Not seeing how long it took is part of the intrigue…
Last week, PJD shared an in-depth glimpse into one of the art exhibitions that we have been most impressed with, ever. This was the incredible Slow Art exhibition at the Nationalmuseum, which we were lucky to find by chance when we were in Stockholm recently.
Slow Art has really lingered in our minds; we have discussed many of the pieces we saw in the exhibition a number of times since we returned home to Leiden, reflecting on the fact that an overarching characteristic of the works was their exquisite beauty and uniqueness. So, today I thought I would share a few more of our favourite pieces. Sure, we loved them all, and the ones that PJD has already documented in his post were certainly amongst the most impressive. Yet, the depth of the quality in this small collection was quite astonishing, and these pieces really are quite something…
Above you can see Cecilia Levy‘s Bowl (2011). Any originality lacking in the title of the piece is made up for by the original and innovative approach to creating art or objects out of found materials – in this case old books. This use of incorporating found objects, or recycling or using mundane, everyday materials in art works, to create something distinctive and beautiful is characteristic of many of the pieces in Slow Art. Although at first when I realised Levy’s bowl was made out of old books, the book lover in me had a reflexive reaction of “How could you!”, but as I looked at the bowl more and more, I really appreciated the creation that Levy had managed to achieve from the pages of a humble book. I especially like the painstaking way in which the pieces of the pages have been layered to form the bowl, and the way in which the page edges have been used to give the bowl an outer side devoid of text, with words only appearing on the inside. The control with which the bowl has been made seemed quite amazing to me as I looked at it, yet from the curator’s description next to the piece, I was told that
The process is only partially controllable; what the bowl will look like on the inside emerges only when it is done, and then it is too late to make changes or corrections.
The element of surprise that the artist must have to contend with through this art-making process made me like Bowl even more.
The dress above by Helena Hörstedt similarly left quite an impression on us. Look at that detail, the structure! The way in which the Dress has been constructed, the striking silhouette which is created, and the way in which the materials have been fashioned into something so distinctive is wonderful. This focus on shape and structure means that the piece is almost like a sculpture, yet retains the integrity of a clothing garment. I would imagine this is a difficult balance to achieve and must take much time and a highly methodical approach. Like the other pieces showcased in Slow Art, Hörstedt’s Dress celebrates the art involved in handicraft, with hour upon hour invested in making the garment in such a perfect, tailored manner. I am excited to see what direction this young Swedish designer takes next. From what I can find on her website, all her collections to date are monochromatic black. I think it would be amazing to see some pieces like Dress in bright and bold colours too.
Not many pieces in Slow Art incorporated elements of nature, but there was no mistaking the materials used by Gunilla Lagerhem Ullberg in her works that make up Herbarium. Having dabbled in flower pressing as a child, these works immediately captured my attention, but I was blown away by the way in which Ullberg manages to keep the flowers so intact, and pressed to perfection. The variation in shape and colour was incredible, and the flowers work so well on the panels en masse, carefully affixed in a unique pattern. I have since discovered that Ullberg is a well-known Swedish textile designer; now that I know that, this work that she does with pressed flowers does echo in some way Scandinavian textile design with its typically bold and often geometric patterns. The curator’s note drew attention the experimental nature of this work:
No two petals are exactly alike, not even two petals from the same blossom. The process is experimental. Which petals will keep their colour, and which ones fade when they dry? The lessons learned must be remembered for the following year’s harvest.
Up close, Ullberg’s work was quite astonishing; I particularly love the maple leaves:
This exhibition celebrated artists who exercise extreme attention to detail and focus on simple materials, to create something elevated from a handicraft to. Viewing these works made me stop and consider how they might have been made, stage by stage, piece by piece, layer upon layer. Slow Art really was food for the imagination. It was inspiring to be surrounded by works into which so much time, effort, energy and thought had clearly been invested, and from which I am sure most people who have had the pleasure of viewing them have gained much enjoyment. Tomorrow, I’ll share with one more piece of art from Slow Art. It is the onethat really stole the show for me, and which has been sparkling in my mind ever since…
Photos by CIA at Slow Art, Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, Sweden, July 2012.