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Painting Symposium

Figuration, representation and visibility

A painting symposium organized by the Royal Institute of Art and Konstfack

Arguably, one of the most significant questions for art and painting today is how we respond to ideas around representation. With the advent of photography, figurative painting long ago relinquished its primary role of documenting the world and with debates around painting’s relationship to photography no longer carrying such urgency, painting has been free to explore other terrains, both connected and unmoored from an established representational language. Seemingly, we are working in an age of unbound expressive possibility, where a multiplicity of concerns can be equally explored: from the political, and the autobiographical, to the intimate, the global and the local. In recent years painting has yet again been called upon to represent and document the manifold roles of addressing visibility through figuration and portraiture. The hegemony of an unbroken linear western history of painting is now put into question and we find that all along we were not alone in wondering what happened to the others.

  • 10:00 Martin Gustavsson: The problem with homoeroticism
  • 10:40 Lina Bjerneld: The drawing space
  • 11:20 Nadia Hebson: Artists for recreation
  • Lunch
  • 13:00 Helena Lund Ek: Portrait painting and the people I look at
  • 14:00 Valerie Kyeyune Backström: “Black pain as raw material”–Visibility and representation in painting
  • 15:00 Round table discussion

Martin Gustavsson

Martin Gustavsson will present some of his recent research focusing on the difficulty of homoeroticism. Looking at three early twentieth century Swedish artists Eugene Jansson, GAN and Owe Zerge, Gustavsson attempts to trace contemporary concerns around homosexual visibility and shame in figurative painting. Gustavsson is an artist currently Senior Lecturer in Painting at Konstfack.

Lina Bjerneld

Based on the belief that drawing can increase our understanding and expand our awareness of a condition or an event, Bjerneld will elaborate on her work with the drawing’s series Handling of the dead, from the exhibition D-d-d-ding, 2020. How drawing functions as an intermediary between the artist and the world, a way of mapping a space within as well as what is looked at. A space of simultaneous opposition where the images can be exploited as both trophies and memorials revealing the inevitable powerplay of the gaze. Lina Bjerneld is an artist working in Stockholm and is currently Senior Lecturer at Kungl. Konsthögskolan.

Nadia Hebson

At the time of her death in 1982 Carla Lonzi, critic, activist and feminist was working on a book in which she was in conversation with a group of fifteenth century bluestockings. The book foregrounded Lonzi’s notion of Resonance -a relationship that can be established between two or more women, who do not necessarily live in the same place or period of time, as a way of seeing one’s own experience reflected in the experience of someone else. In concert with Carla Lonzi’s radical politics I propose a suspension of the conventions which have previously validated gestures of artistic recuperation, to instead imagine Painting as a sentient, social and discursive network where reconfigured gestures of visibility could be atomised. Nadia is an artist and writer and Senior Lecturer at Kungl. Konsthögskolan.

Helena Lund Ek

Portrait painting and the people I look at Helena Lund Ek will talk about her practice concerning portrait painting and present her latest work of portraits of artist in their studios in Stockholm. Works that were shown in a self produced exhibition at ateljéhuset Malongen, Stockholm October 2021. Helena Lund Ek is an artist living in Stockholm working with painting in various ways e.g. as a social practice and with site specific installations. Her three recent solo shows (2019-2021) were self-produced in spaces outside the white cube. She graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Oslo 2014.

Valerie Kyeyune Backström

“Black pain as raw material” * – Visibility and representation in painting
What is possible to paint and by whom? In recent years we’ve seen an explosion of interest in black and African art and artists. Alongside this increased exposure is an ongoing debate around censorship, representation and how to address questions around race and power in the contemporary. This came to light in the debate of the white artist Dana Schutz painting “Open casket” at the Whitney Biennal 2016 and more recently captured in the decision of several museums to postpone or cancel their shows with Philip Guston 2020, in light of the Black Lives Matter movement. In my talk I want to address this complicated subject from several angles, and explore how blackness is used, both as a commodity and a place of subversivity in contemporary painting.
*This quote comes from an open letter by the artist and writer Hannah Black which asked for the “Open casket” painting to be removed and destroyed. Valerie Kyeyune Backström is a writer and critic.

This symposium is a collaboration between the Fine Art painting departments at Konstfack and Kungl. Konsthögskolan. It also includes a painting course, an exhibition at Vita Havet, a writing workshop and most importantly a way to start a conversation between painting students at the two main art schools in Stockholm. We hope that these events can set the scene for a greater discussion around painting both for students and a wider audience in Stockholm and beyond. Lina Bjerneld Kungl. Konsthögskolan, Martin Gustavsson Konstfack, Nadia Hebson, Kungl. Konsthögskolan.