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MMXX Royals

A note on the Royal Institute of Art Graduation Show 2020 (BFA/MFA) August 29 - September 27 2020

A highlight in the annual art calendar for this team often proves to be the collective BFA & MFA graduate degree exhibition of the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm. There's just so much talent housed at the school (also compared to other notable European art schools that we're fairly well-versed in). And yet the 2020 exhibition, held this year at the Royal Academy of Arts on Fredsgatan, was tied with unusual amount of suspense and anticipation already from the outset. There were so many ”stars” this year, as we've been saying to ourselves over the summer, reflecting the change in exhibiting patterns among art students who begin to exhibit and appear in public and credible occasions far earlier than what ever used to be the case. Some as early as in the first year of pursuing their BFA. Take the names of MFA-graduates Salad Hilowe, Johannes Hägglund, Lap-See Lam, Leif Engström and Fathia Mohidin for instance; all having had tangible exposure with high-end galleries and/or institutions and award-related contexts. Add to that a few more who are set (as far as we know, if yet not announced) for upcoming exhibition projects, or like in the case of MFA-graduate Anna Pajak, where a solo exhibition just opened at Stene Projecs in conjunction with the graduate show.

Even having heard through the grapevine about some prior commotion among students following the decision of joining the BFA and MFA-graduates on the same venue (the BFA's were previously set for their own locale at Färgfabriken) the exhibition altogether for the very most part never feels crammed like an art fair (which has been the case on occasion at past exhibitions) and comes across as very sound, marked in several cases by fitting dialogues between the works of neighbouring students and between art and space. Speaks well of course to the credit of the appointed producers: Alida Ivanov and Meryem Saadi who both have been affiliated with the school's degree exhibition in the past. The library on the premises too finds its fair share of installed artworks, among which notably is a painted autobiographical coming-of-age scene by MFA graduate Amanda Hellsten, depicting a teenage character watching the 90's day-time talk show Ricki Lake. An instantly humorous juxtaposition of low-brow and high-brow culture.

Frankly, some very clever, but also bold, installing choices were made, especialy in the MFA-sections of the exhibition which is clear already entering inside the entrance sculpture hall (Nikesalen). Here a perfectly aligned nest of artists are grouped together with walls that have been erected, covering the permanent on-site sculptures. The landing of the stairway too has been blocked by a large rod-structure installation by Amanda Hellsten. It's not an interchange with the space and its inherent "characters"; it's a total appropriation of it. Remembering a since resolved conflict between the school and the Royal Academy of Arts, with a stretch of the imagination, it all feels like a tongue-in-check nod and throwback to that particular episode in time; a clash between the traditonal and the contemporary. A bow-down-bitches-to-our-school-kind-of-a-moment. From there, the exhibition is already set for a great continued path.

Here are Team C-print's 8 highlights from the graduate exhibition (no inhernet order):

Salad Hilowle (MFA): Considering the recent turn of events and political act (of justice) of toppling public sculptures, in light of colonial underpinnings, Salad Hilowle’s tapestry in Nikesalen at the Royal Academy of Arts is not just a stroke of genius but the most effectual and potent install in the entire exhibition. The tapestry which informs a sculpture of a black body, ”simply” hangs down, covering the top part of one of the white ”traditional” and historical sculptures of this permanent sculpture hall. The first and last thing you see during your visit and the one artwork that echoes you back into the reality of what art has been at the forefront of in the recent months; of living beyond itself and facing-off with history and the capacity of art as something permeating and perpuating social history.

Monika Milivojevic (MFA), a most pleasant discovery at the press view, undoubtedly appears an accomplished painter, whose works immediately caught our attention, seated in the cluster in Nikesalen along with Salad Hilowle. As stated by her in the catalogue, these paintings stem from an interest in upbringing and the complex relationship between children and parent. The understated layering of colours and melancholic figurations instantly shoot Mamma Andersson to mind on a referential level, but while anything but reductive, they feel like a testimomy of a position where conviction and forte meet head-on.

Leif Engström (MFA) had a surprise elevation and a solid moment being put into the landscape exhibition of Bonniers konsthall at the beginning of the year. With an air of nostalgia, his quiet and sober painted depictions of domestic and outdoor milieus have been such with no pretense of being trendy or hip. Rather his painting has been seated in the apparent contradiction of timeless yet untimely, amounting in the end in straight-up solid ”craftsmanship”. But then you take a look at his most recent large-scale work, just completed in time for the exhibition, and it begins to venture away from the demure towards sexy and evocative. A favourite moment in the show among the displays of painting.

Izabel Lind Färnstrand (MFA): Having seen her MFA-degree exhibition at Galleri Mejan last fall, Izabel Lind Färnstrand’s site-specific installation was unexpected in light of what had been seen. Encircled by a rusty aerially hanging down sculpture, visitors are invited to put on VR goggles and literally navigate through a virtual reality of the academy’s premises. As I move on - You move in. That sort of thing. Intentional or not, humour as a side effect gone right, in what through and through, considering the invited experience, visual look of it and the tech position, felt very solid to us.

