Punctuated Spectra [in Parallel]
watercolour on paper,
200 x 150 cm
Quotes from The Dalarna of Ottilia Adelborg
"When one only desires the proprietary right of the beholding and the apprehension, then, one is the wealthiest on earth."
"In the middle of this feeling of joy, one actually consciously objects to dragging along the weight of one’s self. This peculiar composition of naivety and criticism of naivety that one never quite succeeds in escaping from. /---/
For one is the essential: to draw,
and one is the tyrant: the drawing pen.
The drawing pen, which forms the lives of certain people, and lead their ways. Some go around the big, wide world, some just around the small world of Dalarna…/
All this for the sake of the drawing pen! The most erratic of all pens, the most cumbersome in the whole world.
Sometimes it is as if it wants but cannot. Sometimes it neither can nor wants. "
"Most often it works with difficulty. The eye, which sees everything so clearly, and thinks it knows exactly how it should be, forgets each and every time, that the pen always has its own point of view. Even less it can tolerate that the eye prearranges something.
Inside a dark corner of the brain, one finds the soul of drawing, which ought to have something to say, and is peeking out through the eyes, begging and begging, that the pen for once could be so gracious as to actually draw what the eye sees and what the soul of drawing wants."
"With such few lines, the eye, which sees so much, and way too well, never would have thought that this could be made. /---/ It is of course the sole obligation of the pen to focus on the essential and not concern itself with details.
It happens, one could assume, that the soul of drawing and the pen sometimes stick together when it suits them. One could even believe that there, in all secrecy, would exist a wireless connection between them. /---/
However, in one thing they fully agree, really incomprehensibly too fully, everyone: the soul of drawing, the eye, the hand, the pen, and the paper, and that is when it comes to crossng over, tearing apart, and trampling on something which has gone completely wrong."
"What could all these who guard our pen then think of us? We, who ought to know better, and be able to behave more properly, than to hold them tight in a forced immobility right in front of us. What do they make of our uncalled interest for them, this request of ours that they ought to be still, this intrusive desire to for our pen and our paper get to exploit the outer marks their life has given them?
Hard to know. They possess a large sense of self-restraint, free from all nervous overvaluing of the conditions. They never pretend to notice anything. I guess that the drawing one amongst the elder brings about a peculiar puzzlement of thoughts of misbelief and curiosity, of guesswork right in the middle of XXX and gentry (at all occasions gentry clothing), a feeling of gratitude for unexpected kindness, and for long strings of words they will not have understood, a will to behave properly, to oblige, and do one’s best.
From the external emanates a power, forcing and fascinating."
"It has to have been like that, that both the pen and I were filled with an overwhelming sense of the whole village being a drawing-book, finished and bound, page by page. – Only that all the lead strokes were missing, and those the pen would put into place."
"For the first time, I would see real Dala people in their own life and travels; not written or dictated, not imitated or forced, but exactly how it was. Nothing would seem disturbing, not even my own person. Fortunately, that is how it is, that one can actually avoid seeing oneself. So that in that case I should have no discomfort around my own self. My first impression was a certain disappointment, even though I barely wanted to acknowledge it. I would think that I should be blissed-out as easily and as quickly as others. I shall tell you how it was. I had thought, well yes, I almost think that I in my mind I required all the cottages to be small and grey with low windows and a tall chimney, and that inside each and every cottage there would be a tiny gammer in the middle of the floor, spinning, all while the fire would be burning in the fireplace. I had expected that there, on all the paths and roads, a vallkulla* would be walking with a case by her side and a knitted sock in her hand, herding her cows. I would have never been able to imagine anything else than every barrow being red, and every horse dun with a dun cut mane, and I was very cross with all brown and black horses. And why wasn’t Rättviksdräkten* used? I had imagined that everyone would be dressed in formalwear, even whilst at work. The middle and everyday ensembles with all their variations, were at that point a new phenomenon for me. Unfortunately, I was probably too eagerly pointing out everything that I approved of, and perhaps not careful enough as to quietly pass by those occurrences that did not fit with my conceptions of how things ought and ought not to be.
Little did I know then, that just how things were, was the only true and right way for that day and for that time, and that it should be at least as interesting to study the current, the breakthrough time, as to just fumble in the old."
Punctuated Spectra [in Parallel]
Ottilia Adelborg (1855-1936) describes her painting activity as an independent subjectivity, separated from her own, a dialougue between her pen and herself. Quates of Ottilia Adelborg is put next to quotes from of the publication Tudelad Chapter 1* by Maria Nordin and I, in which we ask if it is possible to merge our two subjectivites and evoke a third.
