Only in Sweden, one of the happiest places on earth, would there be a single word, “mångata,” to describe the magical effect of light shimmering on the surface of a body of water. Here, the “road” begins with the viewer, narrowing as it moves closer to the horizon and its light source. Degen generates waves with thick impasto paint in various shades of blue and green, and light in delicate shades of yellow and pink, executed as a subtle underpainting. The sheer intricacy of the mångata's treatment lends a certain grace to its energy—while the ocean is kinetic and agile, the light is serene, much like the moon from which it is reflected.
In this manner, Degen reminds us that humanity is connected to the environment and the celestial universe through movement. Using the term’s origin in its literal sense—a road as a wide pathway that leads from one place to another and back again— he emphasizes our relationship to motion: his energetic brushstrokes depicting the crashing waves of water, humankind meandering through landscape, even the moon as it rotates around the earth. To Degen, these quotidian movements and cycles are not just what guides all people but ultimately what connects us to one another.
"Benjamin Degen: In Waves," Susan Inglett Gallery, NYC, 12 March 2020 - 24 July 2020.