As nature goes from lush green to golden yellow and finally crimson brown, we slowly settle into autumn’s days of sipping aromatic coffee in favourite cafes leisurely working our way through our list of e-books made during summer; inspiring us to pen down on our trusty iPads our musings on life, laughter, love and inspirations from the world at large.
Dwelling on some of these very matters and more are September’s selection of art exhibited in Stockholm.
Exhibition: Balance and Provocation – Contemporary Art in Burma/Myanmar
Artists: The Maw Naing, Kolatt, Yadanar Win & Ma Ei.
When: 8 September – 27 November
Where: Stiftelsen Färgfabriken, Lövholmsbrinken 1, Stockholm
After 50 years of military repression Myanmar is now facing major social changes, and in line with the political development an energetic contemporary art scene emerges through a major transitional shift.
The ecosystem of groups who have worked hard to sustain creative outlets without any governmental or international support during the isolation between 1960 and 2010 has evolved into small galleries and private spaces as home to major movements. In this, a culture of protest grew out of a vision for a better future, bearing witness to a previous struggle with censorship, traditionalism and lack of resources; the very circumstances no longer binding Burmese artists today as they create art to define this seminal time in their country’s history, and be the harbingers of change.
From the strong expressive and yet transient performance art to reflective installations and video pieces to a return to figurative or impressionist painting, their media have been adapted to a local sensibility over the last century. And in “Balance and Provocation”, the four artists showcase their innovative processes in experimenting with new media and in approaching traditional elements of Burmese culture through the lens of contemporary society to depict life in Burma in the past four decades, along with the complexities and difficulties that infuse the national situation of going from a dictatorship to a fragile democracy.
In Myanmar, Buddhism is an ever-present part of life. Whether or not one practices it, all encounter the Buddhist faith on a daily basis. It provides peace and balance, as well as separatism and provocation. Film director and installation artist The Maw Naing addresses aspects of this religion as his differently hued 50 mosquito nets installation illustrates the view of balance as a tool to achieve stability in Burmese society.
A video and performance artist, Ma Ei explores the expectations on women and their role in a conservative and traditional environment in today’s Myanmar by experimenting with different attributes, like clothing, rumours and sex. As her lifestyle and artistic approach challenge and provoke the audience, so does her film “Strawberry Piece”.
Today’s national leaders of Myanmar mimic the former kings and queens when they bicker and bargain. As performance artists who explore gender and identity issues in Burma, Kolatt and Yadanar Win’s collective work, “King and Queen” transforms, through playing political roles dressed in traditional costumes, a traditional Burmese wedding ceremony into something else; staging and questioning current roles and expectations with a humorous overtone.
Hence, through the balance of power, the provocation of politics and the meditative balance of Buddhism, the four’s reflection on the on-going transition of Burma offer a captivating mix of local traditions, social critique and modern influences; a flow between balance and provocation.
Exhibition: Salon Painting ?! – Fascinating Picture Stories From Then And Now
When: 17 September 2016 – 22 January 2017
Where: Prince Eugen’s Waldemarsudde, Prins Eugens Väg 6, Stockholm
First exhibited at the Salon in Paris in the second half of the 19th century, salon paintings are a problematic art historical retrospective design that very much accommodates built-in complexities. Associated with a specific aesthetics and style direction strongly linked to art academies, genre hierarchies, educational ideals and price topics, salon painters’ works were executed with brilliant painting technique, in large format and with a narrative and often historical retrospective content taken from classical mythology, the Bible, historical sources, literature and drama; becoming greatly popular among critics, royal families, aristocracy and the nouveau riche bourgeoisie.
They inspired Julius Kronberg (1850-1921) and a number of his contemporary Swedish artists, like Hugo Birger, Georg Pauli, Jenny Nyström and Amanda Sidwall, to paint in brilliant technique exciting narrative content.
“Salon Painting ?!” uses these Swedish salon paintings to confront issues of relevance to our time – inter alia, gender, ethnicity and notions of good art – by juxtaposing them with the fascinating series Surreal Fashion by British artist and photographer Miss Aniela (b. 1986), who gained public attention in 2006 with staged photographic self-portraits published on Flickr.
