Wednesday, April 16, 2008

"Art Around:" Påskrunden or Konstrunden, Sweden’s Easter Week, 2008




*Bagar'n På Österlen Bageri & Cafe in Kivik, Sweden. Someone had the good humor to build this bucket-hatted snowman during a very unusual time for snow--Easter*


*the view down the road toward Kivik (pronounced Cheeveek)*


The weekend in February, when we visited Österlen, Chef Olle Södervall at the Bagar’n På Österlen strongly recommended that we come back for Easter Week, or Konstrunden, around Easter. He said it would be a bit crazy the Friday and Saturday before Easter, but if we visited the Monday after Easter and into the rest of the week, we could visit artist homes and galleries to our hearts content without the crowds. He said there were more famous artists in the Österlen area than in the whole of Sweden.

Art? Art! Individual Swedish Artists? Could I find a more perfect heaven?

The idea of seeing art and combining it with my so-far-favorite touring area was so appealing that I made arrangements with the Nanny and Phil to keep Hunter for three days while I went by myself on such an amazingart tour. But I am getting ahead of myself.

First, Phil went with me on Friday and Saturday to see as many artists as we could in the area we live. He did this again with me the following weekend. Together we visited or viewed the work of at least 24 of the 44 artists in our immediate area. To view some of the work yourselves, see www.ksvkonst.se

[We combined this with going to our new friends home (he’s a chef from San Francisco and she’s from Denmark) for a traditional American Easter meal and had a blessed meal that Saturday evening. It even snowed huge snowflakes out their huge Malmö apartment windows as we visited. The children colored eggs together and, after dinner, we walked to a lovely park complete with pond and ducks to hide and find eggs. Great fun! We ate our dessert with homemade hot chocolate, afterward.

Easter Sunday we attended church and had a scrumptious potluck of Easter dishes from around the world with our International Congregation. Even with so much going on, I saw one other artist that day.]

Did I find a favorite artist in our area? Well, Johnny Andersson (posing by one of his newer pieces) was a favorite. We saw his gallery on his working farm, and learned that he’d been painting for 50 years. He had an amazing ability with watercolor (or, in Swedish, Akvarell).

Tina Apelgren, www.tinaapelgren.se, was the most imaginative artist I visited that whole week. At first her artwork takes one aback, seems a bit sketchy or unrefined, but it is truly calculated. Her work sticks with you. It’s difficult to dismiss. She was a very quiet, very shy, woman, but opinionated. These things had a strange way of showing up in imaginative ways in her work. She used some of the most unusual and ordinary canvasses— brown paper, fiberboard, cardboard, plasterboard, etc.

I was impressed with a ceramicist/sculpturist named Marianne Nordström. Her work had depth, referred to literature, opera and The Bible and her work was memorably distinct. You would have to see her work on the ksv konst site.

The work and personality (sometimes it helps me to see them both!) of Eva Cejie-Persson is delightful. She’s suffered some back problems, so it has been difficult for her to execute some of her favorite glass and ceramic work. This woman, though, isn’t finished finding new ways to express her creativity. She was inspiring to me, especially in the fact that she was still taking new art classes and finding ways to barter other artist’s art tools and machines for her work.

There are so many, really, that I do those I visited an injustice by not naming each one! I did get quite a few photos, though. These artists seemed pleased to have a photo taken of them by examples of their work. One artist even took my photo next to his work (Sven-Åke Ekberg).

When Easter Monday (a holiday in Sweden—or “Red Day” as they call them, instead—as well as “Long Friday” or what we call “Good Friday”) came around, my bags were packed. I had gathered the Konstrunden maps for Konst sections across the whole area of Skåne (where some 700 artists open their studios and galleries), and Phil and Hunter were set up to spend a nice holiday together Easter egg hunting with some of Hunter's classmates. I headed out of town, into the much dreaded-by-Southern-Swedes snowstorm (I stayed just ahead of it until I woke up to this in the morning).

By the end of three days, I had visited at least 32 artist homes and galleries and covered 450 miles of some of the most beautiful countryside in Sweden. (That's me entering another gallery--photo by Phil Munts)

I took time to visit a few hours with the artist/owner, Saga Johnsson, of my Bed and Breakfast (Elisetorp B&B), which cut into chalking up the number of artists I would see, but I especially enjoyed our chat (just how many of the world's problems, politics, wars, elections can two artists solve in one long visit, anyway?). Another diversion was that I took a hike in Stenshuvud National Park to see the lighthouse. The park was just down the street from where I stayed. It was a welcome change from getting in and out of the car.