For this exhibition Maria Nordin has been invited to give some of my paintings direction. Her colour instructions as well as my samples are painted in large scale. This principle of doubeling is also present in the watercolour installation. A corridor consisting of watercolour paintings (depicting an scenography workshop) is presented. The vanishing point of each painting is perforated, and the central perspective of the opposite painting is seen through the small peephole. Outside the corridor a double perspective is possible. Inside the corridor the viewer is surrounded by the defining space of single perspectives.
*In 2014 Kristina Bength and Maria Nordin painted two watercolour paintings together, which they exchanged between their studios during five months. In parallel, they kept record of the process by writing letters to each other. The correspondence and the two paintings were exhibited at Thinking Through Painting at the Royal Art Academy and Galleri Magnus Karlsson, two different art spaces on two different floors in one building. Letters, colour-samples and images of the different stages of the paintings were presented in the publication Tudelad Chapter 1.
Kristina Bength's projects most often begin with the meaning that photography has and has had in society, how photography creates identities and plays a role in the construction of institutions. She tries to unfold the archive in spatial installations that makes stories visible.
In recent years Kristina Bength has painted from literature rather than photography. She has investigated memories of rooms from literature also as editor and curator in collaboration with artist Cecilia Darle.
Kristina Bength (b. 1984) lives and works in Stockholm, Sweden. She is educated at Gerlesborgsskolan in Bohuslän and at Valand School of Fine Art in Gothenburg (BFA).
Kristina Bength have had solo shows at Galleri Flach in Stockholm, LM D galerie in Paris, Ahlbergshallen in Östersund, Ebelingmuseet in Eskilstuna, Kiruna Stadshus and Trollhättan Konsthall. She has participated in group shows at Uppsala Art Museum, Gävle Konstcentrum, and hangmenProjects in Stockholm, and participated in art fairs such as Volta 5 in Basel, Volta 13 in New York and Le Salon du Dessin Contemporain in Paris.
She has received Project Grant, One- and Two-year Work Grant from the Swedish Arts Grants Committee, the County Council of Dalarna Culture Grant, Kiruna Artist Grant, Byggnads Culture Grant, Axel Theofron Sandberg's Watercolour Grant from The Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts and Marianne & Sigvard Bernadotte's Art Fund Grant.
Quotes from Twofolded Chapter 1 by Maria Nordin and Kristina Bength
"My idea is that we cut the creator of the painting in two, or that we let two creators become one. We investigate painting as a process and an idea rather than a material, so that the silent conversation which otherwise seems monologic is forced up to the surface of the spoken word, and becomes audible. Let’s try to put out a part of the hidden through the other."
"We were searching for a literary figure who either had a fleeting identity or was the result of the fusion of two figures; “… some kind of symbiotic relationship where two become one”, as you wrote to me on the 21st of February earlier this year. In the novel “The Blessed Ones” by Ulla Isaksson from 1962, our painting correspondence found its subject and method."
"Between Lövholmsvägen 12 and Årsta Skolgränd 12 our paintings switch their addresses. In the water of the watercolour, two subjective expressions are merged into one. Surely, it’s not by chance that our correspondence, our scenic folie à deux, is set against a backdrop of psychiatric definitions of the human being? The same extent to which we in our artistic practices share watercolouring as our primary mode of expression, we also share the attempts to investigate how categorisations and representations of the normal and the abnormal can be eliminated."
"Letter from Viveka Burman (patient) to Christian Dettow (consultant doctor) at Forsberga Mental Asylum:
Otäckan had a dream for years that she never could get over: she was to paint Reality, The Doctor, not as Reality but as Dream, paint it so true for everyone’s eyes so that they would stand there, amazed and serious, and say: Yes, but that’s how it is, it has to be! /---/ And it was her belief, that if she painted them so beautiful that they would stand there amazed, not being able to let go of these images of themselves, then the images would be contagious, Consultant Doctor.
There were two water works in her hometown, but deep into the earth they combined into one. A water catchment. The two water works were called Trovik and Sköndal, they were beautiful names and deep into the earth they were unified, covered up and merged into one /…/ she gave the spot where they met Cover Passage."
"To let the eye and the ear receive over and over again, until an image appeared. To keep this image tight by oneself, live into it with one’s whole being, all one’s hope, forever and incessantly /---/"
"The wife-husband land is a sort of folie à deux. "
"On its way through the room, the light is invisible. Not until it collides with an item it becomes bright."
