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Erik Sandgren at the Karin Clarke: “Observed, Imagined, and Remembered”

painting of boat
Courtesy of the Karin Clarke Gallery

  This is Sandy Brown Jensen, and you’re listening to Viz City, KLCC’s arts review program. There is so much art going on everywhere in the KLCC listening area. 

Artists we think we know are surprising us with unprecedented explosions of creativity. Check out what Margaret Coe is doing with oil paints and light on Facebook or the exciting work being shown almost daily on Instagram by Margaret Prentice, Robert Canaga, Sarah Sedgewick, and others.

However, it’s Erik Sandgren that has me in what Irish writer James Joyce called “aesthetic arrest.” That means stop where you are and take it all in art. He has a big new show up at the Karin Clarke Gallery, and I can't stop bringing his paintings up on line and staring at them. 

big rock
Credit Courtesy of Karin Clarke Gallery
Erik Sandgren. Cathedral Rock, John Day.

The show is called “Observed, Imagined, and Remembered: the Northwest Landscape,” but it isn’t just his observed images of familiar places that draws me.


It is those extra qualities of imagination and memory that take me deep. For example, one of my favorites seems so basic to describe--a boat with some figures in it coming out from behind an island with steep cliffs behind.


As I sit with the painting, I ask myself first if that’s a McKenzie drift boat full of local anglers. But then I think the boat has a wolf prow like a Northwest Native canoe and the figures are bent into the wind like a visual quote from an Edward Curtis photograph.


That’s where the imagination comes in. The trees on the island are, at first, trees, but then I see they suggest the figures of a standing bear, a totem pole, an ancient spirit. The forward action of the figures in the boat suggests that there is still someplace worth going to, and the moment deepens into memory and the suggestion that deep time connects us with the old times and old way.

Credit Courtesy of Karin Clarke Gallery
Erik Sandgren. Low Ebb at Yachats.

Another painting of immediate memory is called “Low Ebb at Yachats.” Sandgren imbues the Yachats River mouth with swirls of pale violet, aquamarine, Hansa yellow and rose. It enters a sea reflecting those pearlescent morning colors from the sky. Memory of our days at the beach tug at both my memory and our imagination, and I fall into the long dream that is this painting.

The show goes through Feb. 27.


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