Simon Stålenhag: The Electric State

The alternative history artist Simon Stålenhag turns his attention towards the US.

I’ve never had any real relationship with art. Whether it’s a painting, a sculpture, or something that simply looks hastily thrown together minutes before the exhibition opened, none of it has never really been able to catch my interest. Not even the 130 kg sea of blue candy. Everything has fallen into one of three categories: “Meh”, “not nice”, or “confusing”. Yes, when it comes to fine art, I’m a simpleton1.

But a few years ago, I discovered an artist whose work struck a chord with me. Swedish multi-talent Simon Stålenhag, who I also wrote about back in 2015, makes amazing works of art. By taking science fiction and alternative history elements, and putting them into a familiar 80s and 90s settings, he has very effectively caught the attention of his – and thus my – generation.

After a very successful Kickstarter campaign two years ago, Stålenhag has released two books. In both “Tales from the Loop” and “Things from the Flood“, he mixes his paintings with an intriguing narrative. If you, like me, grew up in the 80s and 90s, Stålenhag’s paintings will trigger your imagination by themselves, but with the addition of the book’s narrative they really come to life.

And now there’s third book project in the works: The Electric State.

Simon Stålenhag

I don’t know much about art. I honestly find it a bit embarrassing that I don’t “get” it and even though I’ve made a couple of serious efforts to do so, I’ve have admittedly failed very time. The crib Anniken and I saw at our trip to the To Be With Art Is All We Ask-exhibition, is just a crib to me. The green power hose Hans Olav and I spotted when going to the Autumn Exhibition is, at least to my eyes, just an ordinary green power hose. The title of the piece by Emma Wright is even “Power Hose. Green.” It’s a green power hose, make what you like of it.

But even though most art doesn’t make much sense to me, I can tell if I like something or not. While I will probably never appreciate sculptures, furniture-as-art or green power hoses – unless it’s for cleaning the car – I still, from time to time, see a painting or a photography I enjoy. A while ago, I discovered Swedish artist Simon Stålenhag. In his neo-futuristic works, he mix late 1980’s and early 1990’s Sweden with science-fiction concepts like anti-gravity technology and the resurrection of ancient, long dead dinosaurs. Being a child of the 80s and a science-fiction buff, many of Stålenhag’s paintings hit a perfect home run with me.

Not only are the paintings great, with amazing attention to detail, a choice of colors and lighting that I love, and locations and situations I can relate to, Stålenhag has also created an intricate lore for his imaginary world. I’ve taken the liberty to just copy the following three paragraphs straight from the artist’s recent, and very successful, Kickstarter campaign: