Three partially abstracted portraits of the artist Leif Holmstrand's face painted in brilliant colors.
Leif Holmstrand, “Holy Helpers”, 2018. Courtesy Ystads Konstmuseum

Leif Holmstrand – The Life of Termites: The End

3.2 – 28.4 2024

Malmö Konsthall starts the spring with a major exhibition featuring the Malmö-based artist Leif Holmstrand. In his work, Holmstrand combines traditional handcraft with a fascination for horror films and burlesque popular culture. His practice references his own family history, mental health, the trans identity, drag and gay culture, giving shape to the chaotic through large-scale sculptures and performances. The exhibition gathers together a large number of works and also includes Holmstrand’s artistic reference library with works by those who have inspired him.

The queer body and a gender dissolution

There is literal thread that runs through Leif Holmstrand’s extensive artistic practice. He knits and crotchets objects, coverings and costumes, wrapping objects and bodies in cords, yarn and rope. His works are often characterized by a grotesque and confined corporeality and a dark relationship to sexuality and the external world. Fundamental themes include the queer body – a kind of magical doll for rituals – and a gender dissolution in which he challenges both the cultural and biological boundaries of the body. Materiality remains central – the yarn, textiles, the black bin bags and prams. The boundaries between what is material, sculpture and performance are in flux, many sculptures begin or end as performances.

An exhibition accompanied by performances and programmes

”The Life of Termites: The End” marks the conclusion of a larger art project, and the exhibition will be accompanied by several performances, programmes and events. The title comes from the Belgian author Maurice Maeterlinck’s book “La Vie des Termites” (The Life of Termites, 1926). The content of the book turned out to be stolen from the South African poet and naturalist Eugène Marais. Both the theft, an author’s obsession with a material, and the life form of the termites – neither human nor animal, both individual and collective – fascinate Holmstrand, whose knitted structures resemble termite mounds. In the exhibition we see sculptures and artworks that compare the collective creativity and individual characteristics of termites with human relationships.

Collages, sculptures and photographic works

The exhibition gathers together large collages, sculptures, costumes, photographic works and handcrafts that are rooted in personal stories. The underlying themes are the ritual, the violent, the transformative, the failures of the bodily and the queer body that exists beyond all norms, but also a deeply empathetic understanding of the human condition. Many series of works are new, including “Family Flight” where Holmstrand has crocheted together beds and armchairs from his deceased parents’ home, and “How an Insect Society is Organized”, which consists of twelve large handwoven banners. The series “Cephalopods and Other Creatures” (2023) combines drawing with text elements and highlights the artists’ prolific authorship.

Including parts of his art collection in the exhibition

In addition to his own works, Leif Holmstrand displays parts of his art collection in the exhibition and also presents borrowed works from relevant artistries as a personal, visual reference library. Japanese contemporary art, characterised by craftmanship and a fearlessness to blend together forms, materials and expressions, is an important part of the collection.

Opening 2.2 2024

Leif Holmstrand, born in 1972 and living in Malmö, is an author, artist and musician. In 2002 he made his debut with the poetry collection “Stekelgång” (Hymenopteran Path), the same year he graduated from the Malmö Art Academy. Since then he has published around 50 literary works, most recently “Kartritartornet” (2023). During the exhibition at Malmö Konsthall, Holmstrand will also release his extensive poetry book entitled “Community”, the result of 25 years of work, this time through his own publishing house Pa-Parant.

Previous solo exhibitions include “Ur djupet” (From the Depth) at Marabouparken in Stockholm (2021) and notable performances include “Going Like Elsie” at Kiyosumi Teien, Tokyo, Japan (2019) and “Nonsense Translation” at Zarya Center for Contemporary Art, Vladivostok, Ryssland (2018). In the autumn of 2023 he will have an exhibition titled “Termiternas liv: Början” (The Life of Termites: The Beginning) at Galleri Thomas Wallner.

Leif Holmstrand’s webpage

Porträtt av konstnären Leif Holmstrand draperad i textilier mjukt pudrad i rosa och gula nyanser.
Leif Holmstrand, 2018. Photo: Arash Arfazadeh.
Skulptur av fåtölj med diverse mjuka textila föremål invirkat i garn och tråd likt en stor abstrakt kukong.
Leif Holmstrand, “Family Flight (Compact version)”, 2023.
 An open spread in a book with black illustrations over the text pages
Leif Holmstrands drawing in the book “The life of the termites”, 2023.
Foto av en långsmal och lurvig textil skulptur av konstnären Leif Holmstrand.
Leif Holmstrand, “Compilation Carcass or Fake Non-Animal Oviduct”, 2023.