First Spring, First Window
Johanna Bjurström, Traktur
In Team C-print we've missed actively visiting the local art schools in Stockholm for which reason as well it was a pleasure to be invited recently to preview the work of the first year class at The Royal Institute of Art (BFA1) and their first collective exhibition. Like most often in the past, the first-year BFA-candidates together as a whole let on a great amount of potential which makes you wonder where they will be five years from now. Their exhibition altogether was a display of clever use of space and corners on the school premises, at times prompting the sentiment of multiple well-edited exhibitions (sometimes solo ones) within the exhibition. While the class has already been presented our Instagram channel, we speak in this feature to three of the promising artists in it: Johanna Bjurström, Alicia Gonzalez and Sophia Linderstam.
C-P: You started your first year at the Royal Institute of Art here in Stockholm during the pandemic. How has that impacted your start and time there to date?
J.B: The school has been open since we started in August and we have had access to our studios. Having a place to go to every day these days is very privileged. Yet, I’ve been moving carefully around the school premises trying to avoid any crowd that might occur in the kitchen area for example. This of course creates a sense of distance. Focus on my practice is hard when the world is on fire, I don’t think I’m alone with that feeling. But I´m lucky to be here.
C-P: How would you define your artistic practice, and interests the way they manifest in your work at present?
J.B: I went to music school with a focus on choir from the age of 10 to 18 and had a hard time learning music theory. The choir scene can be very strict and correct, no mistakes allowed. This experience appears in my work today as I try to simulate the disciplinary aesthetics of music theory. Maybe it's also an attempt to comfort my inner-child's lack of self-esteem within this area.
I have sung in many churches and see them much like arenas made for sound and the home of the pipe organ. This instrument fascinates me. Tracker action is a term used in reference to pipe organs and indicates a mechanical linkage between keys or pedals pressed by the organist and the valve that allows air to flow into pipes of the corresponding note. This is what I tried to manifest in my painting Traktur.
To limit myself and make up some rules have been helpful in my process. I try to keep my hands busy with materials that lead me in new directions and trigger my fantasy. Threads soften and create a small shadow, although it feels brutal to stick needles through the beautiful canvas.
Johanna Bjurström, Regelverk
C-P: There was a feeling about your presented work of really seeing an artistic expression that will clearly appear distinctive of you as an artist. Orchestrating with threads as "paint"; very interesting as approach . On that note, curiosity begs the question; what artistic figures have been inspiring to you over time?
J.B: Josef Albers, John Cage, Christine Ödlund and Viking Eggeling are all artists working with sound differently. Eggeling's attempt to visualize music and rhythm in Symphonie Diagonale stunned me. Anni Albers woven works are also an influence. Architecture can really get me going as well. C-P: What has your experience with your first collective exhibition with the class been like? What will you most take with you from it, going forward?
J.B: This exhibition became a welcomed moment for me. To be able to test my work with the class was a true joy and it made us closer as a group. It was also an opportunity to get to know the school better and feel more comfortable.
I've learned that all my classmates are true keepers and will turn to them for guidance, support and ventilation in the years to follow.
Johanna Bjurström, detail view
C-P: What awaits next for you in 2021? J.B: A course in mosaic! Field studies, experiment with sculpture and many mistakes.
C-P: How has the pandemic times impacted your start at school?
A.G: In a way I’m living the artist's dream. Having so much time and a big school with workshops and my own studio. But it has also been hard. I think I have understood the importance of distance this past year. Only moving between my home and studio, I often get into my own head and I think I’ve used distance (distance as in visiting friends who live in other cities) as a way to break that in the past. But I mean it could be way worse; I’m just very happy that the school has been able to stay open so I have a place to go to. And I’ve learned so much in the past term despite the pandemic.
C-P: How would you definite your artistic practice, and interests the way they manifest in your work at present?
A.G: It’s a hard question, because it continuously changes. But I’ve been thinking a lot about vessels in the last term. Vessels and bodies. Body as a mass, a gravity. A physicality in relation to the other physical things around it. A material is a body. Me next to a material is also a mass . My sculptures are a body the exact same way that I am. And that is what my Darlings are. They are body. I want to stretch the meaning of the word. Make it a vessel and fill it with more than you could imagine. So maybe an answer to your question would be the questions; "What is body?" and "Who is body?".
