Contemporary art from Sweden

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Michael Johansson

Swedish contemporary artists - Michael Johansson

Michael Johansson depicts a world defined by commodities: belongings that are required, desired, or occupying a space somewhere in between.

He categorises these objects in various ways: by colour (such as Four hundred Shades of Brown, top); by provenance; by material. Stacking, sorting and compacting to produce towering totems or sprawling installations.

These records of the 'stuff' with which we fill our lives and homes are complemented by works suggesting tongue-in-cheek ways to further gratify our flat-pack, IKEAsy expectations. Anyone for a snap-together rowing boat (below)?

Michael Johansson

This, at any rate, is the rawer, more disturbing commentary gleaned from Johansson's assembled commodities - themselves commodified via the most rudimentary of criteria. The artist distances himself from obvious manifesto, and his work could equally be seen as a straightforward (and more anodyne) series of visual puns exploring seriality and repetition.

Read in this way, however, the excesses of, for example, suitcases stuffed inside suitcases veer a little too close to the territory of the one-liner, with sharper subtexts in danger of being dwarfed by immediately playful, absurdist presence.

Michael Johansson

Indeed, there are striking similarities between Johansson's practice and that of UK artist Matthew Darbyshire, who likewise focuses on commodities - his analyses of the things we like so subtle that the irony of our liking them can easily be lost in an intoxicating haze of covetousness.

More recent works by Johansson scrutinise institutions - particularly those associated with art - rather than posited householders.

Hauling the contents of storerooms and cupboardsinto view (left), accumulations of clutter take the place of art holdings, playing dangerously with a notion of art versus detritus, and making it clear that expensive pointlessness is not just the province of the everyday consumer.

Contemporary art from Sweden: Michael Johansson
Michael Johansson


Sanna Dullaway

Swedish contemporary artists - Sanna Dullaway

It's not often that contemporary artists make the pages of the popular press, but the work of Sanna Dullaway has attracted considerable curiosity and coverage.

It's easy to see why, given her simple but intriguing schtick of expertly colourising 'classic' black and white photographs.

Swedish contemporary artists - Sanna Dullaway

This alone would not merit Dullaway a mention here - or even recognition as an artist rather than technician - but we suspect there's more to her work than quite meets the eye (and not just in terms of the transformative processes involved).

For a start, little is known about the apparently ingenuous Ms Dullaway apart from the fact that she runs a business to "colourize (sic) and restore old black & white photos", the results of which are so exceptional that they've started to snowball through the blogosphere.

This endeavour is featured on Facebook and MySpace, but also, somewhat incongruously, on the 'alternative' art site, deviantART, alongside one or two examples of original work.

We're also intrigued by her surname, which seems just too apt (dull away - geddit?) to be entirely credible.

But even if these works do turn out to be exactly what they purport to be - superb specimens from a portfolio set up to showcase an aspiring retoucher - Dullaway's colorisations of often canonical photographs clearly fuel an ever-present debate regarding the integrity of art versus processes of restoration and enhancement.

What's more, the choice of some extraordinarily emotive imagery - Eddie Adams' iconic image of a Viet Cong prisoner shot at point blank range; Malcolm Browne's 1968 Press photo of a self-immolating monk (article top); Dorothea Lange's classic Great Depression portrait (below) - seem expertly calculated to ignite comment or even controversy.

Whatever kind of practice Dullaway may really be marketing here, it seems fairly certain that she'll be assured of a clientele for some time to come.

Swedish contemporary artists - Sanna Dullaway
Swedish contemporary artists - Sanna Dullaway

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