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Family Matters: Minda & Agneta

During a recent visit to Vienna, we caught a two-person exhibition at Zeller van Almsick Gallery, presenting works of Vienna-based Swedish artist Minda Andrén and her artist mother Agneta Andrén. The show deleactable in great parts, aroused curiosity about the apparent artistic kinship between the respective practices, in so far inquiring about their rapport by way of this interview. It turns out their case, unbeknownst to us, is that of a thoroughly artstic family with several more artists in the midst whose work we know, without prior making the connection. "Growing up in an environment like that, I think it’s inevitable that you are influenced by each other, from the point of having similar interests to producing things with a similar aesthetic. However, we were all taking a different point of view from one another, maybe to be able to stay whole as individuals and not be consumed by the group", says Minda Andrén.

Installation view Der tag trägt die träume der nacht run: Agneta Andrén (left), Minda Andrén (right), Zeller van Almsick

C-P: Minda, I caught your first solo show, Cuirass, with the gallery last summer and was happy to catch another show while recently visiting Vienna, without entirely knowing the premise of the show. You are presenting together with your painter mother Agneta. Despite distinctive practices the juxtaposition appeared very seamless in parts and it was very obvious a lot of effort had been put into the curating process. How did the idea come about and how was the process materialized?

M.A: The idea for the show actually came as a proposal from the gallery, Magdalena Zeller and Cornelis Van Almsick. They had met my mother the previous year and since then also discovered her art. It immediately felt very natural and exciting at the same time. Agneta and I have always had some kind of artistic exchange, sending each other pictures of our works and our individual reference points, visiting each other’s studios (when we will have had the chance). She was the one who first taught me how to paint, what techniques to use and how to build up layers. It seemed like a good idea to continue this exchange but in an enhanced way. It was clear from the beginning that it was going to be only paintings. Agneta was traveling in Vietnam at the time so a major part of the process was exchanging images of our work and daily life. Of course you also get highly influenced by each other this way but I think we both knew that it would be best if we just trusted that our work is similar enough to basically continue with our individual practices as they were.

There were some very stressful situations and of course time pressure which manifested especially with building up the show, as more differences arose in how to actually hang the show. Both me and Agneta can be very stubborn, and it can get very intense. Especially after working closely together like this and living together in a small apartment together while building the show. We got some amazing help from my sister Hanna, as well as Cornelis and Magdalena to get it all together in the end.

Installation view Der tag trägt die träume der nacht, Zeller van Almsick

C-P: Tell me about your respective works presented in the show and what might be as you see it, some of the common denominators between your works? Seeing the visual unity found in the show I would say the softer colour palettes offered a very soothing quality altogether, giving the show a light aerial feel.

A.A: My paintings depicts textiles and draperies in motion, stretchable and volatile. They are painted in a simple airy style. The surface of the textile functions as a projection space for ideas that we need for self-identification. In my paintings I have removed all those ideas, and there is only the possibility for the viewer to fill in the rest.

Patterns that may be simple and repetitive appear suddenly incomprehensible and abstract. Structures disappear into deep folds. When the fabric moves, the world changes and if the fabric moves enough, entire imaginary worlds can fall out of the projection area. Painfully, our nature reveals our consciousness as temporary. On the other hand, this gives us the freedom to experiment and create ourselves and the world. Through different identities and ideas we are constantly changing and creating new ones.

We worked very intuitively and it is overwhelming to see how our works complement each other. She worked in Vienna and I have my studio outside of Uddevalla, Sweden. Each of us already had our world of imagery ready. It was a wonderfully fun experiment!

Agneta Andrén (top and bottom)

M.A: For this show I was focusing on portraits of cosplay girls. I’m very interested in subcultures and especially gaming, graphic novels and comic books. Cosplaying, or dressing up as a fantasy character feels like a both an escape from reality and something that allows you to go deeper into the reality you choose. Sometimes taking on another identity can allow you to be truly free. I find it interesting that it’s on the edge between reality and fiction. This connects of course to Agnetas ideas about creating our own selves and the world through experimentation and shifting identities. The ethereal feel was something that we actively worked on, both of us can be quite intense sometimes and that can overshadow the connecting points that our works have.

Minda Andrén

C-P: The title of the show is beautiful and reads; The Day Carries the Dreams of the Night. How does it resonate with the motifs represented in the show?

A.A: The Day Carries the Dreams of the Night is also the title for one of my cutout paintings. The painting hints towards the ideas of yesterday getting packed away and floating away as if in a dream. The next day the fabric unfolds and the projection area expands and so it goes on in a sort of propelling motion.