Motley, aristocratic, newly rich and visually striking, Surreal Fashion is “where fashion meets art, beauty, absurdity, and couture meets chaos in a fusion of photography and painting”; referencing fashion photography, film and popular culture, and hence, paralleling the salon painters’ freedom in creating works that approached a photorealistic expression, while maintaining its contemporary position with the visually bizarre “surreal twist”.
Artists: Mårten Lange & Olof Nimar
When: Till 8 October
Where: Galleri Charlotte Lund, Johannes plan 5, Stockholm
Mårten Lange’s Ètudes Books’ published Citizen series from 2015 is deliberately contrasted with Olof Nimar’s Fixed Breeze series, taken in 2016, for the first time in this joint photography exhibition.
By photographing pigeons in a corner of Trafalgar Square in London over two years, Lange portrays our feathered friends in a manner resembling classical portraits, imbuing them with dignity and a human quality. Thus alluding to the link between their lives and ours: as members of society and city dwellers.
By photographing in a park development in central Mexico City, Nimar’s images show its stark artificiality – of grey concrete shaped into a remarkable, abstract landscape; aesthetically reminiscing the irregular topographical design of his own three-dimensional sculptures that explore the stark gap between experiencing and seeing.
We are, thus subconsciously drawn by both Malmö-based artists to ponder the defining qualities that imbue varied aspects of life in contemporary urban environments, regardless of geographical locations.
Exhibition & Artist: The Steps
When: Till 17 September
Where: Galleri Konstart, Art, Hökens street 11, Stockholm
The Steps, aka Carl Winblad, has been painting graffiti, in his own unique style, since the early 1990s; all thanks to the sketches and scribbled paper left by his sister’s graffiti artist boyfriend in his family home in western Stockholm.
“When they left, (I would) run to her room and steal all the sketches and sit and draw… (Soon) I started to paint me through Västerort… (and) have never stopped painting (since). (In) 2008 I started with Chaos company’s Graffiti Stockholm; with graffiti as an everyday tool to design homes as well as businesses worldwide,” The Steps shares.
Exhibition: Mixed Signals
Artists: Dale Lewis, Ryan Wallace, Hans-Jörg Mayer, Koen Delaere, Shane Bradford & Rose Wylie
When: Till 24 September
Where: Christian Larsen, Hudiksvallsgatan 8, Stockholm
The harmonious cacophony of deftly charged “Mixed Signals” is an international group exhibition by six renowned, exciting and inspirational painters presently making waves around the globe by presenting the world as it is, in all its glorious, painful, absurd, dangerous and yet humorous reality.
Dale Lewis connects signifiers across historical and contemporary modes, relating real-time street experience with the fine art canons of yesteryear; with his epic canvasses reconciling the polarities of our fragmented epoch; majestic and abhorrent, full of tokens, hope, and empathy.
Ryan Wallace reconstitutes debris from his studio floor into bold and beautiful interlopers of the western canon of modernist art history; with the floor itself carrying connotations of the oft-overlooked forces of labour behind the sheen of capitalistic achievement.
Hans-Jörg Mayer‘s pink blossoms in plastic water-bottle vases attempt to bring cheer; referencing polite Sunday painting of tasteful tulips in traditional egg-tempura, with the fragile flowers sagging and weeping under their beauty’s own burden – a splash of optimism tempered with a realist’s acceptance of inevitable fate.
Koen Delaere’s Beach Paintings series pivot around the ancient and modern tussle between the rigid grid’s structure and the fluid emotive flow of painterly emulsions; each work the result of simple, superficial, scientific cause and effect, yet carrying the dark vestige of our prehistoric selves, emerging victorious from the primordial sea.
Shane Bradford‘s sardonic use of his distinctive dipping method repeatedly winches his paintings into vast vats of colourful tubs, appropriating the mechanistic fascism of the factory floor as well as the drips and pours of defunct abstract expressionism. Each painting is initially defaced with its sprayed title, and then redeemed from its own cynicism by the restorative effect of repeated process, colour and form.
Rose Wylie negotiates around the grand notion of painting with innovative, inventive compositions derived from the magical mundane of everyday life with artworks that manage to remain defiant against the tide of the mainstream. Her seemingly naive gesture belies the sharpness of her wit and the accuracy of her social commentary.
