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Digging into the Bedrock

A few notes on the upcoming Vårsalongen 2024 at Liljevalchs Konsthall

Co-curated by Joanna Sandell & Ashik Zaman The Jury of 2024: Joanna Sandell, Tawanda Appiah, Ashik Zaman & Peder Fredricson February 9 - April 21, 2024

Susanne Bonja, Three o' clock, 2022

With big exhibitions like the upcoming Vårsalongen 2024 at Liljevalchs Konsthall in Stockholm, there's certainly angles and trains of thoughts that will have been there from the outset, and others that dawn on you the deeper you get into the process of fleshing it all out. An exhibition scope always informs potential beyond what has already been mapped up. Now that I've seen our full exhibition a few mere instances away from completion, it's evident that it's an exhibition that presents both on an immediate level but where the more you look and connect rooms and artworks, the more you might also see "themes" and "patterns". Such unfolding layers is what you get when you have curators involved. Isn't that just about every other group exhibition? Sure, but perhaps not every other exhibition of the salon format, where the large amout of disprate artworks together impose limitations when it comes to harmonious and euphonic sprees.

Among much, a sense of "girl power" was definitely important for my co-curator Joanna Sandell, who I've been working actively with for the past two weeks on the curation part, and I can't speak for all of us three men in the jury but I'd imagine it's safe to assume two of us as would identify as feminists. What's nice on the "girl power" domain is that it's an intersectional girl power oomph, across age and culture. And sometimes that "girl power" is squared up against more traditional representations of (possibly hegemonic) masculinities, which in turn are "cornered" up by timelier, softer and tender masculinities. For me as a 38 year-old man who grew up before and between a paradigm shift in understanding and accepting gender, I realize personally for me, the exhibition digs into the bedrock of fibers that are ingrained in me. I grew up early liberating myself from traditional masculinities at 7-8-9 of age, while coming to terms with sexual identity. And while I'm not drawn to traditional masculinites "intellectually", it doesn't evade my "gaze" aesethetically as an adult. I'm not the last person you'll see not popping up a biceps flex. It's sort of the reverse journey, compared to "the jocks", who today are now exploring their feminity because they couldn't back then.

Susanne Bonja, Denier, 2022

Susanne Bonja is one of many painters in the exhibition. Like so many, very talented. It's compelling, the pensive vibe of her works, and the feeling they excude of nuanced portrayal of "female subjecthood". In relation to contemporary art, or when wrting about it, my mind often thinks along the lines of music and cinema. When I look at her works, by a hunch; I instinctually think of film gems I've recently watched; Chloe Okuno's Watcher, Andrew Seman's Reserruction starring my favourite Rebecca Hall, and Carlo Mirabella Davis' Swallow, all three with suggestive one-word titles, and with a female protagonist at the helm with infernal streaks that might frustrate because the multidimensionality of the characters defy "the stock logics" that some viewers are used to relating to. In recent years she has been working around an alter ego; June, notably in a solo in 2022 at Kalmar Konstmuseum.

Susanne Bonja, Busch, 2020

Agija M is an artist who might present as a new discovery for many, but who last year made part of an exhibition at the suburban Botkyrka Konsthall, highlighting the municipal art collection and recent acquisitions among which some were from her. Adopting the moniker "Aquarellemuslimah" on social media, connoting to her forte; watercolours; her works have some enchanting Elsa Beskow-esque quality to them. Presenting hijabi women à l’aise, in heightened settings, she has said; ”I’d like for every hijabi to be able to relate”, in an interview last year with Opulens (pen: Edvin Grans). In a current photographic realm there is a kinship with fast-rising visual artist Ikram Abdulkadir who with her tender lense depicts Muslim women on their own terms, and rethinks, or rather asserts another depiction of poise and elegance for the 21st century. Abdulkadir is not part of the Vårsalongen 2024, although a solo of hers is due in April at Centrum för Fotografi. Moreover, none of the artworks in this article make part of the upcoming exhibition. But we're getting closer; it's next week. It's hard not to talk about things you are passionate about. Come enjoy artists and artworks in abundance, and see what you find in the exhibition.

Above: Agija M A Woman, below: Agija M Flower Field

Ashik Zaman

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