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Inward Facing windows

Erna Mist
Curated by Nina de Maria

20 January - 28 February, 2023

Daniel Benjamin Gallery is pleased to present Inward Facing Windows,  a solo exhibition of artwprks by Erna Mist.

“A painting can be a door leading backwards, a window facing inwards, a mirror reflecting your innermost fears and desires. By bending the rules of nature without forsaking the gravity of reality, a painting can overcome the boundaries of dream and actuality; fantasy and memory; nightmare and normality. In other words, paintings are x-rays of experience.”

-Erna Mist

Inward Facing Windows presents seven new paintings by Erna Mist, in which she brings into play one of her most recurrent themes: the maze. For her first solo exhibition in the United Kingdom, she has reworked a familiar subject with a renewed versatility to her style. Always inspired by Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism, especially its darker Nordic and psychological current, Mist opens a window into the inner states of her mind. Like windows, these paintings are limit and threshold, demarcating an entrance into her inscapes. Familiar scenarios are rendered in an uncanny and unsettling way, embedding a feeling of hallucination and delusion, and what at first might seem like a dreamlike view can easily become nightmarish.

A series of six mind mazes fill the gallery. The focus of the artist’s current production are these labyrinthine landscapes where no human figures are to be found. The intention is for the mazes to be a figurative expression of the emotions Mist was feeling when she painted them. As a result, cold ‘emotional architectures’ emerge. And if architecture always confronts us on psychic and emotional levels, labyrinths usually aim to generate a feeling of confusion. In terms of iconography, mazes have always carried the duality of order and chaos, of artistry and confusion, depending on the observer’s or the artist’s point of view. Erna Mist therefore takes us on her labyrinthine journey “leading nowhere but into its own ongoingness”.

Mist creates an otherworldly topography where the patterns of the mazes are all different from one-another, always painted following a flow of emotions and never using a sketch. “Maze I and VI” stand out from the rest for their brighter impact, while “Maze II, III and V” share a curved horizon, leading us towards a black hole. Or perhaps the concentric circles resemble the walls of Dante’s Inferno. “Maze IV” carries a homage to Magritte. As bystanders, we are brought to question where these window lead, and why.

“Daydreamers” emerges powerfully from the walls of the gallery. A less rigid style creates an even greater ambiguity, and symbolism is less digestible. Indeed, what draws us viewers in is that we can’t decode it at first sight, leaving us with a greater freedom of decision. Exploring the delicate boundaries between dream and reality, the work freezes a moment of overlap between the states of being asleep and awake. Here, symbolic language is not used to alienate from reality but instead to bring us in touch with the deeper layers of our own personalities.

Erna Mist (b.1998, Iceland) is an Icelandic painter based in London, currently in her final year at The Slade School of Fine Art. Her previous solo exhibition ‘Næturveröld’ was held at Gallery Portfolio, Reykjavik (2022). She has exhibited her works in group shows internationally, including ‘Streams of Consciousness’, Philips + Particle, during Art Basel Miami (2022), ‘Life is a Maze Which We Never Escape’, Daniel Benjamin Gallery, London (2022), ‘Tightrope’, Cassina Projects, Milan (2022).


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