Jesus says to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.’ God expresses freedom and Love through multiplication.

Multiplication also relates to stability. Multiplying the outriggers on a long boat makes the vessel more stable. More flying buttresses on a cathedral make the structure stronger. Abundantly multiplied photographs in a film strip create a stronger image of movement than a single blurry picture. Multiplication interests me visually in that it makes an image feel more stable, but it is an energizing concept as well.

Plastic Toys

I am interested in fragments of plastic toys that seem at once familiar and unfamiliar. They appear here as a translation of encounters with the presence of God, like a stand-in for the Holy Spirit.

In a 2014 panel discussion at the Whitney, Carol Bove described Jeff Koons's work as aspirational. Fragments of toys and ladders have this quality, both formally and associatively. They belong to systems of memory, ideation, and almost-alchemical transformation in play that are unafraid of failure, fetish, and cheesiness. This is how Hildegard of Bingen, John Wesley, and Bill Johnson all describe the supernatural.

Bighorn Sheep

The sheep represented in many of these paintings are related to provision and fatherhood. The Genesis 22 account of Abraham’s life describes God providing a sacrificial ram caught in a thicket. The Lord responded to Abraham’s faith with miraculous provision.

To announce the Hebrew year of Jubilee, when debts were forgiven and economic equality restored, the priest would blow a wind instrument called a shofar, made from a ram’s horn. Shane Claiborne and collaborators from the Simple Way revived this tradition for their 2007 Jubilee on Wall Street, blowing the shofar and pouring thousands of $1 bills from windows and rooftops for people in need. These images blur boundaries between symbols of wealth and poverty, between striving and miraculous provision.

Sacred and Imperfect

I make art to worship an immense God who chose to be seen on His earth in the form of a baby born in a barn under culturally questionable parenthood, sharing his first bed with donkeys and mice. The incarnation dramatically connects the already to the not-yet, the perfect to the imperfect, and the abundantly clear to the mysterious.

I try to render holiness with imperfect gestures, using reclaimed materials to blur the line between “religious” and “common.” Although I mean no irreverence to the traditionally sacred, I do hope to call attention to the elements of sacredness coursing through the imperfect, throwing the border between the two into a visually kinetic instability.

I try to create images where walls become transparent, borders are softened by fog, and centrifugal motion overpowers rigid definitions of sacred and common, immense and intimate, complex and simple.