Niklas Holmgren

In Search of Ghosts

Galleri Flach is pleased to present a series of new paintings by Niklas Holmgren, with the title ”In Search of Ghosts”. The motifs of the paintings are based on August Strindberg’s chamber play The Ghost Sonata, a play that has been of great importance to the artist, not least a production from 2000 in which one of the roles was played by the actress Elin Klinga. In an inner search about his own artistry and the time that has passed by, Niklas Holmgren makes a series of paintings in which Elin Klinga reappears in the role’s dress with its extensive fabric wrapped around her in the foyer of the Royal Dramatic Theatre (Dramaten), Stockholm. An encounter occurs, and her gaze cuts through time. As if both the actress and the artist lock back at each other and ask themselves: Who where we? Where have we been off to?

Niklas Holmgren’s imagery can be described as a realistic and psychological narrative focusing on the absolute presence of the individual moment. In the series ”In Search of Ghosts” he focuses on the passing of time and people he has met over the years. In the central painting, ’The Gallery (Sound On)”, five adults and a little boy are gathered in a magnificent room, dressed in gala attire and as if in anticipation of a great moment. The characters and the composition of the painting are also linked to Strindberg’s play, and the room is filled with an ambiguous atmosphere of joy, surprise, and fear. The atmosphere contains an outer layer of high society splendour but also a deeper psychological darkness and drama brooding in the background. The people depicted are close friends of the artist, who at different times have played an important role in his life. In their facial expressions there is an exuberant and nervous joy, as if we are watching a celebration of life that tries to keep death and darkness at bay.

As an artist, Niklas Holmgren has previously also worked as a scriptwriter and film director. As in his films, he also works in his imagery to compress and frame an entire situation in a given moment.  He carefully selects people, situations, and environments to capture his ideas in carefully crafted compositions. He skilfully reproduces light, texture, and materiality, evoking the technique and psychology of former artists such as Velasquez and Goya. The shifts between the present and the past, light, and darkness, happen in an instant. In one of the paintings, for example, a young man is caught in an interior filled with hyacinths. He studies the flowers with a soft and fascinated gaze in a room vibrating with bright light.  In the next painting, darkness dominates. A girl’s face glows with firelight through the blackness of evening as shadows dance against a stable wall. She holds the reins of a horse, just back from a ride, and looks tenderly at his muzzle. Allusions between the play and the artist’s own memories take place silently, creating a condensed and association-rich narrative, carried by a sharp-edged painterly expression.

Niklas Holmgren, born in 1974 in Lycksele, lives and works in Stockholm. He has a Master in Fine Art from The Royal Academy of Art, Stockholm (2001). Selected exhibitions: Tableware in still life, curator: Yoko Yamano, Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art (TBD), 2024, Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery, July 13 – September 21 2024, Contemporary Art Museum, Kumamoto. Apects of a Summer, Galleri Flach, 2023. I Promise to Listen. Studio Giardini, Venice. Curator: Power Ekroth, 2022. Mothers, Stockholm. Curator: Power Ekroth, 2021. Glass tableware in still Life, Olle Nyman’s studio and artist’s home, Saltsjö-Duvnäs. Curator: Yoko Yamano, 2021. Photos: From the sky to the sea, Galeria e Bregdetit, Vlorë, Albania, Curator: Donika Cina, 2020. The Family show, Gallery Steinsland Berliner, Stockholm, 2019. Individual conversations, GELB, Stockholm, Curator: Ashik and Koshik Zaman, 2019, Layered+C-print, Stockholm Design Week, Stockholm. Curator: Ashik and Koshik Zaman, 2019, Interior (solo exhibition), Domeij Gallery, Stockholm 2018.