From the canvas to public walls, Andreas Englund’s nameless, aging superhero endures as someone just trying to do his best. Based in Stockholm, Sweden, the artist conveys the universal (and futile) idea of chasing perfection in this fictional crusader’s everyday existence. It’s our hero getting rocks out of his boot, as displayed in the 2015 mural in Rochester, New York, above, or peeling fruit, or coughing his way through a blazing room.
The lack of specifics or timeline for Englund’s protagonist makes for a seamless transition between each work. Sometimes, he’s weary and elderly. Or he’s younger and in fear, or just trying really, really hard to open a jar of strawberry jam. They’re funny and tragic, belligerent and brutally focused. And each task is rendered with elegance through Englund’s oil paintings.
There’s a tradition of painting superheroes in the style of photorealism. Alex Ross has created dynamic, god-like renditions of mainstream Marvel and DC characters since the 1990s. (And to some extent, the aesthetic was preceded by siblings Greg and Tim Hildebrandt, crafting life-like fantasy and sci-fi scenes.) But what Englund offers is more than a wrinkle on the costume to convey humanity in heroism. He gives us a hero we could resent as easily as we could exalt. In simpler terms, looking back on the hero’s “adventures” stirs any number of emotions.