Bengt Erikson – ‘The Tiniest Moves’

“One of the pleasures of tapestry weaving is the extreme slowness of the process. It encourages me to ponder the tiniest moves, no matter if the image is simple or complex. The effort becomes a luxury,” says Bengt Erikson. 

Erikson, born in Finland, after spending many years in the Pacific Northwest now resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico. His weavings are admired from Seattle to Tucson and beyond and repeatedly received jubilant comments like in Santa Fe’s distinguished art magazine, THE. From this critique, written by Marina La Palma, we take many quotes.

We spend our lives, from birth to death, with our bodies almost constantly swaddled in some kind of fabric. Yet the process of weaving is a mystery to most of us. Textiles are taken for granted but we could not live without them. Sometimes it takes an artist to bring our awareness to something so basic.

The tapestries of Bengt Erikson almost recede into the walls, so reticent do they seem at first. Yet, as one draws closer to experience the particular frisson of textiles, the Shaker-like simplicity of Erikson’s designs meets the eye as boldly as the late cut-outs of Henri Matisse. Nevertheless, there is a sort of luxuriousness to Erikson’s pieces, whether the severely rectilinear Old Church, Finland or the more organic pieces. This spare elegance is reminiscent of certain domestic spaces whose subtle sparseness is only possible through a focused attention to detail and unlimited access to abundant resources. But it is not luxuriousinteriors one really needs to reference in connection with Erikson’s works but the design philosophy of  Christopher Alexander. In The Luminous Ground (which is book four of The Nature of Order, Alexander’s series on the art of building design) he discusses how, among human-made objects, certain ancient carpets profoundly demonstrate what he calls the nature of living structure. They possess what Alexander identifies as “intense living centers.” The slow process of their making allows the weaver to “fuse his or her own experience of self” with what he calls the “No mind, or the One, or God.” This is the apex of Alexander’s patient exposition of how to find, in the practice of architecture, what in some traditions is called “self-remembering” or essence.

Marina La Palma says: “I have for years continued to look at all kinds of art because of the occasional moment when a work takes me beyond myself in an unexpected way. Erikson’s tapestries have that capacity. They exercise their enchantment in a subtle and refined way, leaving nothing out and adding only what belongs.”

Ton Haak,
Matfield Green KS, June 2015