Commercialized, conformist and soulless art. My opinion of Hampus Ericstam was largely negative prior to attending his exhibition. The Swedish-born artist has collaborated with such ‘caring’ multinationals as Virgin Atlantic and Nike. Therefore, he is far from the individualistic and alternative image of the artist that his illustrations suggest.
And yet, there is something overwhelmingly attractive about his work. Colour prints, influenced by video games, display a rainbow of seemingly random objects, juxtaposed with one another. A giant safety pin is depicted alongside a shark of equal length. Ericstam’s repeated manipulation of scale challenges the viewer’s expectations of what should be most prominent within a composition, and such eccentricity makes his work intriguing. However, the exhibition is limited by its size. His work would have more visual impact on a larger scale, and, considering that he is heavily influenced by 1950s and 60s street style, in an urban environment.
In a series of felt tip drawings, Ericstam uses a linear approach to blend an image of a butterfly into that of a female face. Illustration is a world in which the imagination can thrive, and it can be said that Ericstam truly encapsulates imagination. Content choices seem informed purely by aesthetics.
His work is stereotypically beautiful but sometimes random in its subject choice, evoking a sense that it is essentially meaningless.
This may be a superficial interpretation. In some places, dribbling ink provides the illusion that the image is disintegrating, and the motif of a skeleton frequently occurs throughout Ericstam’s work. Here then is a somber statement about the transience of human life. Then again, maybe the skulls simply make the work seem edgy. But is it terrible if Ericstam fails to make an intelligent point about the human condition? In a climate where artists compete to make the most shocking statements, perhaps society has become bored of ‘meaningful’ art. Maybe beauty should take precedence.