Nothing is going to plan in the world depicted in these paintings by Simon Stalenhag. Aliens have invaded and 'won' – or lost, perhaps – but the world has returned to a state of mundanity. It's irreversibly changed and full of powerful new technology, but the sense of daily grind remains the same.
In Procession, it's anyone's guess where this huge, duck-faced walker is leading a tethered, helmeted tribe of people – or where they are going – but it's hard to conceive it's part of some masterplan.
In fact, from companion piece Gathering 2 – perhaps seen from the window of the car in Procession – I'm not ever sure there's a purpose, as they stand around aimless waiting for something to happen.
The narratives behind the Swedish artist and author's new paintings are unclear – Simon himself isn't saying. But whoever's taken over is having the same trouble maintaining the world and their machinery in it – with getting its workers to work also seems beyond it's control.
This work is called Local Servers, which you could take as a metaphor for the way the Internet has become all pervasive in even rural lives. Or it's those damn aliens taking over again.
Simon's previous series included a more unsettling approach. You could almost believe that Gathering shows people using virtual reality, until you notice the pain on the faces and clenched hands of those still trapped (?) inside their helmets,
You can see the pain more clearly in this work, Milk, from the same series.
Simon's use of composition, stillness and motion is what makes Flyby such a memorable work.
As with many of Simon's works, it's the small details that make you wonder what's happened – such as the lack of anyone in the car in Highway Patrol.