"What attracted me was the fusion – the symbiosis – how one person can drag another into a psychosis, how two people can be swept up in the same disease and submit to rules and laws inaccessible for outsiders."
"the folie à deux, and its connotations with our shared paintings, where each one of us is trying to think and act from ourselves, but also through the other: How it becomes a fight between what pertains to oneself, the other, and the shared. How I somehow have to imagine that your thoughts are my own when I continue with your painting."
"How we look at the same model but see different things."
"You seem to have painted that which carries the image."
"There are a lot of parameters to relate to; to interpret intentions based on what you write and say, to interpret what way the gestures of your painting stake out, to convert those interpretations into methods of painting, to be able to carry them out technically, and at the same time listen to my own intentions. Sometimes I was brutal towards your choices."
"As I read my detailed descriptions of my technical hardships, it hits me that the preoccupation of our behaviour causes the shared subject to fade into the background, as the differences between us as painters become clearer and clearer. Even if it’s a joint painting, maybe the process of painting remains individual? Are we stuck in our own subjective expression? Is the painting only a sign of a fantasy of a shared subjectivity that always breaks down into these subjective expressions anyway?"
"Can we evoke a different, third subject, whose artistic practice is as composed as our respective ones, or is it once again just a fantasy?"
"In your first letter, you posed the question if painting is not built on the singular signature. Yes, but if that is the case, one can then wonder what it is in the context where painting appears that causes a single painter to be rewarded. Is it only a financial question, i.e. that collectors buy into a signature’s relation to an original based on the notion that the original possibly could not have been created by anyone else? At the same time, we know that many significant paintings have been the result of a collective effort. Still, the fact remains that the idea behind painting as a practice is so tied to the painter as a creator that collective manifestations most often are disregarded.
Perhaps another step in bringing about a third subject would be to paint in the same room, at the same time and collectively? Maybe we could try to exchange paintings not every couple of weeks but every couple of minutes? I picture us both in the same room, each with a paper stretched out on the floor. Simultaneously we each drop a colour mix, which we mix into our water puddles, one each, with our brushes. But, before the water has dried, we swap positions, finishing the flow of the colour – mixing our expressions. Is that even possible? I think that the wet-in-wet technique of watercolouring lends itself well to quick rotations of creators, as it is like the taking of a film scene. It requires full concentration throughout the whole process until the water has dried. I imagine the scene in the room with us painting as dramatic – right when the painting is the most demanding of our concentration, we are uprooted and put in front of a new and unknown flow of colour and water.
How does a third subjectivity relate to The Blessed Ones by Ulla Isaksson? When consultant doctor Christian reads the journal, he accesses his own history, but also his own insanity. The story of the couple Burman – and the folie à deux case – functions as a scene that turns out to be doubled in his own marriage, which leads up to his breakdown. What’s important is then that he puts himself in relation to something that has been, both in terms of his own history and the story he accesses, and that these two stories cling to one another like the drama of a lone psyche. In our case we do not work within the same psyche. Perhaps our work re-awakens certain psychological experiences, but the point is rather that together we create images as if they would be the product of a person. For Christian the images appear from the past, but for us it is different. Via the photographic originals the images do appear from the past, but the particular painter who paints them does not yet exist, and only belongs to the possibilities of the fantasy. Could you then say that that person is not a person who appears from the past, but more so belongs to the future – that he or she does not yet exist?"
"The power struggle you describe in your latest letter is incessantly present when I paint. I interpret and consider both of our intentions. I am torn between trying to follow your system, and leaving it to be able to paint as I usually do. I stop and think that I will do what’s best for the picture when the confusion takes over. I don’t know what it is anymore. I end up in a mid-position where I sometimes paint like I imagine you paint, and sometimes I go back to my own process."
"The unstructured painting is as much a longing for the water to surprise me. I let the paint move both with and without my impact. Of course, watercolour has the property that it can form and do things I would not have been able to come up with or calculate. I fight with that control; to let go or hold on to it."
"The element of uncertainty associated with the mixing in of several disparate movements and opinions is like emphasising the reality and existence of the material. As if we would stage the material through the dichotomy."
