Contemporary art from Sweden

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Nygårds Karin Bengtsson

Nygårds Karin Bengtsson: swedish contemporary photography

Like many other artists currently working with photography, Nygårds Karin Bengtsson constructs carefully staged tableaux in which the lines between fiction and non-fiction mysteriously blur.

Nygårds Karin Bengtsson: swedish contemporary art

This ineffability is intensified by an air of intrigue characterised, for example, by the partial concealment of her subjects' faces, or reference to mysterious circumstance - as in her Svarta Historier (Black Stories) series (left), in which each protagonist is not only dressed in black, but burdened by an unspecified trauma or 'black story' .

While Bengtsson's meticulous compositions certainly coincide with current photographic trends - a staging so ubiquitous that it perhaps runs the danger of appearing hackneyed - it's important to recognise the artist's formal debt to Scandinavian painting itself.

Reminiscent of the melancholic aura and sparse composition particularly typical of the romantic and early modernist periods, in many ways Bengtsson's practice is less about contemporary aesthetics than an extension of, and dialogue with, Swedish forerunners such as Eva Bonnier, or widely influential Nordic artists such as the Danish painter Vilhelm Hammershøi.

Nygårds Karin Bengtsson
Nygårds Karin Bengtsson: new art from Sweden
contemporary art Sweden


Karin Mamma Andersson

Swedish art now - Karin Mamma Andersson

Mamma Andersson is probably the best known of all Sweden's contemporary artists, and by including her painting here, there's a risk of covering well-trodden ground for many readers.

Nevertheless, her work is renowned quite simply because it's very special indeed, and not to mention it would risk leaving too large a gap in this survey for those unacquainted with her practice.

While any snapshot overview of an art scene is, by its very nature, far less likely to include what's truly enduring than the currently representative, interesting or commercial - and this selection of Swedish art is no exception - Andersson has already, in our view, established herself as a truly great name of perennial worth.

Karin Mamma Andersson

Rather than attempt to add to the large amount that has already been written about her work, we've decided to use her own words (excerpted from Bomb Magazine) to describe the essence of her practice:

"From the time I began as an artist, as a 20-year-old, until today (and don't forget that this is a reconstruction after the fact), here's the story."

"For the first years, materials and technique were the great problems I had to solve. When I looked at art, I always tried to understand how the artist constructed the piece. I painted models, sketched from life, and painted landscapes. Whatever I painted was subordinate to technique. But when I began art school... the psychological aspect in my paintings became the most important thing, and the artists who appealed to me also set great store by the psyche."

"The years have gone by and I have tried to find my own language. I want everything to be direct, spontaneous and not planned, not dressed up in the least. It's difficult and maybe even impossible.... I am a romantic who empties herself in order not to be a nervous wreck. Maybe...."

Karin Mamma Andersson
Swedish art: Karin Mamma Andersson


Klara Lidén

Engaging in actions that bring Guy Debord's concept of 'anarchic urbanism' firmly to mind, Berlin-based Klara Lidén defiantly carves out her own spaces within a city's fabric.

These have included a short-lived pirate postal service in Stockholm (below), or the construction of an unauthorised dwelling beside Berlin's River Spree, fabricated and furnished with found materials and freely available for use.

contemporary art from Sweden - Klara Lidén

Almost inevitably, the advertising with which we are forced to share our environment comes under sustained and decisive attack.

Nygårds Karin Bengtsson: new art from Sweden

Crumpling billboard posters into colourful sculptures in which product names are obliterated beneath folds, Lidén often uses these works to block doorways (left) - an act of curiously open-ended symbolism which could be read both as defiant barricade, or a more resigned, almost literal illustration of cultural impasse.

Far clearer in ultimate intent is her act of plastering advertising hoardings with sheets of white paper, a gesture of simultaneous defacement and effacement (below).

This extraordinarily simple yet subtle intervention both negates and creates, imposing the artist's will in terms of what is obscured, while establishing an anonymous, unregulated blank space that is redolent with possibility - including, of course, as a potential site of subsequent action.

contemporary art Sweden

To again quote Debord, "We should not simply refuse modern culture; we must seize it in order to negate it", and Lidén's selective scourging and reclamation exemplifies the urgency of this exhortation, her claims to urban space perhaps embodied by the self-portrait Keys to the City (2005, below) in which she holds her coat open, spiv-like, to expose the tools not only of a burglar, but of an engineer and liberator alike.

Klara Lidén - Swedish artists

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