I might have visited more artists, I sure passed enough of the little signs (you can barely see one hanging by the door of the brick building in the photo below), but if I had the opportunity to actually speak to the artist (sometimes they were taking a break and letting others keep watch or were busy with
other admirers), we would talk technique, method, style and secrets for sometimes ½ hour each. Other times I didn't get to the site before closing time and the artists were so exhausted from thousands of visitors that I didn't dare ask them to show me in after hours. I was especially disappointed to reach a huge gallery, displaying several artists, in Simrishamn just as they were locking the door and walking away. Though they saw me, they walked deeper into the gallery, turning the lights off as they went. A gallery in Ystad was charging viewers, so I left that one. Another disappointment for me was that Monday through Friday the viewings were only from 1 pm to 5 pm. It was nearly impossible for me to see as many artists as I would have liked and cover the miles I needed to see in that time. Easter weekend and the weekend afterward were more conducive to multiple visits in one day as showings went from 10 am to 6 pm. (photo of a showing in a gallery I forgot to get the artists names and the gallery name . . . tsk, tsk)

I learned how to mix certain elements together, to learn from graffiti artists, the need for stretching the wrist and arm a special way after throwing pottery or painting, artist process and mind, to consider wool as a medium, what clays to consider and with labor saving tools, that technique is limitless, to experiment more widely, to combine some of my skills and techniques (one artist machine-stitched two watercolor papers together to form an interesting duo), not to worry if my art looks like scribble or splatter or childishness, to learn something new as often as possible, the infinite inspiration travel gives to art, not to shy away from religion in art, to try Gouche, to make something out of a watercolor splash or stain, to use/never use India ink in a watercolor, to open my heart and my studio. Even more, I found out that though I feel like a novice at art compared to some of the Greats I met, the joy of talking about art—artist to artist—levels the plane. The passion of art is easily shared.

If I walked in, said nothing, and just viewed the artwork, I did not get the depth of experience I did when I walked up to the artist and asked about a piece, a subject matter or a technique. If I spoke to the artist, the artist opened up as if as a long-time friend.

It was a blessed, inspiring experience. I most often enjoyed the more approachable newer artists over the big names and their obviously famous work, but this depended on the work and the personality of the artist.

Phil sometimes had trouble with the more imaginative stuff, preferring
realism to anything else. The other fun thing we all enjoyed were the Easter candies for the taking as well as the 10-20 kronor prints of some of the work. The artwork for sale was more than I could afford. When I apologized to Gunilla Sundström, a ceramicist, she said, “Don’t apologize. The tour is for the joy of viewing, as well.” (Gunilla stands by two of her pieced wall ceramics in the photo.)

The Österlen Konstrundan website is www.oskg.nu Enjoy! I sure did.

Many of the artists who had training from outside Sweden enjoyed speaking with me in English. A few couldn’t speak any English at all. In those cases, art was our language and it worked out just fine.

Before I left Kivik, I stopped in to thank Chef Olle Södervall at the Bagar’n På Österlen. He was glad to hear I had taken his advice. So glad, I guess, that he gave me free Österlen tea and a crumpet! He said he'd take my money the next time I passed through town (which will be next week).


My big problem, now, is that some of the artists asked me to get them showings in the U.S. How am I going to do THAT? If you have suggestions, let me know!


Names of artists pictured below : Kerstin Eriksson (with large red painting and three smaller figure paintings), Annika Jägfeldt (on a stool beside her portraits of the famous), Sven-Åke Ekberg (among his menagerie of iron figures and trees), Monica Andersson (with me and her piece, "Trinity"), Ellin Oden (Smiling as I view some of her textiles; scarves hang behind her), Louise Ebbmar (in her well-known ceramic gallery), Ellin Oden's textile stamps, Hans Kindwall (standing behind me in his livingroom-turned gallery) Gert Lindkvist (among his bold paintings), Jan Lang (standing next to his favorite--too bad the flash caught it wrong) Ida Melin (standing with her yellow and orange-red painting. Her husband is also a well-known artist, Leif Eugen), Anders Rönström (explaining how he executes a watercolor portrait. Google his name--that's what his card says to do), and Kicki Hankell (showing me the Egyptian influences and artifacts in her watercolors. Her husband Bertil S. Nilsson is a sculptor). If you find me in a photo, Phil Munts was the photographer.

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