Fathia Mohidin (MFA); Very recently just announced the other week as one of this year’s Maria Bonnier Dahlin Grant Award recipients, Fathia Mohidin’s MFA graduation project like most of her recent body of work, departs from the realm of sports, fitness and the ability to perform. Working across various mediums, her practice notably has centered around ”articulating muscle” and the way it is read and perceived on black bodies identified as female and athletic, and whilst it ”confronting” racial and gender bias. The installation on view puts forth ’KIN’, a video loop resting on a pull-up like bar and ’Roll Deep’, a multi-channel sound installation taking the shape of foamrollers. Side note: Fathia Mohidin is set to present a solo exhibition at Bonniers Konsthall later in the year in connection with her recently earnt honour.

John-Philip Ström Båtelson’s (BFA) ’Three New Faces / Three New Phases’ consisting of both three disparate seating arrangements (composed mainly of ready-made orchestrations), alluding to off-beat, grunge and ”low-fi”, and moving imagery and music was a real ”breather” in the BFA leg of the graduate show. We love moving imagery of fleeting moments of living life in the now, and life living you, accentuated by intensifying music that is perfectly scored. Love having gotten to think of Klara Lidén when she was still actually exciting and thinking of our own musical references like Tr/st. Great moment; found on the top floor of the premises in the space called ”Studion”.

Elinor Silow (BFA): A standout among the BFA presentations is Elinor Silow who already on occassion showed in the past, much promise as an abstract painter and here comes across as one of the painters who are internationally the timeliest out of the group. Thought of a gutsy painter like Anna Zacharoff comes to mind, where Elinor’s confidence more than comes across in the figurative elements that have now begin to find themselves in her work. The ratio of abstract and figurative, with smaller but significant excursions in the works towards a carefully placed junket of dandelion amid ”the abstract”, or the nifty face of Pippi Longstocking popping up around a corner is telling of autonomy as a painter. Add to that a string of three clearly disparate paintings together forging a union that just looks seamless, and the smell of assertiveness and wish to reach forward and be bold reeks all over the place.

Lap-See Lam (MFA): One doesn’t want to be so frivolous as to talk about stars but when Lap-See Lam presents as part of the graduate exhibition, coming off of Performa ’19 (where the work was first unveiled), a recent much lauded solo exhibition at Galerie Nordenhake and a recent nomination for the Future Generation Art Prize (stint in connection due at the Venice Biennale ’22) there’s absolutely no denying that Lap-See Lam is having one of those once-in-a-blue-moon careers (before even graduating from school) that probably happens to less than a handful Swedish artists every decade. Lap-See keeps refreshingly expanding her trajectory from a window that has been consistent but keeps amounting to new horizons; now namely the immersive and VR. As we’ve written before, ’The Phantom Banquet’ brings to mind seeing Omer Fast’s ’The Invisible Hand’ at Salzburger Kunstverein last year. The experience of seeing Lap-See feels so on par and so on level with seeing Fast’s masterpiece that you are forced to start fantasizing about all the places she is heading. Let her powerful work of diasporic narrative and evolution find itself all over and across.

Royal Institute of Art

Graduation Show 2020


August 29 - September 27 2020


Tuesday–Friday 11.00–17.00

Saturday–Sunday 12.00–16.00


Fredsgatan 12, Stockholm, Sweden

Entrance with elevator: Jakobsgatan 27C

Due to the pandemic the amount of visitors will be limited to 30 people at a time. Book your time slot online.

BFA: Sofia Al Rammal, John Ström Båtelson, Bill Philip Dufva, Elina Eriksson, Sara Ekholm Eriksson, Olivia Gaia, David Blomqvist Jönsson, Fatima Kassius, Lina Lundquist, Joakim Kruse Lykke, Emil Matsson, Jost Maltha Müller, Levi Sebton, Elinor Silow, Jesper Vesterlund, Simon Wadsted. MFA: Valentine Isæus-Berlin, Mercedes Ardelius Blane, Jesper O.T. Andersson, Karolina Brobäck, Anton Brolin, Lisa Trogen Devgun, Jacob Broms Engblom, Leif Engström, Mary Furniss, Izabel Lind Färnstrand, Adam Gustafsson, Marta Badenska Hammarberg, Amanda Hellsten, Salad Hilowle, Johannes Hägglund, Lap-See Lam, Tora Schultz Larsen, Monika Milivojevic, Fathia Mohidin, Adrian Olas, Anna Pajak, Eugene Sundelius von Rosen, Ernst Skoog, Roger Smeby, Victoria Verseau, Tora Wallander.


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