From the magazine Volym:

Fyra kvadratiska målningar i brunt, blått och grönt.

"Still Life”

When I saw the poster for Stina Siljing's exhibition "Still Life", it did not arouse much interest. The image on the poster showed a work consisting of the bare annual rings of a tree trunk. To be honest, I thought it was going to be a fairly flat art exhibition full of still lifes, beautiful and skillfully executed but about as deep as a kiddie pool. I couldn't have been more wrong. As soon as I entered the Ahlbergshallen, I picked up the white sheet of paper that presents the exhibition. On the first line you could read; "My son Henrik took his own life on April 7, 2020." This would prove to be one of the most moving art exhibits I have ever seen.

The motifs, or rather the symbols, in the works are recurring and constitute an iconography of both private and universal symbolism. The return thus constitutes a general theme that characterizes the exhibition. This is noticeable not least in the fact that both titles and motifs are repeated in different materials. Among other things, you can find engravings on glass, aluminum sheet and copper sheet. Embroidery is mixed with drawings. The motifs and symbols that appear in the works are taken from Henrik's drawings and some of them can be seen at the exhibition. 

En vägg där konstnären ramat in sonen Henriks teckningar.
A wall with son Henrik's drawings.

Common to the vast majority of the works is that they measure 34×33 cm, which is the size of the scarf Henrik always wore. A scarf that constitutes a separate work at the exhibition. On the works that bear the title "Still Life" you can see the symbol of an upside-down cross. Since the 60s, this cross has become something of an occult symbol, a symbol of the Antichrist and Satan. This is largely due to its extensive use in horror films and other popular culture. The symbol originally derives from the story of the apostle Peter who allowed himself to be crucified on an upside-down cross as he did not consider himself worthy to be crucified in the same way as Jesus, a scene depicted in Caravaggio's painting "Crocifissione di san Pietro", ( The Crucifixion of Peter). From the beginning, the Peter's cross, as it is called, is a Christian symbol that symbolizes humility.

Another interesting symbol that recurs is the infinity symbol, which can be described as a lying 8. In mathematics, this symbol is called a lemniscate, but in culture it is more often referred to as an ouroboros symbol. Sometimes it is depicted as a dragon or reptile eating its own tail. It is an ancient symbol and is found in many different cultures. The oldest man found is about 7000 years old and was found in China. It symbolizes eternal renewal and the various cycles of life with death and rebirth.

In one corner of the exhibition, just below one of Henrik's paintings, you will find an installation consisting of an mp3 player, a pair of headphones and a photo album. Kjell Höglund's melancholy song "Man vänjer sig" flows from the headphones. The abstract suddenly becomes concrete when you get to share moments in Henrik's life. This is no longer an art exhibition but a memorial in an art gallery, an artist and mother publicly grieving her child. It is so incredibly powerful, moving and beautiful, despite the ghastly context from which the exhibition sprung. Boundless love and bottomless sorrow expressed at the same time. Those of us who have lost someone close to us recognize it, when the private turns out to be universal.

"Still Life" evokes empathy in a way that blurs the boundaries between artist, work and viewer. Aristotle wrote in his work "Poetics" about the concept of 'catharsis' which refers to a kind of purification or release of the very feelings that a work of art gives rise to. "Still Life" is characterized by catharsis, which also makes it an urgent and important exhibition, not least in our society where suicide, mental illness and above all death are taboo.

If you or someone you know is unwell, you can contact the association Mind who has a lot of knowledge about mental illness and suicide and runs several support activities. National Confederation SPEC is for you who are close to someone who has taken their own life.

Text and photo: Freddie Ross,Volume 2021-08-19

Article – Kalmar Läns Tidning

From the magazine Volym:

"My son took his own life in April".

The words cannot be made unread. They are written in black and white in the text of the exhibition "Fragile", with Stina Siljing and Helena Wikström, at the Italian Palace in Växjö. It is Stina's story, and it provides the conditions for an exhibition where fragility is at the center. Honest and without paraphrase. A tightly intertwined installation with death as an unusually tangible fellow passenger.

Helena Wikström and Stina Siljing studied art together but have never collaborated before. Already at the turn of last year, they started planning the exhibition in Växjö, but in the spring disaster struck. The tragic event came to affect not only life but also the exhibition. In many ways, "Fragile" is a work of mourning, with a clear tribute to Stina's late son.

As a hub in the exhibition, a faded and paisley-patterned shawl sits behind the glass and frame. It was the 27-year-old son's favorite, and for Stina Siljing has become a point of reference in the creation. The majority of her objects have the same proportions, or even measurements, in the form of a slightly skewed square. Not least the cut surfaces of tree trunks where a certain annual ring has been marked. The title I count to 27 makes all questions redundant.

Siljing has also compiled a selection of the pictures the son made. The exposé, which is scattered in the context, culminates in a self-portrait in a space suit, which she chose to work with in the work herself To the moon. A grip which, when you are aware of it, appears to be particularly emotionally charged.

With such a strong looming presence, it is easy to believe that Helena Wikström's participation ends up a bit by the wayside. It's not like that. The first thing you notice in the exhibition, which is divided into one large room and three adjacent small ones, is a soundtrack of Handel's Lascia ch'io pianga. A soprano aria whose melancholy is hard to resist. It sets the video work to music Sonatina Mesto, where an animated octopus tattoo comes to life. Dark and bordering on menacing, like a grieving being, but still beautiful. The octopus in particular reappears in several of Wikström's works, both as a tangible landed and killed catch and as an enigmatic and elusive shadowy creature in the open.

Opera references can also be found in the room's dominant installation, Fil di voce, by Wikström. The long threads with irregular bubbles are above all reminiscent of a stylized sea vegetation, and contribute to giving the exhibition spaciousness.

I am particularly struck by the organic appearance of "Fragile". There are hardly any right angles here, no strict symmetry. Instead, soft shapes and a hint of death as a transition instead of an end. To a new life or back to nature's life-giving cycle. The atmosphere is calm, meditative and with a pronounced ambition to reach acceptance. Kjell Höglund's song You get used to it goes partly like a mantra through Siljing's part. But at the same time, a realistic darkness is shown, and behind the calm you can sense the inevitable sadness and despair.

2020-11-04 Thomas Lissing