The weather in London this week has been grey, cold and still. Though the first daffodils are out in the parks, and there’s that extra few minutes of light in the afternoon to let us know that better times are on their way. This wintry feeling meant that Martin Aagaard Hansen’s paintings, scratchy and cold, struck a chord with me this week.
Copenhagen-based Hansen clearly enjoys escaping to the countryside: the paintings on show at Union Pacific are closely thematically linked, all some variation on a forest scene with solitary wanderers. The skullcap referenced in the show’s title isn’t the type commonly worn by ‘creative’ young men wandering the East London streets around the gallery, but is instead a type of mushroom. Hansen likes to forage as well as paint.
Skyggebror (above) is a good example: the shadowy figure, deep in the swirling woods, half turns away from us. Details on his clothes, and his feet, are picked out by scratchy, very fine white lines. Each work, combining oil paint and chalk, is made on wooden boards.
These materials give Aagaard’s scenes a jewel-like clarity. The matt surface withholds our reflection, making us look deeper into the forest. The hard surface allows the networks of white scratchy lines to grow, like fungi on bark.
I’d like to think these fine, distinctive paintings would work on me in any weather. Maybe that’s due to some preoccupation or other I have with forest scenes. It reminds me of other forests I’ve featured here before, such as the mysterious photographs from Indrė Šerpytytė or Tom Hammick’s blue-washed landscape paintings.
Neither of those artists have the sheer wintry chill of Aagaard, though. Spring is coming, eventually. But, from this perspective, it seems far away.
Martin Aagaard Hansen: Autumn skullcap is at Union Pacific (London). 13 January - 12 February 2022