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Erik Thor Sandberg is known for pushing the skillful illusionism of master painting to the contemporary edge of Magic Realism on three-dimensional wood panels of his own design. The artist’s most recent creation is “Primitive Vectors,” a sculptural installation featuring multiple paintings.

Grounded in humanism, Sandberg’s project presents a compelling contemporary expression of how people connect with each other, nature and basic elements of life. 

The artist designed a modular wooden lattice to expand across, and interconnect, the walls of the exhibition space. Embedded in this asymmetrical framework, at varied intervals forming symbolic structures, is a new series of oil paintings on wood panel. Each panel displays an intimate scene of present day human figures and animals as fragmentary glimpses into a singular but disrupted landscape. 

The title “Primitive Vectors” alludes to the physics of a crystal lattice, the form Sandberg selected on the basis of its module: the hexagon. A principal organizing pattern in nature, the hexagon gives structure to DNA as well as crystalline minerals and hailstones. Ancient traditions characterize hail as a primal crystal, a hard kernel able to transform into life giving water, embodying the potential of life. Sandberg’s paintings amplify this timeless concept of advantageous adversity. Each of his characters faces a nebulous force or mysterious defining element. Their internal dilemmas and interpersonal dynamics unfold amid the abundantly regenerative life of nature reminding us that from hardship comes rebirth.

Presented in conjunction with the “Primitive Vectors” series is Sandberg’s latest single large panel painting, “Trappings,” which features an inventive hunting scene inspired by Sandro Botticelli’s rendering of the story of Nastagio degli Onesti. The artist designed a concave wood support as a contemporary counterpart of a Renaissance collector’s studiolo. Encompassing viewers within a panorama of vivid imagery where the human psyche confronts itself and the powers of desire, Sandberg reminds us that what adorns us, signifies our status, or embodies our longings, may also trap us.

Erik Thor Sandberg (b. Quantico, VA 1975) lives and works in Washington, D.C. His paintings are in numerous private collections and have been exhibited at public and private venues internationally, including the Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD and The Baker Museum, Naples, FL. 

Erik Thor Sandberg, Cradle, 2017, oil on wood panel, 46 x 41 inches
copyright Erik Thor Sandberg, courtesy of CONNERSMITH.
Erik Thor Sandberg, Misdirection, 2017, oil on wood panel, 32 x 39 inches
copyright Erik Thor Sandberg, courtesy of CONNERSMITH.
Erik Thor Sandberg, Passenger, 2017, oil on wood panel, 13 x 11 inches
copyright Erik Thor Sandberg, courtesy of CONNERSMITH.
Erik Thor Sandberg, Trappings, 2017, oil on wood panel, 30 x 46 inches
copyright Erik Thor Sandberg, courtesy of CONNERSMITH.