The exhibition Subtropics shows a selection of new work by Canadian artist Mike Swaney (b. 1978). Visually aligned with Art Brut, he invites us to explore aesthetic conventions connected to concepts such as primitivism and folklore.
Swaney works in several media and is known for his collages, sculptures and expressive paintings. In recent years, he has focused on intersections between online and offline reality by taking a closer look at the contemporary strive to always be connected – and it’s impact on art and everyday life. Strongly influenced by the aesthetic freedom of artists like Jean Dubuffet and Johann Hauser, Swaney explores customs, rituals and artifacts from a perspective that reflects on the absurd conditions of humankind.
An extensive visit to New Zealand functions as the base for many of the paintings and drawings exhibited at KRETS. Together with a site-specific installation, these works are a kind of reflection on the relation between creative processes, geography and cultural contexts. The images are immediate and raw, but at the same time full of symbolism and references. Here, we find details from the subtropical fauna, Maori culture and local folk art. The painting Aloïse on Water with Mangos is a homage to the Art Brut artist Aloïse Corbaz, based on a lawn sculpture found in New Zealand, resembling a Hawaiian mermaid. Another work portrays Tlaloc, a rain god within Aztek mythology, whose amulet also figures in another work – where it has been transformed into an abstract painting.
Mike Swaney was born in Canada, but is currently based in Barcelona. His work has been exhibited internationally, in e.g. Brussels, Barcelona, London, Miami and New York. He was also one of the founding members of Vancouver-based art collective Human Five (2001–2008) and has published several zines and books, e.g. in collaboration with Nieves. Aside from his own art practice, Swaney also runs the projects Art Blog of Mike (dedicated mostly to contemporary figurative painting) and Jean Dubuffet (dedicated to Art Brut and folk art). Subtropics is his first solo exhibition in Sweden.