Swedish painter Karin ‘Mamma’ Andersson is known for her evocative compositions where people seem to be caught in difficult situations in a melancholic landscape that borders on abstraction. The meditative quality of her paintings and their dream-like atmosphere align her with the rich tradition of early twentieth century Nordic romantic landscape painting.
Andersson studied from 1986 to 1993 at the Royal Institute of Fine Arts in Stockholm where she adopted the name ‘Mamma’ that she still uses. She first focused on landscape as a subject for her art because that is what she saw when she was pushing her two little children in their carriage.
While Andersson frequently bases her compositions on photographs and pictures from publications, her paintings do not directly copy this source material. Rather they form the basis of her rich but uncertain narratives. Her varied style encompasses stark, graphic lines to loose washes and painterly effects. There is a sense of timelessness in her paintings due to the absence of contemporary images or signifiers. Her subject matter centers on subdued landscapes or nondescript private interiors. If people are included in her works, there is never an explicit narrative about them.
In her 2011 painting “Night Guest” several figures gather before a rural house under a dark blue night sky. We don’t know what is happening, but this composition was inspired by a photograph taken after the plane crash that killed Swedish Secretary-General of the United Nations Dag Hammarskjold. It was thought that his plane was shot down over Zambia while he was en route to negotiate a cease-fire with possible C.I.A. involvement. While there is no explicit connection in this painting to Hammarskjold’s death, there is a mystery here with sinister connotations.
In 2006, Andersson won the Carnegie Art Award for Contemporary Nordic Painting. She exhibited in the Nordic Pavilion at the 50th Venice Biennale and in 2018 won the 11th Guerlain Drawing Prize.
Andersson has been included in group exhibitions in New York, Stockholm, Switzerland, and Los Angeles’s Museum of Contemporary Art. She has had solo exhibitions in Colorado, Dublin, Stockholm, and London.
Her works are held in the permanent collections of the Dallas Museum of Art, the Hammer Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art, Museum of Modern Art in New York, and museums in Sweden.