The Study of Art

Last week, I finally got myself together and visited the local art exhitibion hall, which is just next door to the library. I am very much into art, once nursed dreams of going to art school, and still, I don´t go nearly as much as I want to. This will change this year, that is my ambition.

There were six artists showing, three of them in collaboration, so, four exhibitions, and three of them were similarly themed. Or at least they kind of hooked into each other, thematically. Actually, I can squeeze in the last one as well, with some moderatly creative thinking.

The first one was a photo exhibition by Hans Månsson, called Vattenvärld (= water world). What he has done is take photos of a mountain brook, very close up, to the point where the images become almost abstract. Or they would be abstract to someone not familiar with the northern water worlds. As I am, I realized, as I was looking at this work. It was a real flashback to my childhood, growing up in a house so close by a lake it was almost on it. I think those years, before puberty, before you enter the grown-up world of abstractions, are when you establish your tactile frame of reference. I sometimes wonder if the windows that aren´t opened up to the physical world then, remain closed. If your favourite toy when you grow up is kvidd, I imagine that must do something to your psyche, huh?

I also had to buy the book. In it, Månsson explains that the only equipment he had was two very simple compact cameras, one of which could be used under water. And apart from the smallest adjustment of colour balance, the images are not photoshopped. (I knew they weren´t, but then I have played with kvidd.) There is also a text in the book, written by Stefan Edman, a Swedish biologist and speaker on sustainable development and environment issues.

This tied in nicely with another exhibition, Sharing Waters.  There was one slide show presenting a derelict hammam, a Turkish bath, by Gülsün Karamustafa from Istanbul, and another about the Scandinavian sauna, by Maria Ängquist Klyvare. There were also images from a sauna by Heta Kuchka. Water, people, hygiene. And I must make the (not so original), reflection that we are all alike in our dependence on water. All over the world, the relationship human-water has been ritualized, and is part of every mythology, every cultural practice. For obvious reasons. What we Scandinavians rarely reflect on, is how lucky we are with an abundance of clean water. I heard a story once of an African immigrant lady, being just horrified at the way Swedes let water just run from the fosset for a few minutes, to get cold drinking water. Liters and liters, going to waste. I can see how offensive that would be. We think of it as free, of no cost. Which of course, it isn´t.

Then, I entered a room with trees. A symbolic forrest, perhaps. And this one tree, standing in an old, wooden sled. It made me think of the river Styx and the passage to the underworld. Perhaps it was the red velvet that made my thoughts go in that direction. When I was little, we were neighbours with the vicarage, and in one old barn stood a couple of old hearses, horse-drawn carriages. We used to peak in through the gaps in the barn door. They were covered in velvet and incredibly mysterious, in an ominous kind of way.

The trees were made by artist Victoria Andersson, who also showed embroidery on the theme of forrestry. She was clearly highlighting the connection between nature, husbandry, and the use of violence. The gun as a tool for tending and caring for the living organism that the forrest is, is rather absurd, when you think about it from a certain perspective. But would we feel the same about the bow and arrow? The spear? Is that somehow more natural? More fair?

The use of needle and thread is also interesting, it seems to emphasize a very female perspective (if not feminist) on a traditionally male concern. She uses, at least in some of the works, old sheets or curtains where you can see a printed floral pattern showing through the fabric, from the other side. For me, that´s a subtle reference to the 40´s, 50´s and 60´s, when places like Snesudden, where my husband´s parents grew up, were still densly populated by families living off the forrest industry, when it was still very much a hands-on occupation. Plenty of hands. And she uses almost exclusively red and brown thread, which I associate with wood and blood.

There is something reactionary about embroidery, but in a good way. Everytime I see it I get this impression of an artist digging in his or her heels, resisting the speed of modern tools, insisting on taking time, creating thinking and feeling space, and encouraging the viewer to do that, too. 

The last exhibition was a bit harder to digest, after all these rich images from the natural world. C Göran Carlsson´s abstractions were, however, very good, and would have been more interesting in other company, perhaps. But at the same time, if you took your time to reflect on the physics of matter: water, flesh and forrest alike, you would find yourself in Carlsson´s world. You´d just have to look deeper.

I had set aside an hour at the exhitibion hall. It wasn´t nearly enough. And, as a serious student of art (for I must think of my art interest as a form of study) you must also take time to reflect in a structured manner. Otherwise, impressions tend to wash over you and past you, like the water in that mountain brook. You must open your mouth to drink. Else, you might stand by the fountain of art and still die of thirst. 


  1. i like my local art museums, but i should go more often. i sometimes miss exhibitions because i _mean_ to go but don't get around to it.

    the photographs from the exhibition you saw look beautiful. i'm always amazed at the images some people can get using relatively unsophisticated equipment. it must just take an artists' eye -something in their way of seeing and framing things that i haven't found.

    i like the carlsson pictures in your image link - so bright!

    1. I know what you mean. I have decided to plan at least one day a month to go. And I sneak-took the pictures - I´m not entirely sure it´s allowed... But it´s pr for them, I thought, in a small way, but still. Let them come after me! ;-)