"We both know that a piece with a signature is worth more than one without. We also live in a time obsessed with brands. In addition, there is in the history of painting a tradition of accentuating painters, chiefly men, and their geniality. Even our zeitgeist seems to have a hard time letting go of the concept of the single genius, the single signature. Maybe the question isn’t interesting for us. If we would succeed in letting how we paint fuse into one thing, it would mean that we will create a new signature, and – whether we want it or not – subjugate ourselves to the authorship system of the arts."
"You write something about longing to be dissolved by someone else. Is it a dream about fleeing from oneself, a fantasy about getting rid of a certain role, or an idea of being able to be different people at the same time? Or, is it a wish of dissolving a historically normative role? Is it the legacy of painting, the weight of which can feel oppressive, that we want to reassess?"
"I’m reading through what we have written. I am reading more closely than I have before. Now when the paintings are done, and our thoughts clearer, I am attracted by the thought of doing it all over again."
"Now, when I’m looking at the finished painting Cover Passage, and reading your letters and quotes, I more clearly see your vision in front of me. I stop myself from analysing the painting to pieces in my letter, in order not to destroy anything for an unsullied eye. But the painting of it ends with a sense that I understand."
To unfold a place by Curator Sara Rossling
Inhabited places, continuously throughout time, store remnant from human activities. Some activities yield visible marks ending up layered on top of previous ones or they become intricately woven into the surrounding, contributing to define the identity of the place. Other events leave few imprints or no traces at all. However, all aspects of a place can not be visible to us at the same time. Rather, these aspects might be folded away and in order to become unfolded they somehow need to be mediated. How we perceive a place is very much a reflection of who we are, our background and where we are in life. When we encounter a city, village, or any kind of geographical site, we produce a certain image of that place in accordance to our previous experiences. Gilles Deleuze conceptualizes his thinking about the fold in The Fold: Leibniz and the Barock (1988), taking ideas of the 15th century philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz as his point of departure. To Deleuze the pleat as such could be a way of thinking and an operational move applied to any historical event. Although, there is very little resemblance between the Baroque and the exhibited artists discussed below, I find the principle of the fold inspiring as it is always followed by an unfolding. I use it here as way to discover what potentially is contained within ‘something’.
Ottilia Adelborg (1855-1936), Swedish artist, illustrator and author visited Gagnef for the first time in 1902. Struck by its culture and landscape; particularly the light and rich colors. In front of her appeared a place she described as fairytale-like in her diary. A rural village in Dalarna where she immediately felt at home and later came to stay the rest of her life. Devoted to a self-announced mission in company with peers: rescuing the old peasant culture and its craft traditions from dying out. Dalarna at this time was a region much appreciated amongst the upper class and highly educated people due to its rich culture embodying an heritage canon. Adelborg's work with portraying the people, mapping, documenting and assembling public collections, all relate to her particular view of Gagnef. Through her initiatives, gestures, writings and illustrations, still acknowledged in the region today, she unfolds a specific place.
The fold is not bound to conventional linear logic of perceiving time, rather the principle connects events that might be separated in time by folding history back or forth. Each pleat contains a world of its own and leads to another, alluding to both continuation and multiplicity.
Gagnef Artist-in-Residence (GAIR) and its research orientated project The legacy of Ottilia (2017-2018) encourages participating artists to make acquaintance with their new temporary milieu, as a possibility to situate themself and their work in a new place. The project also encourages the artists to take the opportunity to discover the seemingly overlooked artist Ottilia Adelborg. In Gagnef, traces from her initiatives with preserving the culture can be found, such as Minnesstugan, but there are not many signs telling us about how she used her home. What is less known to the public is that her traditional house in Gagnef became an attraction amongst artist friends and other less acquainted people who came to stay to work and experience a rural life defined as the core of Swedish culture. To Adelborg her home was also her workplace where she wrote, collected newspaper clippings and held a bobbin lace school in her kitchen aimed at young uneducated women to become professionalised. In fact, one of her last wishes in life was to make her house into a creative place with different craft workshops in each room. A wish that never came true.
A fold is not something cut off or something existing in isolation, instead there is a cohesion between all folds. To me, this could symbolize a bond between Adelborg's ideas and the artists' exhibited work. Newly created artworks and research conducted by the invited artists that in various ways reflect on today's society, about our own time, and through research simultaneously opening up for alternative views on her artistry. Theses works take on new directions, but also continue where Adelborg left a century ago.
As a person she was expressively engaged in the women's movement aiming for women's legal right to vote. With her books and pedagogical activities she contributed to strengthen children's situation. If she was alive today, would she engage in equal rights and oppose xenophobia? The leading question might not be totally unreasonable to ask.
