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Gunnel & Anita

”Gunnel & Anita” joins Valeria Montti Colque and Rossana Mercado-Rojas in a two-person exhibition at the brand new Bas konsthall. An early point of departure in the exhibition process which now finds itself as a leitmotif is the exhibition as a ”homecoming” for Valeria Montti Colque who is born and raised in Järfälla and as an adult today lives in Barkaby. Rossana Mercado-Rojas who too lives and is based in Sweden since a number of years likely will make for a newer acquaintance for a local art audience. A focus in the exhibition on her part is her identity in light of Sweden as a new home and her experiences of navigating through a new society. The life experiences of both artists share common ground, in so far the two women sharing related cultural heritage, but are also distinctive for each, marked by traces of an upbringing in a distinct geographic site in the world. The exhibition curated by Ashik Zaman has been given the title ”Gunnel & Anita" from a humorous angle but also on a more serious note brings prejudices about identity to a head. It turns out Valeria’s first name actually is Gunnel (deriving from a late family friend whose name was Gunnel) and that Rosanna’s parents’ nickname for her since early has been Anita. The idea of the title also arose following conversations about the agency a name will afford an individual in a society that is increasingly becoming xenophobic. Visually and in form the exhibition will allude to the hopeful sentiment of a new day and new dawn, lying ahead and lurking around the corner.

Rossana Mercado-Rojas & Valeria Montti Colque. Photo: Anna Drnvik

C-P: The camaraderie between you is so evident seeing you together. How did your paths initially cross?

V.M.C: It was our mutual friend Macarena Dusant who first introduced when she asked me to bring a group of artists to visit me in my studio. Later in time we would meet again when Rossana was participating in an exhibiton at Platform in Stockholm in conjunctuon with a course at Mejan (The Royal Institute of Art). In the spring of 2020 I did a residency at IASPIS and invited Rossana to come join me to use and work in my studio which led to collaborations. By the end of that residency we had organically found ways of joining works of ours together and we did what you could say was a full-blown studio exhibition that unfolded as a result of our spending time around each other's art.

Detail view, collaborative work between Valeria Montti Colque and Rossana Mercado-Rojas from the exhibition "Gunnel & Anita", Bas konsthall, Barkaby, Stockholm, September 2022

C-P: That exhibition ultimately made part of our Best List of 2020 and was a reminder that the "best" art in terms of exhibitions sometimes is found when you are least looking. I was immediately struck by the sense that it would be so beautiful to see you both take centerstage together in a konsthall. What makes the two of you such a good fit you think?

R.M-R: I think the themes are a common denominator and we both work much departing from our identity, family and personal relationships to "recreate" our backgrounds through our art. It's recreating a background more through the personal realm rather than from a more universal note. I'd say that we both take our home with us wherever we go. We also share similar realities and are both mothers and have developed working methods that we both relate to and understand and where we can be mindful of each other's needs and time. Aesthetically we also are aligned and in tune with each other.

Detail view, collaborative work between Valeria Montti Colque and Rossana Mercado-Rojas from the exhibition "Gunnel & Anita", Bas konsthall, Barkaby, Stockholm, September 2022

C-P: Valeria, you've been working for almost two decades, being based in Stockhom and have exhibited widely and most recently presented works at Moderna Museet this spring. How does this exhibition take new leaps forward in your artistic practice?

V.M.C: One thing is that I'm really diving into how to work extensively and more spatially with collage which is an expression I've to date worked more with in terms of murals and digital images to create worlds you can immerse yourself in. This exhibition presents more as a holistic spaital collage; a world you enter into physcailly. I also always wanted to work with fountains and water which is something we are doing in this exhibition. You'll see when you come to the exhibiton that the notion of a fountain as a communal epicenter in the public realm makes for a very significant part of what is on display. Since I'm local in the vicnity I really wanted to be part of establishing this new art venue and wanted this exhibition to have an air of generosity and also wanted to invite people to come here to my neighborhood and do it together with me which is when I thought of Rossana and you as the curator.

Rossana Mercado-Rojas, Cosmopolilla, light box inspired by Chicha, in "Gunnel & Anita", Bas konsthall, Barkaby, Stockholm, September 2022

C-P: While the exhibition addresses physical journies of people; both figuratively and literally, it also considers journies of artistic expressions from the outside to in (again both figuratively and literally).The Peruvian art form chicha is brought to the fore; a street art form that appears to have seen commodification in Peru into the ”hi-brow” art realm over time.

R.M-R: When I was growing up I was aesthetically drawn to Chicha but it was frowned upon back then as representing "bad taste". In a way the exhibition has been an entry into "reapproaching" my interest for chicha and it's wonderful to bring all these colours and a vibrant expression to Stockholm because the city is so grey. We initially invited Pedro Tolomeo Rojas Meza "Monky", who is a Chicha pioneer and from whom many of the artists who are working with Chicha today learnt, to make our exhibition poster. Now his presense is very much seen and felt in the exhibition, also physically and materially through work that derives from his making and that is represented in the exhibition. The exhibition definitely plays with connecting "the outside" and "in" and essentially through Chicha we are bringing the streets of Lima to what is a home here.

Detail view from the exhibition "Gunnel & Anita", Bas konsthall, Barkaby, Stockholm, September 2022

C-P: What can be expected from the vernissage?

V.M.C: A party! The exhibition plays on the idea of a konsthall as the home of an artist and since this is a new art venue it's literally like "homecoming" and "housewarming party" that should be marked by happy times and collective celebration. If you invite someone to your home you ideally treat them to food so there'll be sharing of food and drinks on site. Music too! (ed. note DJ Mixician is playing). Our friend Carlos Martinez will be dancing and might just invite you to shake it out with him...We're excited. Feel so welcome to join in, everyone!

Rossana Mercado-Rojas in "Gunnel & Anita", Bas konsthall, Barkaby, Stockholm, September 2022

Interview by Ashik Zaman

Gunnel & Anita

Valeria Montti Colque & Rossana Mercado-Rojas

Curator: Ashik Zaman

Bas konsthall Vernissage: September 17 12-5PM Dance performance during vernissage by Carlos Martinez

Exhibition period: September 17 - November12 Address: Bas Barkarby, Bällstaågatan 18 (Veddestabron 10, Barkarbystaden).

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