Tobias Sternberg: Review
Those who have been through art college or a creative visual media course might have experienced the collage test at some point: the challenge being to use found images to create a composite with some kind of combined visual meaning. The aim is to instil a knowledge of the visual ‘grammar’ required to compose an image, and probably also to demonstrate that saying what you want within one frame isn’t as easy as it looks.
Tobias Sternberg, a Swedish sculptor, filmmaker, Goldsmiths’ graduate and alumnus of the Corn Exchange, has recently branched out into collage, specifically photomontage, and the results are displayed for the first time here. Striding confidently across the fine line between montage as amateur play and artistic practice, they’re wonderful.
By revisiting recurring motifs and revelling in an iconoclastic sense of humour, Steinberg creates a whole world. There’s an air of dark fantasy throughout, as he delicately places what are generally quite dull magazine-trimmed pictures together to create new visions.
‘Lions of Mars’ features an astronaut and a turtle riding a lion across the desert, while ‘The Same Way’ depicts a Bedouin driving a herd of camels and penguins through a desert – a constant, dramatic setting here – towards a Persian palace and an ice mountain on the horizon. He lamboons Christian iconography in ‘Gates of Heaven’ and seems to suggest humanity is a child amid the scientific universe in the striking ‘Young Gods’. Other pieces, such as a group of divers leaping enthusiastically from the spires of the Golden Gate Bridge towards the tarmac below, are successful exercises in pitch black humour.
Steinberg quotes influence from Man Ray and Salvador Dali, and it would be interesting to know if a surrealist’s automatistic approach helped give birth to these images, such is their dream-like quality. His interest in using reclaimed materials is also evident in ‘Seven Sins for the Living’, an old bureau converted into an interactive guide to the Seven Deadly Sins, and ‘Spirit Chair’, a wooden chair sanded down into a beautifully formalist skeleton of itself, but the sense of hallucinatory narrative between his collage pieces lingers longest.
Corn Exchange Gallery, Edinburgh, until Thu 4 Jun