´ Peter Ern - the artist

Peter Ern «

Konstnär Peter Ern

From Encounter to M

Peter Ern’s art forces us to sharpen our gaze. Not because his images are complicated or unfathomable, but rather because they are always so focused and precise. Everything in Peter Ern’s paintings looks as though it is there out of pure necessity. Superfluous details distracting the gaze from the main motif have no place in his imagery. This notwithstanding, his paintings always include fragments of potential stories. No loud assertions and narratives, but subtler, lingering images of a fleeting moment. As when his eye catches something along the highway between Stockholm and his home in Norrtälje; a road sign, trees silhouetted against the sky, buildings, or a figure waiting at a bus stop. The paintings could almost be film stills.

Although nature and trees often appear in Peter Ern’s paintings, it is actually an urbanised world we see depicted. In other words, this is not about portraying a pristine and romanticised nature, and despite the fact that people seldom appear in the paintings, one can always find traces of their existence.

I see his artistic strategy as not about having others appreciate the beauty of trivial aspects of everyday life, but more about the desire to be able to see without getting caught up in details. It is, at the same time, clearly apparent how the paintings always usher my gaze towards various everyday scenes. Both a hazy day at the beach and a sprawling Monstera plant on a windowsill are captured with the same level of acuity, and although the motifs are commonplace, there is no sense of detachment or distanced approach to them. When Ern uses photographs (his own as well as those of others) as his point of departure, it is not in order to photographically depict reality. Instead, this is his way of analysing, for example, what a four-lane highway looks like as it veers off into the surrounding nature, how people move, or what a particular species of tree looks like. Those well acquainted with art history will also find several references to or borrowed elements from other artists.

Peter Ern’s attempts at achieving a concentration in his pictures becomes all the more clear as one views the paintings from recent years with their recurring motifs such as the sign in the shape of a cloud on the roof of the baby supply store, Babyland, or the clothes on display in a shop window. In the painting "Britt’s Fashion" from 2006, the clothes appear clearly and in stark contrast to the otherwise dark shop window, with a lit window with drawn curtains on the second floor. In an earlier painting the proportions of the house are slightly different, but the basic features are the same. The four shop windows bathe in a strong white light, while all the windows in the second floor are dark. The mannequins in the shop windows are seen here only as dark silhouettes. In both paintings, the house is desolately situated on a street half-lit by street lamps.

At the same time, one can wonder what it is that allows us to recognise the house as well as many of the other locations in his paintings? What is it that keeps his paintings from simply being private diary images that merely tell of places and moods the artist has experienced in his home environment outside Norrtälje and elsewhere?

Chances are, the answer lies in Peter Ern’s ability to entice the viewer to sharpen his/her gaze by constantly reducing and clearing away all irrelevant elements from his pictures. Peter Ern thereby achieves a perspicuity without fixing the paintings to one interpretation. 

If one furthermore chooses to view the paintings as memory images, they remain as open in character as fleeting dreams and recollections.

Thomas Olsson
Thomas Olsson lives in Stockholm and works as a freelance journalist and an art critic.



The Royal Academy of Art, Stockholm, Sweden

1984 – 86

Konstskolan Idun Lovén, Stockholm, Sweden

Selected Solo Exhibitions


Domeij Gallery, Stockholm, Sweden
(presentation in Swedish)

Peter Ern s motifs are recurring: the forest, the lake, the meadow and the houses. With his subtle story-telling from the rural area around Norrtälje, where he lives and works, he builds his pictorial world. There is a singular narrative to Ern's paintings. The atmosphere of a particular place, a place that feels familiar. Ern has the ability to capture one's interest with even the most trivial and mundane of motifs, due perhaps to the fact that he eradicates all non-essential elements from the image. With simple means and a restrained colour scale, he focuses on a state, a brief moment that presumably anyone can perceive, like a still from a film. A short instance from everyday life.

Lilla k, Norrtälje, Sweden
Körsbärsgården, Burgsvik, Gotland   

2015 Wadström Tönnheim gallery, Skanör, Sweden
2014 Galleri PS, Gothenburg, Sweden
2013 Norrtälje Konsthall, Norrtälje, Sweden (presentation in Swedish)
2011 Galleri Peter Bergman, Stockholm, Sweden
2010 Enköpings Konsthall, Sweden
2008 ALP/Peter Bergman, Stockholm, Sweden Solo presentation - Galerie Davide Di Maggio, Vienna Art Fair, Austria
2006 Galerie Davide Di Maggio, Berlin, Germany
2005 ALP/Peter Bergman, Stockholm, Sweden
2004 Galeria Becker, Jyveskylä, Finland
2003 Norrtälje Konsthall, Norrtälje, Sweden
ALP galleri Peter Bergman, Stockholm, Sweden
2002 Galleri PS, Gothenburg, Sweden
1999 Galleri Doktor Glas, Stockholm, Sweden
1995 Galleri Kavaletten, Stockholm, Sweden

Galleri Mejan, Stockholm, Sweden

Selected Group Exhibitions

2010 Das Swedische Modell, Galerie Im Regierungsviertel, Berlin, Germany Market, ALP/Peter Bergman, Stockholm, Sweden
2009 Something in the Air, Beaver Projects, Copenhagen, Danmark
2008 Everybody Counts, Vestfossen Kunstlaboratorium, Norway
2007 I Love Malmö, Åbo Konstmuseum, Åbo, Finland
2006 Bonniers Konsthall, Stockholm, Sweden
New Painters Part II, Fondazione Mudima, Milano, Italy
Art Forum Berlin, Galerie Davide Di Maggio, Berlin, Germany
2005 Hallstaviks Konsthall, Norrtälje, Sweden
Liste 05, ALP galleri Peter Bergman, Basel, Switzerland
2004 ID:i, Stockholm, Sweden Stockholm Art Fair, Sweden
2002 you lonesome tonight?, Konstnärshuset, Stockholm, Sweden
1999 Appetizer, The Academy of Fine Arts, Stockholm, Sweden
1998 Underbelly, Adelaide, Australia
1996 Maria Bonnier Dahlin Foundation, Stockholm Artfair, Sweden
1993 Bilder, Stockholm, Sweden
1991 Reaktionen und Reflektionen, Bahnhof Westend, Berlin, Germany

Public Collections/Commissions in Sweden

Moderna Museet
Malmö Konstmuseum
Norrköpings Konstmuseum
Göteborgs konstmuseum, Gothenburg
Norrtälje Kommun
Uppsala Academic Hospital
Landstinget Göteborg
Stockholms Kulturförvaltning
Sveriges Allmänna Konstförening
The National Public Art Council, Stockholm

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