Erling Valtyrson – Velvet Black Silence

Absolute silence reigns in Erling Valtyrson`s pictures. He scratches and polishes his pitch-black, velvety backgrounds to make his motifs emerge: often simple, everyday objects – a few vegetables, a cup, a clothes peg, an egg.

A number of his pictures are style studies of such simple compositions, making Valtyrson part of a centuries-long still-life tradition.

For if we study his compositions in closer detail we see that Valtyrson is breaking out of the realistic format.

For in addition to describing these objects in accurate and sober detail, he isolates them in utter darkness, so that they transform into metaphysical and existential metaphors. They provide a perspective beyond the purely mundane and hint at hidden connections, meanings, and contexts that people seek in their lives.

Valtyrson creates an irrational picture of the everyday. His vegetables and simple objects exist in a graphic purity which appears obvious and mysterious at the same time – a paradox. This paradoxical mystery is at the very centre of Valtyrson`s production; it is as if his pictures close in around their own secrets whilst at the same time inviting the spectator to wonder and lose himself in their velvety darkness. So his images seduce us in a sensual way; but not only do we enjoy the beauty of his motifs, we are also led to ask questions about the existence of all things and our own metaphysical perspectives on life.

The black background – the unknown, the dark eternity, the dangerous future – is depicted as a concrete, physical entity. Utterly impenetrable, but with a unique hypnotic pulling-power. In this way, Valtyrson`s mezzotints deal with the insistent existence of things as a carrier of man`s metaphysical loneliness.

We see it in the portraits as well: weird human shapes in a world of their own, in some sort of closed room. What do they look like? Are they disfigured and deformed, or are they looking at themselves through a mirror of distortion?

Or are we perhaps the mirror that distorts?  It is as if we look through a prism which distorts the familiar into something new, something unfamiliar – something mysteriously enigmatic. There is clearly a surreal aspect to Erling Valtyrson`s production.

When strange creatures and strange fruit seem to float in a black void, they seemingly appear from nowhere, out of any rational context – like in a dream. In this sense Valtyrson is a dream-catcher, making our dreams both solid and tactile, and ephemeral and evanescent, at the same time. The absurdity is real enough, as it allows Valtyrson`s motifs to escape from straight storytelling. They show us a world that is uncertain, cryptic and incomprehensible, paradoxically conveyed by a painstaking realism that creates expectations kept at bay by what these pictures hide.

Here lies the enigmas of Valtyrson`s art. The pitch-black silence harbors the powerful forces of the subconscious. These forces are ready to emerge, ready to change everything.

By Trond Borgen