Joakim Eneroth

Joakim Eneroth : Swedish Red

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What is the world coming to? If you ask Swedish photographer Joakim Eneroth, the answer is bleak at best. Eneroth captures our growing fear, isolation and lack of trust in a series of images that may at first seem quite staid. His Waiting (2005) series, for example, appears to be the same image of sea and sky repeated over and over. It is actually the Thai coast in the weeks after the 2005 tsunami. It had been photographed by media from all over the world just the previous week, but Eneroth perversely caught the water and sky in a calm moment, urging us towards contemplation--but not letting us relax completely into a scenic stupor. In Swedish Red, Eneroth examines the idea of home--challenging our notion of perfection and security. He poses the idea that fear, or the need for security, easily evolves into deep isolation.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 72 pages
  • 240 x 297 x 10.16mm | 294.83g
  • Steidl Publishers
  • Steidl Verlag
  • Gottingen, Germany
  • English
  • 32 colour illustrations
  • 3865216137
  • 9783865216137
  • 1,365,826

Review quote

Steidl is one of the great art book publishers. As seen in the 2010 documentary How to Make a Book with Steidl, Gerhard Steidl takes exquisite care to supervise each step of the process, from artist to print shop. So you might be surprised to learn that the simple but obscure images made by Joakim Eneroth for Swedish Red is available for sale online at Wal-Mart. Maybe IKEA, but Wal-Mart? But it makes sense. There's a list of numbers across from the title page of Eneroth'sSwedish Red. Are they catalogue numbers? Of what? There's only a brief explanatory text included in the book: "The idea of a place where everything should be perfect easily becomes a naive projection. Our craving for private security easily turns into numb isolation." The text is repeated, splashed across the hardbound cover as well as inside the slim tome. On the surface, this repetition is superfluous, even wasteful. But it's part of the repetitive, numbing nature of Eneroth's unassuming images. Eneroth photographed examples of a barn-like Swedish house design, documented in a way that recalls the Typologies of Bernd and Hilla Becher. Their deadpan cataloguing of German industrial structures informs Eneroth's dry approach, but the text suggests something more sinister, and in fact I wish the text had been omitted in order to leave the interpretation up to the viewer. Those cryptic numbers? They're from the Swedish color system, Nordic swatches of domestic design. S1095-Y80R is one of 25 codes listed for varieties of Swedish Red. It's a conceptual, distancing way of communicating color and aesthetics, much as the images are cold and dry. But even though these numbers reflect the commercialization of color and aesthetics - Wal-Mart art - the pictures work on multiple levels. Eneroth's brief statement of purpose focuses on the isolation conveyed by these perfect, standardized structures. But Eneroth's straight-ahead compositions, despite the intention to reveal a forbidding culture of security, have a dignity that elevates them. The shades of red - however much they may signify "Stop! Stay away!" - are bright and beautiful, and evoke an alternate "naive projection": red means danger, alarm, yes, but it also means apples and candy. You can see this conflict at work in compositions where lush hedge work frames the red structures. The green and red, stop-and-go color scheme is a classic one, defining the central motifs of Alfred Hitchcock'sVertigo. The red is standoffish, but the hedges are inviting, leading the eye naturally along the edges of the frame and the asymmetrical forms of branches playing against tiff parallel lines, man and nature in opposition but also in harmony. Paranoia can be beautiful. Subtle variations affect composition, and the book is sequenced so the final images offer the most dramatic variations of all: snow. Here, Swedish Red is no longer the choice of a conformist, but of an artist, the red houses boldly standing out in the middle of an open white landscape, forming abstract color fields ready to photograph. The colors and forms of nature: twilight, snow, greenery, all these work against the window-less, isolating reds, revealing details that are not exactly personal but make distinctions as subtle as catalogue numbers. Swedish Red is disarmingly simple, its images pretty and plain at the same time. You could no go further than the surface pleasures of color and composition and find in them a quiet beauty. And then forget about them. At what point does our response to abstraction become projection? Eneroth projects his own valid intentions into his sequence and presentation. But the work is strong and evocative enough to sustain multiple interpretations, like a good work of art should. Spectrum Culture Magazine November 3rd. 2013, Pat Padua
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