Three partially abstracted portraits of the artist Leif Holmstrand's face painted in brilliant colours.
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. The works reference his own family history, mental health, the trans identity, drag and gay culture, and provide a visual 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 and a gender dissolution where the cultural and biological boundaries of the body are challenged. The materials remain central – the 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.

Inspired by theft & termites

”The Life of Termites: The End” is the finale of a major art project, and the exhibition will be accompanied by several performances, programmes and events. The title is taken from the Belgian author Maurice Maeterlinck’s book “La Vie des Termites” (The Life of Termites), 1926. The content of the book was revealed to be stolen from the South African poet and naturalist Eugène Marais. 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 works that compare the collective creativity and individual characteristics of termites with human relationships.

Collages, sculptures and drawings

The exhibition gathers together sculptures, costumes, collage and drawing that are rooted in personal stories. Underlying themes include 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 “Cephalopods and Other Creatures” where Holmstrand has drawn over pages from “The Life of Termites”. The series of works “How an Insect Society is Organized”, which consists of twelve large handwoven banners with text, highlights Holmstrand’s parallel role as an author. During the exhibition the audience gets to meet Leif Holmstrand in his many different roles – or rather, in his singular combined role as artist, author, art collector, performer, musician and curator.

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. Other artists exhibited in the exhibition are Hans Bellmer, Leigh Bowery, Chim–Pom, Nan Embäck, Oscar Guermouche, Majd Abdel Hamid, Lisa Jeannin, Lunga Kama, Sachiko Kazama, Lawrence Lemaoana, Anna-Maria Neumüller, OLTA, Pyuupiru, Meraj Sharifi, Lieko Shiga, Lotta Smed, Fredrik Strid, Per Wizén, Sakiko Yamaoka and Jonas Örtemark.

About the guest artists of the exhibition
Malmö Konsthall’s interview film with the artist

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 forty 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. As a curator, he has, among other things, curated the exhibition “Translation Theme Park (Japanese Contemporary Art)”, which was showcased at Gallery 21 and Gallery Ping-Pong in Malmö in 2014.

Leif Holmstrand’s webpage

A part of the exhibition is dedicated to artists who have inspired Leif Holmstrand; collaborators, idols, and reference artists. Here you can read more about the other artists in the exhibition.

Wednesday 28.2: Film screening: The documentary ”Pyuupiru 2001–2008”. Read more.

Wednesday 20.3: Author talk with Leif Holmstrand & book releases. Read more.

Söndag 28.4: Live performance from Tokyo with Leif Holmstrand and the Japanese art collective OLTA. Read more.

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.