M.A: Right, I think it has a nice way of showing part of our process. The pictures we had sent to each other became a challenge for ourselves to continue in a way where each of us were reacting to the latest batch of pictures, and making progress through taking turns of leading the direction. And then of course I immediately fell for it just because it’s very visual and ephemeral at the same time, which I think fits the show very well.

Installation view Der tag trägt die träume der nacht run: Agneta Andrén, Zeller van Almsick

C-P: We were having a chat at the gallery and I was curious to learn about the rapport you’ve shared at home as artists. As I was seeing the string of works by Minda that are inspired by cosplay characters, I thought of Stockholm-based artist Duda Bebek and found similarities, assuming it might be on the account of a long-standing friendship. I only realized afterwards that Duda Bebek (Ida Andrén) is family, as is artist Yoko Andrén. It was such a revelation when I realized it. You are literally a family of artists. How has this served you and your family dynamics?

A.A: All of Minda’s siblings are artists; a film director, an architect, a musician and the others you already mentioned. There was always the presence and interest in art in every day life through practice, conversations and traveling. Early they showed themselves to be strong individuals, totally different from one another even though everyone was creative, artistic and innovative. We had fun together and everyone had their imagination, visual way of thinking and original ideas. All of this became a hub that we could gather around, it identified us and helped develop our qualities without crashing into each other's sphere, because the art is infinitely extensible. The group as an idea was protective, permissive and challenging. Different thoughts were constantly brought up in extensive and sometimes heated conversations. We inspired and provoked each other for constant development. Everyone was highly sensitive, we could all imagine ‘the other’, but we all had our own perspective.

M.A: Growing up in an environment like that I think it’s inevitable that you are influenced by each other, from the point of having similar interests to producing things with a similar aesthetic. However, we were all taking a different point of view from one another, maybe to be able to stay whole as individuals and not be consumed by the group. For sure it’s not always easy either and we are still working out ways of dealing with how to live and work together.

Minda Andrén

C-P: What are your earliest memories of each other’s art practices? And Agneta, what’s the most significant piece of advice you will have given Minda about working as an artist?

A.A: Once Minda sat on the floor with a small half-broken mirror in front of her in my studio. It leaned slightly obliquely against a post. Without realizing she had made one of the most skilled, most beautiful, painted portrait I saw. Minda had been drawing a lot over the years, but not painted in this advanced way, and I had told her about color, shape, light, composition, but I had a shock! She was able to perform a realistic portrait painting already at the age of 14. She possessed the balance of mind, observation ability, empathy and this magical ability to transform the reality into an image. Although I moved among artists during my life, I had not seen anything similar. That said I'm still in shock. She had a feeling for the three-dimensional, for light and form. In a balanced way she created a reality and on the first try! What advice would I give her after this?

My life is art, I have shared this with Minda. Everything I read, practiced and know about art I have talked about with her. Now, she has her own practice and new knowledge, and shares that with me! Minda grew up in art museums, art biennials and other cultural events. In a way she manages all these experiences as her own unique creation. Perhaps it was possible to exhibit together because we have our own worlds that coexist rather than pose as a threat.

Minda Andrén

M.A: It’s difficult to say what the first impression was since I've been around her work since I was born, but I do remember the smell of turpentine and oil, sneaking in to Agnetas studio as a child and looking through all of her things. The whole studio situation was so exciting, going in there and searching through different materials and pictures was like finding a room full of treasures. Something of value. She always had some weird and interesting things in there.

The paintings she was working on at the time was of course always there. I remember large-scale, very explosive collage paintings, often with half-way pornographic scenes combined with dreamy landscapes and fictive characters, that filled up the whole walls (and that I was probably too young to see). I thought they were completely magical, a whole different world. And they really stuck with me all these years. I still think of them quite a lot!

Installation view Der tag trägt die träume der nacht run, Zeller van Almsick

C-P: What’s next in store with your art in 2018?

A.A: I made illustrations for two one-hour long nature documentaries, Naturen som förebild, that are currently being shown at Svt24 play. (Swedish national television programming). Most of the illustrations are in part 1 of 2, approximately 2 minutes into it. Apart from that I’m currently writing a novel, and we will have to see what else comes up in the future.

M.A: I’m very excited to participate in a group exhibition, Dreamin’ Wild, at Alaska Projects in Sydney, curated by Alexander Jackson Wyatt. The show will be a meeting between artists active between Vienna and Sydney. It opens on July 20 and will be running for two weeks.

The exhibition Der tag trägt die träume der nacht runs at Zeller van Almsick until July 14

Images courtesy of the artists and Zeller van Almsick, photo: Jennifer Gelardo, © 2018

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