Roger Metto - In the heart of the Mountain
November 10 - January 13 2008
Roger Metto, born in Kiruna in 1964, was trained at the Nordic Art School in Kokkola, Finland and the Royal University College of Fine Arts in Stockholm. He lives and works in Stockholm and Lidingö.
In the Heart of the Mountain displays a selection of works that Metto created in the last five years. The artist has previously displayed his paintings at, among other venues, Galleri Leger, Malmö, Galleri Thomassen, Göteborg, Gallerie Ahnlund, Umeå, and Gävleborgs länsmuseum, Gävle. He is also represented at the National Swedish Public Art Council, Göteborgs konstmuseum, Västerås konstmuseum, and the municipalities of Umeå, Vallentuna and Botkyrka.
Roger Metto´s principal motif by far is landscape. In paintings that reference film´s wide-screen format, panoramic scenes emerge from Lapland´s wilderness and the midnight sun, as well as from the Wild West of American settlers. Strong, vibrant colors and contrast-rich fields characterize these landscapes.
Just as one can trace the roots of Roger Metto´s art to romantic 19th century landscapes and a pastoral tradition, it is also possible to see his playful manipulation of popular cultural clichés, particularly American ones, such as brightly colored toys, comic strip figures, and the cowboys and Native Americans of the Rocky Mountains. Even the playfulness of his works titles French Connection, Linimentville, Stretching in British Columbia, and Kicking Horse incorporates an undertone of urban poetry. Metto fuses these restatements of well-known pictorial content and contemporary mythology with mental images of folkloric wall hangings in bold color combinations reminiscent of his childhood in Kiruna.
Mountainous landscapes appear as an underlying drone in most of the paintings, just as they do in John Ford´s legendary cinematic environments; however, the mountains grow in and out of the picture, disappear in the distance, hover in the foreground or are occasionally abstracted to the point of taking on a new form.
The depiction of time and memory constitutes another aspect of Roger Metto´s work. Picture fragments turn up and are placed in the painting´s sliding plane between the foreground and the background. Detailed, individually sketched houses, spruce trees, animals and figures drift in their own, fabricated space, as if in a flowing stream of memory.
The abstracted parts rub up against the elegantly formulated fields, creating resistance, complexity and even questions about our experiences, our history and our recollections.
Several paintings feature colorful vertical and transverse bands, which give the works direction and movement but also indicate a transformation of the pictorial content. They form frameworks, a palette of opportunity for the rest of the image; they shimmer their way into the composition, disrupting the order of things; they vibrate like a visualized audio tape; they are the annotations of a language that is not easily deciphered, if at all; they appear as the panels of a film strip where, like melting celluloid, they dissolve and wither. Visual pictures are transformed, changed; they become indecipherable or disappear. Different levels of reality are created. Childhood memories mix with dreams and desires. The smaller, known world provides formulations for the huge, boundless one. Expanses are measured against boundaries.
The cowboy, a central figure in several paintings, gives way to thoughts about movie idols, children´s games of make-believe and masculine prototypes a folk hero, a magical figure of the imagination, and a classic image of unfettered freedom. The image of the man and the landscape, inscribed in art history by Caspar David Friedrich, draws on associations to both the Lone Ranger and neo-romanticism.
The work In the Heart of the Mountain permits the cowboy form to be inscribed in a multi-layered space with schematic drawings of houses, defined by a multi-colored decorative border. It is worth noting that the artist often draws with a brush, scattering bits of graphic art evocative of picture books or comic books in is paintings. The front part of the painting´ s edge shows a number of spruce trees drawn as silhouettes where, windswept and misshapen, they become a story book shadow play with crooked figures. The mountain chains, abstracted and partially dissolved, flank the cowboys enclosed area; they are transformed into two gigantic faces, a parental perspective dressed in mountain chains, like primeval stone statues carved out of the mountain.
The landscape is animated or personified. In nature, a human being is small. The massive mountain takes on the shape of a cloven heart, where the child and its imagination are given a sheltered place in which to grow.
Roger Metto has created his own world of images, a world that appears to undulate from a synthesis of visual impressions created around a theme, which touches on our being and our experiences, memories and attempts to express perceptions and context. We encounter a multi-faceted image system, an internal and external landscape in a continual exchange between form and content, color and blackness.