Galleri Magnus Karlsson presents Anna Bjerger’s second solo exhibition at the gallery. Lit presents a new series of larger paintings from the last year.
Over the world at night hell rises. The first thing that happens is it disfigures space; it makes everything more cramped and more massive and unscaleable. Details disappear and objects lose their features, becoming squat and indistinct; how strange that by day they may be spoken of as ’beautiful’ or ’useful’; now they look like shapeless bodies: hard to guess what they’d be for. Everything is hypothetical in hell. All that daytime heterogeneity of form, the presence of colours, shades, reveals itself to be utterly in vain – what purpose could possibly be served by beige upholstery, by floral wallpaper, by tassels? What difference does green make to a dress slung over the back of a chair? It’s difficult to understand the covetous gaze that fell upon it as it clung to its hanger in the shop window. There are no buttons or hooks or clasps now; fingers in the dark find only vague bulges, rough patches, lumps of hard matter.
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–Olga Tokarczuk (Excerpt from Flights, 2007. Fitzcarraldo Editions)
In this text the Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk puts words on something that is given, that light helps use make sense of the world around us. Anna Bjerger’s new paintings for the exhibition Lit have light as a point of departure. Her paintings reference found photographs from different sources. They have lost their original purpose and meaning, like frozen moments relegated to darkness. The chosen images are transformed through painting and Bjerger has emphasised the artificial lighting that lends them a staged quality.
In this series Bjerger has approached the process in a different way by selecting a specific colour as a starting point for each work. The compliment to this colour, which she felt dominated the image, was used to ground each panel acting as a sparring partner during the painting process. This distances the image from its origins. The larger format requires more precision from the artist’s hand bringing a directness. The painterly mark exists as itself but also becomes that which it describes.
Bjerger’s work can be said to describe a balance between extremes. It contains the psychological content of the image and the physical aspects of the painting. The narrative evolves, arriving at new meanings through the language of painting. What rests in darkness is brought back into the light and through this the perishable moment is extended.
The author Karl Ove Knausgård writes about Anna Bjerger in her book Familiar Shadows (2017):
It seems to me that a painter’s gift is firstly to make a motif striking so that it catches our attention, secondly to charge it in a way that makes the motif less dependent on a striking statement, but able to last once the impact of that has faded. The two levels, the striking, which has to do with the painting’s iconic quality, and the lasting which is more intrinsic to the picture than what it represents or depicts, and which I think are connected to the colour, the surface, the materiality, these are of course not disparate entities, because there is a third quality in painting, namely the ability to create an effortless visual whole.
Anna Bjerger (b.1973) lives and works in Småland, Sweden. She is educated at S:t Martins School of Art and Design and Royal College of Art in London. She has exhibited in Sweden and internationally since the beginning of the 2000s. Solo exhibition in selection: Le Manoir, Banyuls sur Mer, France (2017), 0–0 LA, Los Angeles, USA (2017), Kristianstads Konsthall, Seden (2017), David Risley, Copenhagen Denmark (2016, 2012, 2008), Galleri Magnus Karlsson, Stockholm, Sweden (2015), Galleria Monica de Cardenas, Milan, Italy (2014), Fullersta Gård, Stockholm, Sweden (2013), Paradise Row, London, UK (2012, 2010), Växjö Konsthall, Sweden (2012), Galerie Gabriel Rolt, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (2011, 2009), Peter Bergman, Stockholm, Sweden (2010, 2008). Her paintings are in the collections of Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark, Stedelijk Museum, The Netherlands, Zabludowicz Collection, UK och Tishman Speyer Collection, USA. Currently she is also part of the exhibition O Youth and Beauty (with Louis Fratino and Waldemar Zimbelmann) at Man Museum, Nuoro, Sardinia, Italy (9.11 2018–3.3 2019).Courtesy of the artist and Galleri Magnus Karlsson, Stockholm