Exhibition & Artist: Ellisif Hals
When: Till 2 October
Where: ANNAELLE GALLERY, KARLAVÄGEN 15 B, STOCKHOLM
In her second solo exhibition at the gallery, Ellisif Hals moves away from meticulous architectural imagery; turning her focus to nature, informed by memories of her childhood environments in Norway. The splendid result: a new series enmeshing the romanticized imagery of snowflakes, forests, islands and mountains of her childhood with the landscapes she experiences today; confronting her present day impressions with her fractured memories of the past; visually and tactilely exploring memory, idealism and nostalgia.
The Malmö-based Norwegian artist’s technique enables her to reproduce feelings of time travel. Moments are visualized as unique elements within layers added on top of each other, resulting in carefully etched and cut out of paper images that merge history and memory.
Each collage follows its own elaborate logic as variations and repetitions dart through shifts in color and perspective, with three-dimensional depths beginning to form through the layering of two-dimensional images; holding both the vastness of the landscape and an emotional intimacy.
Exhibition: Once Upon a Time
Artist: Sir Peter Blake
When: Till 1 October
Where: Wetterling Gallery Kungsträdgården 3, Stockholm
Known for his paintings and collages capturing pop culture like no other, Sir Peter Blake’s artwork showcases some of his favourite motifs. We are taken to sweat-drenching wrestling matches, to lump-in-the-throat moments at the circus and to cautiously walking around cities taken over by worrisome animals and spine-chilling skeletons.
A painter of urban realism, who is often referred to as the Godfather of British Pop Art, Blake makes art as accessible and pervasive as that of pop music. To this end, his paintings and collages embrace the emblems and iconography of popular culture: him being the first artist to include youth culture idols in British high art.
Best known for his record sleeve cover for The Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Blake has also designed record sleeve covers for Paul Weller (Stanley Road), Band Aid (Do They Know It’s Christmas), and most recently a greatest hits album for Oasis, and the John Peel tribute album.
A fan of iconic legends and the ever-expanding practices of imitation and reproducibility, Blake’s “popular art” continues to be a highly influential and enduring presence.
Exhibition: That’s Why We’re Running Away
Artist: Sebastian Blanck
When: Till 1 October
Where: Wetterling Gallery, Kungsträdgården 3, Stockholm
Sebastian Blanck continues to give us yet more glimpses of his everyday life surrounded by his family and artistic friends by exhibiting his characteristic watercolour collages along side his new oil paintings.
His intimate watercolor and paper collages depict his everyday life in New York and the countryside in more open and intuitive ways; turning his focus more to landscape than to strict portraiture. We encounter sunny days at the beach and romantic scenes of snow-covered wintry landscapes that are not empty: he is not alone, but in the unburdened company with family and friends that matter, succinctly capturing attachment’s consciousness.
Exhibition: Q&A – Painting Sculpture
Artist: Clay Ketter
When: Till 1 October 2016
Where: Cecilia Hillström Gallery, Hälsingegatan 43, Stockholm
Clay Ketter continues to challenge the common notion that a contemporary artist’s oeuvre must necessarily illustrate an immediately discernable conceptual or aesthetic continuity. Having never been entirely comfortable with creating within – or for – the white void, his art is not something in and of itself, but rather something in and about anything, anywhere; with elements and components being important relative to the role they play in the greater whole; never inheriting their merit, because merit cannot be inherited.
This is apparent when visiting his atelier – a large landmark schoolhouse in Uppåkra between Malmö and Lund. The walls are often hung, from ceiling to floor, wall to wall, with works, old and new, finished and unfinished. In this way, he challenges himself and his work to take into account, and ultimately to embrace, the whole, before challenging us.
“I now see my work as a breathing back and forth between micro- and macro-treatments or considerations of the world around me. That is, the world we have made for ourselves. For me, this world is very much nature; it is human nature… I generally find (its) traces to be more telling – more illustrative and more profound – than (its) actual living examples,” adds Ketter.
Hence, this US-born artist hangs a jam-packed room of art works for “Q&A”, mimicking the sensation we might enjoy during an atelier visit; or after he has emptied his studio of works made over years and finally recently finished into the gallery with an uncharacteristic lack of finesse or fine-tuning; with several being what Ketter would call “demons”– works that haunt; persistently insisting on being worked, and in ways that ultimately determine their own outcome; an insistence catalyzing Ketter’s reception.
Information and photo credits: The respective galleries.