A new exhibition in New York opened on June 24: Seven female artists from different parts of Sweden have gone on a journey together, a journey for art, for life, and for friendship. How do they prepare and what do they bring with them? At the non-profit all-women’s gallery A.I.R. in Dumbo, Brooklyn, Nordstjernan met the seven brave women as they were hanging their artwork. Fasten your seatbelts and come join them on their expedition.
“All of us have worked together before in different constellations,” says Annika Erixån, who was approached by the A.I.R. Gallery to bring a group of women together and come over. “I had worked with the gallery before, and I chose my dream team really. I chose women who are not only the best artists I know, but who are also nice to be around, and who are the most capable of bringing a project like this to fruition; because it’s expensive and it’s complicated with shipping, insurance, and tolls. It’s also time-consuming.”
The seven artists, apart from Annika Erixån, are Hjördis Becker, Margareta Kranz, Margareta Lindman, Birgitta Nenzén, Aino Näslund and Irene Trotzig. Together they cover Sweden from Skåne in the south to Norrland in the north and they have also brought in art done in a variety of materials. In spite of their differences, however, there’s something that unites them.
Connecting art with life
“I believe all of us work to connect art with how we view life,” Erixån says. “We combine our art with our relationship to life, life as both an inner and outer landscape. We all go with our gut feeling.”
The project did not take off easily, as there was no major financial sponsor involved. But the women being women, were resourceful and wise and saw the light at the end of the tunnel. Erixån said they were also inspired by the A.I.R. Gallery itself, a gallery that has managed to survive a number of economical crises since its conception in 1972.
“This journey has been wonderful,” says Irene Trotzig. “It’s been stimulating for us to meet and get to know each other better.”
Margareta Kranz has brought several of her textile pieces, done in a technique similar to intarsia. Her art is peaceful and neutral and bears a resemblance to graphic art.
“What interests me,” Kranz explains, “is what art can do for the well-being of people. I do a lot of art for public spaces, like waiting rooms and churches, and I like to incorporate a contemplative feeling into it.”
From Kranz’ peaceful textile works, to Trotzig’s defiant oil paintings. Defiant because of their size - one in particular is very big - and because of their bold colors.
“I think colors are important,” Trotzig says. “They energize us.”
She says her paintings are her inner dream images and landscapes, which she calls an artist’s “inner language”.
“I also believe art helps us see different dimensions in life.”
On another wall hangs 4 pieces done in enamel. They are in strong colors, and because of the gloss the enamel lends them, they look edible, almost like big chunks of candy. They are irresistible, and they are done by Aino Näslund.
“They all symbolize traveling in some way,” Näslund says. “Here’s a man jumping, you can see it just like that, or you can put other implications on it: A man leaving the safety of the ground, and so on.”
Näslund began working in enamel during the 1980’s and felt at home with the material.
“I like simplified forms, so it suited me.”
..about inheritance, memories and remembering
Birgitta Nenzén has brought a silk kimono with cross-stitched birds on it. She found these birds at different garage sales, and some belong to her as heirlooms from family members.
“My journey is about inheritance,” Nenzén says. “A lost inheritance. It’s a tribute to all these women who knew how to embroider. It’s a lost craft, in a sense, because few Swedish women – myself included – today embroider that way.”
Nenzén said she collected all the embroideries from her own family and put them on the floor, she then covered them with glass so that people could walk over it and look at the embroideries underneath.
From embroidered birds to chairs on print. It is Hjördis Becker’s chairs. The chair has become an important symbol to her.
“Chairs have memories,” she explains. “Whenever we sit in a chair we leave a mark on it. Don’t you know how we always used to say things like ‘Oh, that’s grandfather’s chair, that’s where he used to sit and smoke his pipe’? The chair also symbolizes loneliness and rest.”
Then it’s Erixån’s turn. Annika Erixån is a sculptor, who has also studied digital technique. Her goal in life is simple yet impressive: She is out to change the world!
“Remember the accident in Chernobyl?” Erixån asks. “Well, where I come from in Gävle we can still not eat the berries and mushrooms that grow there, because of the radioactive waste. That changed me, I thought artists too must have a say in the future, we cannot leave it all up to the engineers.”
Chernobyl, says Erixån, taught her not to take anything for granted. Now, she works making bronze sculpture about hopes and dreams. One of them, a wood sculpture of a man lying down, is included in the exhibition.
Hopes and dreams is also a theme for Margareta Lindman.
“For me,” Lindman says, “it’s important to be able to whisper, I am tired of shouting. Look at this painting for instance, it’s a huge but silent picture that is allowed to be the way it is.”
Like a great many artists, Lindman isn’t very fond of talking about her paintings. She wants the paintings to talk for themselves.
“But I can say that they are about the fragility of life, and about the importance to find the happiness in this fragility.”
By Eva Stenskär
The exhibition “A.I.R. Expedition” runs through July 18.
For more information: www.airgallery.org