Artist Marc Handelman has studied Adelborg's ABC-book Prinsarnes blomsteralfabet (1892), illustrations anthropomorphically merging letters of the alphabet with typical Swedish flowers. In this project, Handelman's wide scope of research spans from the use of nature to typography used in various ways to communicate national identity, serving a system with native and non-native parameters. This puts Adelborg's work about Swedish culture in a larger context of belonging —of who belongs, and what is naturalized. Urgent issues today. Handelman addresses our blindfolded endorsement of nationalism both then and today. In a subversive way undressing Adelborg's Swedish plants in his artists book Blomsteralfabet by revealing the flowers' true origins. Here, a fold is opened up already existing within her flower alphabet, like a cavern in a cavern.
Kristina Bength's entry point to GAIR's research project is her ongoing collaboration with Maria Nordin. Bength has spent time reading Adelborg's collected writings about Dalarna where she describes her painting activity as an independent subjectivity, separated from her own. In the exhibition, Bength juxtaposes quotes by Adelborg with quotes from Tudelad Chapter 1, a publication by Bength and Nordin where they examines a third subjectivity. Here, folding can be imagined as a form of ‘doubling’, Bength's thought doubled into the thought of Adelborg. The quotes are accompanied by a large watercolor installation, a corridor of paintings that can be experienced from both inside and outside. Peepholes at each painting's vanishing point make visible the central perspective of the opposite painting in the corridor. A manifestation of a double perspective which makes the onlooker aware of its own viewpoint.
In her encounter with Adelborg Tatiana Danilevskaya found a shared interest in pedagogy, as well as a skill in storytelling. Both artists also possess a capacity in finding and collecting material. Danilevskaya has taken Adelborg's children's book Pelle Snygg och barnen i Snaskeby (1896) as inspiration and invited children from Gagnef to read the book out loud and tell their own stories in Radio Ottilia. Letting them become part of her radio production and giving the children a voice. Danilevskaya composes a soundscape of local voices, recorded sounds, contemporary music and archival audio material from Dalarna. Blending the present with the past and connecting events and people that are separated in time. By using different types of genres, narratives and languages; she unfolds a diverse place in counterweight to Adelborg's perhaps more specific view of Dalarna.
In Fäbodvägar eller Buvägar by Ottilia Adelborg, a short text about old rural paths in the region she writes about the nature, animals and human activities she encounters on these roads. It is a contemplative reflection of what happens to her when walking. Nuno Vicente's interest in History, nature and geology made him spend much of his residency period by foot acquainting himself with the historic and prehistoric surroundings of Dalarna. Performing research by physically experiencing and discovering the same landscape Adelborg once lived in. Collecting stones from different locations in the Siljan Ring, pieces that has been reworked and brought together in a sculpture shaped as a circle. An ancient sign of human cultural activities. In another artwork recording an action where he drops a sculpture from the edge of Dalhalla, a former lime quarry in the center of the Siljan Ring. Creating sounds when the sculpture hit various layers of bedrocks from different historical epochs.
To literally fold a sheet of paper produces an infinite number of variations that is still a part of the same paper. A fold leading to another fold resembles an associative potential kindred with art today. Anders Bergman's artistry and research draws on that potential and allows itself to do sudden and poetic connections, such as linking Dalmålningar to current Ethiopia and back again in history to the Finnish people living in Sweden in the 17th century. Bergman's work proposes alternative narratives and histories, not usually presented to us. Like a fold leading to a new fold, here one trace leading to a new trace leading to a third one shaping a spatial installation that step by step unfolds a place.
Malin Pettersson Öberg's interest in archives and fascination for collecting led her artistic process to Adelborg's collected images: newspaper clippings mounted on archival sheets and arranged into themes in several boxes. Newspaper images separated from their original context; hidden stories and places folded away from us. In close collaboration with Jacek Smolicki, Pettersson Öberg has reworked and assembled these fragments into a whole. Their exhibited newspaper Ottilia Adelborg: Assembling the World opens up to new ideas about Adelborg's collecting activity and unfolds these clippings by arranging them into new contexts. At the same time, Pettersson Öberg and Smolicki fold these fragments back and forth in history by transforming newspaper images chosen and cut out by Adelborg, originally produced to serve a specific newspaper context.
Perhaps unfolding could be an approach to sensations as History, places and artworks - to see them as ever evolving. Like folds, I would like to end by suggesting that each artist's presentation awaits new things to be discovered about them.