Simard Bilodeau Contemporary is delighted to announce the opening of PERCUSSION DREAMS, Emma Larsson's debut solo exhibition


Percussion Dreams is an exhibition that looks at journey, inspiration, and transformation. Travel and exploration, music, art making, and viewing share similar effects and Emma Larsson brilliantly shapes a new body of work to reflect her recent immersion into a different world.


Born and based in Stockholm, Sweden, Larsson recently spent 6 months in Mexico at an artist residency in Mérida, Yucatán. The city, known as the cultural capital of Yucatán has a rich Mayan history that predates its colonial history and visitors can explore the artifacts and architecture attributed to both. The tropical climate allows residents and visitors to enjoy the gifts of nature that can offer both respite and renewal, a perfect environment for a creative mind to flourish. Larsson is no stranger to nature. In her hometown, she spent her childhood exploring nearby forests and a lot of her work demonstrates the influence of flora and fauna with a maximalist approach to color and detail. However, with this new work, Larsson takes a simpler approach to composition combined with a beautiful melange of textiles, canvas, ink, paint and paper. Abstracted figures and shapes dance on canvas, ink takes magical forms as it soaks into the fibers of cotton and linen fabrics, while paint and other media blends with the textures of hand made paper. The result is work that is both rough and raw, embodying a more personal and physical approach.


The exhibition title is a literal reflection on the sounds that permeate both the physical space and the internal space of the mind and body. The rhythm of the drum is sacred in native cultures connecting people to one another and the physical and spiritual world. Larsson shared “the perception of a drum came to me when I painted. It was a special artwork I did and it was almost like, I could hear the drums, you know, when I painted it.” This sensory intersectionality isn’t uncommon especially among artists and writers where the output of visuals or text often represents the release of deep visions, dreams, sights, smells, sounds and memories. Works like Surrender to the Journey I (The Labyrinth), 2022 embodies the fear and trust associated with embarking on a new journey as Larsson did in her Yucatán experience. Traveling with her family and navigating a new space you’ve never been in with the added responsibility of caring for others while also making work is a challenge all on its own. Additionally, Larsson and her family had to acclimate to living and working in considerable heat and isolation during their stay as they were further away from the water and anyone they knew. The changes and challenges provided a beautiful opportunity for Larsson and her family to surrender and learn. Artists who parent certainly understand the complexities of showing up for others while also feeding personal creative impulses and dreams.


Larsson’s work in this exhibition obscures the idea of a beginning or end. The composition of different shapes, colors, and textures inspired by nature - sun, water, moon and earth - feels unbound by time and structure. Edges and colors flow into other forms and one can almost feel the respective cool or heat in the images. Several of the works are made on Huun paper, handmade by Mayan artisans throughout the Yucatan Peninsula. Originally sourced from ficus trees, the paper has since been sourced more sustainably from plant fibers like the Sansevieria plant also known as "lengua de vaca" which has a wide range of medicinal properties. Larsson also experiments with cotton and linen, inspired from ancient fabrics and the raw disciplines of anthropology. “I magnified elements from previous watercolor works and turned them into statement pieces with a whole new evolved expression.”


Wilderness, 2022 is a captivating work made of hand dyed ink on cotton. The mix of shades of yellow and brown resemble flower pollen and the dark center of the piece resembles a skeletal web-like structure on top of a final layer that looks similar to larvae or seedlings, all of which can be found in the wilderness. This isn’t too unlike some of Larsson’s earlier works inspired by nature, however the colors and patterns in this particular series definitely speaks to the tropical environment of her surroundings. The title also symbolizes the notion of forgoing conventional safety for the unknown. This gesture manifests itself in other works like the paintings on canvas. Free Dance, 2022 stands out in this way, resembling indigenous symbols, but also depicting a free-flowing movement of both the brush and the body. Ultimately, Larsson’s residency and the work created therein is really about releasing convention and routine and letting the work develop organically. This process is often difficult for those tied to regimen but in Larsson’s case, it’s evident that she opened up to new forms, to new spaces and methods of work resulting in a poignant execution.


In drumming, when one musician initiates a sound or phrase which is then echoed by other musicians or singers, it is known as a “call and response” or “talking drums”. With Percussion Dreams, Larsson has crafted her own form of this communication, listening to nature’s rhythm and subsequently responding with a simple but rich visual expression.

Artist Statement


In native cultures the drum is a sacred tool connecting heaven and earth and maintaining the rhythm of the world structure. When drummers practice their art, it’s as if they are changing the world and touching the human spirit through the rhythm of the drum.


During the creation of this collection, I lingered in the city of Merida for four months, painting day and night for this series of works, searching for the divine creative impulse.  It was such a relief to leave the monotonous and unreal everyday life that was the pandemic in my hometown, where everything seemed to be on repeat. I was desperately longing for air to breathe in a new context in another culture with new people and colors. I found a colonial house that touched my heart, where I was able to live and work. 


My art is built on curiosity exploring possibilities without rules. This journey opened new perspectives to me that nothing is impossible. The Percussion Dreams collection is inspired by the desire to live.


Emma Larsson






Installation Views