Alicia Gonzales, from the series Darlings; Darling 1, Darling 2, Darling 3, Darling 4. Photo: Therese Norgren
C-P: What was the experience with your first collective exhibition with the class like?
A.G: It’s been great, I was a bit worried in the beginning because of the restrictions, only being able to meet in group on video chat and all. But it went surprisingly smoothly. It has been so much fun working together, and it has really been a collective process of everybody's talking and discussing, moving around their works and being really open in the installing process. So maybe what I bring with me is how fun the process of curating an exhibition together has been. But also the importance of bringing my sculptures out of my studio and installing them. A lot happens in the installation process, it’s as though they can breathe when they are not clamped together in a small room.
C-P: What struck us the most looking at your work in the exhibition is your deft material command as a sculptor. There was a notable relation between an appearance towards glossy and smooth on the one hand and corroded on the other hand. What can be said about this visual dynamic and the underlying orchestration?
A.G: The sculptures have the same foundation, a sown vessel which then is forced through different processes. The ones covered in rust are filled with plaster, but the ones covered in silicone are filled with seeds (wheat and flaxseed). I would say that they are opposites; but they are not really I like the word opposite but it seems to make things simpler than they actually are. A more descriptive set of words would be alive and dead. The seeds and the rust are changeable. The seeds move and find a new form with every movement it’s exposed to. The rust will continue to grow and deepen until it has consumed all of the metal.
Both of the materials have their autonomy. They have their own will, and my only part in the process is putting them there. The silicone however is a material that does exactly what I expect it to do. I color it to the exact tone I want and once it dries it’s flexible but stays the same. The only way to breach it when it’s firm is with sharp objects. The plaster is flexible while wet, but once it hardens it resembles the silicone and becomes dead, unimpressionable. The rust covers the dead and grows on it and into it like mold, or a parasite. All the while the silicone encapsulates the seeds and suffocates them, keeping them from growing. Keeping them as they are. So on the one hand you have the sculptures with a set core but changeable outside, with the fabric as a border. And on the other you have the sculptures with the changeable core but set outside and the fabric separating them. They are dead-alive and alive-dead.
Alicia Gonzales, Darling 6. Photo: The artist's own
C-P: What next up in 2021?
A.G: I think I will try to get out of my studio, book bigger rooms at school but also try to find different places outside of school. I’d love to do something site-specific so I’m gonna keep an eye out for interesting places around the city. I also think everyone in my class got exited about this exhibition, so we are talking about doing something collective again. And hopefully be able to show it before the end of this term.
C-P: Starting school during an ongoing pandemic; what has it been like?
S.L As a result of the pandemic most of our meetings and lectures are online. When looking at art on the screen you lose the physical dimensions. That is of course unfortunate, and it is hard to fully understand all aspects. However, everyone is doing their best to make group meetings work. Painting from home is not an issue for me. I easily get disrupted by my surroundings and prefer silence.
Sophia Linderstam, Resten
C-P: How could your artistic practice be defined today at the stage you are?
S.L: Describing light and space is an important part of my work. It is interesting how one can create an ambience by using the tonal range. I try to strip down the object to its minimal components to get closer to the essence of something.
My work is driven by my personal experiences, but I hope that through art this can be transformed into something new, more open and reflecting. I want to pose questions that most people can somehow relate to.
Sophia Linderstam, 37 °C
C-P: Apropos of an interest in space, that was definitely evident in your work in the exhibition and at one point there was a feeling of experiencing a solo exhibition of yours seated within a collective exhibition. That's how strong the connection between a painting and sculpture of yours was, as to really produce the feeling of independence from the rest of the exhibition. It's a nice approach, connecting painting to sculpture so seamlessly as you did.
S:L: I´m happy to hear that you liked my presentation. I chose those works as I think they speak to each other. Together they have an airless atmosphere. It is interesting how pieces can strengthen each other and sometimes take new directions that you are not prepared for.
C-P: Looking back at the recent exhibition which was your first experience of collectively presenting with your class; what could be shared on your end about the experience?
S.L: I have only positive things to say about our first group exhibition. We have had very good collaboration as a group, and everyone has been generous and helpful. I will take with me how interesting and important it is to listen to the reflections and inputs of others.
C-P: What awaits next for you in 2021?
S.L: My plan is to work with glass. I want to learn more about the material and different techniques to form and bend the surface. I am also continuing with oil painting since that is pleasure driven to me.