Truls Melin: Galleri Lars Bohman
Jones, Ronald, Artforum International
At lunch with Truls Melin the week his new exhibition opened, we talked about his seven months in a mental institution, how he got there, and the exhibitions he has made since. This was his twelfth. The figurines were in his familiar ingenuous style; he describes them as "drunken" sailors. Togged up in naval uniforms, each statuette was slotted into a maze of steel conduits, and with all the shutdown valves interspersed throughout the piping, the allusion to the claustrophobic quarters of submarines was obvious. The structures and figures were uniformly painted in that cool green color proven to be calming yet gently energizing in places like subs, surgeries, and insane asylums where, in a heartbeat, things can go from numbing routine to hair on fire, fangs out. Metaphorically out of their depth and under the influence, the doomed seamen are consigned to an absurdly hermetic, commotion-free, schematic setting where order never comes second. It is an allegorical map of recirculating redundancies calculated to keep sensation to a minimum while foreclosing any hope of parole. The sailors are locked down in a soothing incubator for madness. Asked if his episode in the hospital affected his work, Melin answered, after a prolonged, pondering silence, "I don't know."
It's not purely phantasm with Melin. He'd been struck by the sinking of the Russian submarine Kursk in the Barents Sea four years ago. But undersea craft have been important to him since the age of ten, when he photographed his own customized sub and ship models in a puddle of rainwater near his home in Malmo. He found those photographs in his parents' basement in 2000 and reprinted them; they hung in the back room of the gallery. Throughout his career, Melin has made up his idiosyncratic macroworld as if using toys from the attic. …