At first it might seem as a challenge to find a unity in Mårten Medbo’s work. Maintaining his versatility, he shuns being pigeonholed and constantly seems to be on the move towards new motifs and contexts. The oeuvre spans from bowls and vases to sculptural pieces and large-scale public commissions, and makes use of a range of materials and techniques, both low-tech and high-tech. If the artist stays true to something, it is the principle of change rather than a defined material, method, or aesthetics.
One of the many tensions found within Mårten Medbo’s practice stems from his use of both abstract and figurative imagery, often resulting in objects occupying a place on the borderland between these two categories. We are confronted with forms and structures that are not fully figurative, but neither abstract. Among the artist’s ceramic and glass pieces, there are numerous examples of works having a resemblance to anthropomorphic or biomorphic structures, without being completely identifiable as such.
The vessels and sculptures sometimes look as if being suddenly frozen in the process of organic growth or expansion. However, rather than focusing on the repetitive character of organic structures, Mårten Medbo’s work is drawn towards irregularities and idiosyncrasies. The structures seem to be on the verge of breaking free from their inner logic; they loosen up, start to glow mysteriously, or even mutate. Bewildering and sometimes almost creepy, these pieces convey an image of nature running wild. With their references to popular culture’s predilection for evoking the unknown that lurks beneath the everyday, Mårten Medbo’s works fascinate us by virtue of their strangeness and physical intensity rather than by beauty or sophistication.
Critic, writer, and head of RIAN Museum of Design