Jacob Dahlgren / Katarina Löfström
The exhibition at Malmö Konsthall of works by Jacob Dahlgren and Katarina Löfström presents two separate artists. But between their works interesting encounters arise – aesthetic, formal, and in terms of content – not least between the concrete, the representative, and the abstract. The two artists’ works are primarily neither theoretical nor conceptual but visual and emotional. A central aspect of the exhibition is the way in which things that are apparently simple become – through their transformation by the artist and our own perception (and imagination) – something sensual, poetic and significant. By creating what we experience as abstract images, the artists on the one hand set us free from the limiting literalness of pure representation and make possible narratives (and emotions) with multiple layers of meaning in us, the observers. On the other hand, the artists also stress the concrete aspects (materials and form) as well as the fragmentarily representative, which is their way of simultaneously presenting content and creating a starting point for our interpretation.
Jacob Dahlgren is a painter and sculptor but he works to a large extent without the traditional materials of painting and sculpture. Instead, his abstract works consist of objects which surround us in our everyday life. They might be coat-hangers, coffee mugs, lamps, or, as in this exhibition at Malmö Konsthall, a range of different materials. Arranged (for instance stacked on top of one another), the individual objects lose their intended function, their original value, and become part of something completely new. They become materials with which to paint; they become colours and shapes which form the basis of exciting visual experiences and a kind of “open” and democratic aesthetics which challenges our ingrained ideas. By deliberately misunderstanding one of Marcel Duchamp’s famous arguments, we can develop the (possibly a provocative) idea that Jacob Dahlgren’s work at Malmö Konsthall is a form of painting. For Duchamp’s simple observation that even the most complex painting is constructed of pre-existing materials (and is therefore to be regarded as a readymade), opens up the logical possibility of in fact being able to paint even with unconventional forms of paint – in principle with anything at all. But one swallow does not a summer make, nor does one dishcloth make a painting. Superfluity is a prerequisite if Dahlgren’s painterly abstract strategy is to work. In Colour reading and contexture (2005), it is the absurd amount of materials which creates the concentration and compactness that make the work so visually captivating, sensual and interesting in terms of its form.
Katarina Löfström works with animated videos which relate to painting, and, in her later works, also to drawing. In her works she combines the representative and the everyday with the abstract. Hang Ten Sunset (2000), one of the two works shown at Malmö Konsthall, undeniably bears the legacy of modernism’s colour field painting. But Löfström also plays with another kind of culture. Aided by its title, the work recalls the flashy decade of the 1980s – a surfer society clothed in horizontally striped T-shirts on a beach in front of a kitschy sunset. Combining in this way aspects of popular culture with art history and purely visual, sometimes hypnotic qualities is typical of her work. In An Island (2004), the starting point is in fact the Stockholm amusement park Gröna Lund – in real life characterised by stress, hubbub and noise but which in Löfström’s work has instead a meditative calm. But what is interesting in view of these thoughts and ideas are not the references themselves – the playing with history, the praise (or criticism) – but rather the fact that her “impure” (and not even completely non-figurative) works in a way achieve what so many of modernism’s abstract painters, through their purism, tried to achieve – but better. Liberated from history, theory and the romanticisation of Art, she embodies their dream of narratives in an abstract language of colour and form, free to directly express mystical, spiritual forces and emotions. Katarina Löfström succeeds in transforming the obscure into something clear, without thereby making it possible to explain in words.
Jacob Dahlgren and Katarina Löfström were both born in 1970. They are both based in Stockholm and trained there at the Royal University College of Fine Arts and the University College of Arts, Crafts and Design respectively.