Anders and Ingegerd Schonborg «Transformations»

November 19 - October 14 2014

Anders Schönborg

 

There is probably no better incentive behind artistic creation than desire. A desire to see and to let that seeing progress into realisation. A desire to search, create and showcase your work. To have a vision and allow it help you search for the knowledge you need and to mobilise all your knowledge and experience to achieve that vision. Allowing the photograph to signify not what has been seen, but rather the unseen. It is an uncertainty you intuitively feel drawn to and need to learn more about. It is all about using your camera to capture the objects so that the surface of them do more than tell stories about things as they are, but also as they were or could be. The pictures transmit feelings that words cannot; they are feelings that a picture can show in a most substantial communication without using words. Poorly expressed, it can be said that a camera can capture anything put in front of it. But in artistic photography there is something else to it, something more.

 In his artistic photography projects, Anders Schönborg wants to show images that leave both the photographer and even the camera surprised. Perhaps you could say that such images depict by creating alternate images.

For an artistically oriented photographer, or should I say an artist taking photographs, real objects are staffage. But for a documentary photographer that same reality is an "objective" truth. Sometimes those two become one.

Anders Schönborg works inside both traditions, separately and combined, but this text mainly concerns his artistic photography.

Let us start from the beginning.

The foundations for Anders' photographic interest was laid in his childhood when he used to flick through the illustrated magazines his father bought him. The father was also a photographer and Anders was given a nice camera by his parents.

So life went on. Anders Schönborg worked as a sheet metal worker, builder, windmill entrepreneur and an organic farmer, always in his own business.

His interest in photography began in earnest later in life when he read about a very special adventure trip. The year was 2002 and the destination: North East Greenland.  He bought a good photographic equipment, primarily for capturing travel memories.  Facing the marvellous nature and its scenery, he felt his dormant interest in photography reawakened. Even now, it was noted he had an interest in and intuitive feel for composition, patterns and surfaces. In Greenland geology lies open like delicious layers of a cake. It was here his desire for creating images flared up in earnest. And that is how it started.

As a result of that journey a lot changed in his pictorial perception and way of shooting photographs. He learned how to compose and crop the images in the camera and to take precisely the image he wants to show. It sharpens your concentration and pictorial perception. Anders likes to work with an analog camera. He finds it to be a more reflective way to shoot pictures when he wants to get the optimum image straight away without post-processing and styling. It intensifies your pictorial perception and the image must be planned.

He learned a lot during his trip to Greenland when he photographed the bare and barren landscape. He sought for structures, patterns and shapes created by the the water and wind and  the special gleam in the cavities produced by the ice. The colours are the most intense in this environment and light. Regardless of whether it was yeti who had left scratch marks on the cliff walls or not, he had seen them. And took pictures of them.

Anders was so taken by the opportunities photography gave him that he wanted to go further and train to become a photographer. He took a break from his usual work and entrepreneurship and learnt photography at Biskop-Arnö for Halil Koyutürk and at Mullsjö folk high school for the photographer Lia Henriksson. Both are very inspiring and encouraging teachers. The positive feedback on his imaging made him want to go further and seek his own world within photography.

 This was followed by a photographic journey to Zanzibar in 2004. He took pictures of people at work and in their everyday life. In his eyes (and images) these motifs evoked images of paradise. The pictures are beautiful and sensual, with many exotic nuances, lines and angles. Maybe a trait of his, he was fussy and careful and nursed a strong aesthetic ambition from the outset. He strives for beauty in his photographs, and for harmony.  The lines, directions and the golden ratio are important. He knows that each completed picture has been given its optimum format. And it must be. These are the components that developed Anders' pictorial perception.

The Zanzibar photographs led to his first separate exhibition as a photographer. He also sent the series to the venerable magazine FOTO, the leading Swedish photography magazine, and was awarded Best Swedish b/w Photographer in 2006.

Anders Schönborg has made several trips to Bilbao. There he found a scene that he found more interesting than all others. The Guggenheim Museum.

Technically, they are analog photos. He scans the negatives and prints on Dibond, a thin two-sided aluminium plate with a plastic core. He prints on the brushed side of the aluminium.  All of these technical details are each in its own way incredibly important for the end result. Anders took many pictures and then made a selection of 16 images.

Designed by Frank Gehry and located on the river Nervion in Bilbao, the Guggenheim Museum has been called "the most outstanding construction of our time".

The architecture is bold, original and innovative. The buildings have deliberately distorted shapes that are radically dissolving and transforming themselves with the changing light before our astonished eyes. Its architectural language puts focus on the complexity of our times and contemporary art.

Anders Schönborg had visited the museum and gathered impressions the year before he took the photographs. He had noticed how the buildings seemed to change, how the buildings now lay, now hang, now turn and fold away.

When he returned in 2013 he wanted to take his pictures.

He was shooting at night and in the tourist-free light of dawn and dusk. As always, he wanted to compose the images directly in the camera. The optimum picture is created at the time of exposure, not during post-processing.

He focused almost exclusively on the metal-clad parts of the building. It was difficult to isolate and shoot many of the building's fascinating facades, and not get the streets, bridge and other surrounding environment in the pictures. As always he sought the lines, gradients and reflections that he needs to get the photographs just the way he wants them. The titanium plate covered building changes before your astonished eyes with the fluctuations in light and temperature. The challenge is to capture the entirety of the components.

The images are simultaneously very tangible and totally mysterious. The titanium plates live a life of their own and carry an expression that the photographs display. It is as if we project feelings onto the plates of the façade. The images reflect a tranquil tenderness in the cold plates. There is a quiet mystery in the meeting between titanium and light. New stories are waiting to be told. The difference between architecture, photography and art is set in motion, they merge and revitalise one another. And something new appears.

– I wanted my photographs to show a version of the Guggenheim that, at night and during dawn and dusk, is very different from the building you might experience in bright daylight. I also wanted to increase the visibility of the surrounding environment because it is rarely noticed when you walk around the building, fascinated by its multifaceted appearance. It is clear that I have succeeded in showing "new sides" to the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao by the many people who have visited the museum and refuse to believe that some of the photographs really are taken in Bilbao. The comment "I have been there, it’s in the city surrounded by houses and there was no mountain behind the museum" is not at all uncommon to hear.

 

BO BORG

Art critic,

member of the International Association of Art Critics (AICA)

 

 

Ingegerd Schönborg

"To me, joyful experimentation is the wellspring of creation"

 

The personal development time, equally different for everyone, is the biggest influence and drive in what could become a unique artistic expression. When linked to curiosity, playfulness and a desire for experimentation a world of new opportunities opens in both technique and design. Exploratory artistic processes can shed new light on past experiences. The creative process also brings special prerequisites and opportunities inherent in the chosen starting point and the newness one seeks.

The interaction between one's history and exploration of new things encourages a dynamic creativity that is a good breeding ground, maybe even a prerequisite, for creative artistic expression. 

Ingegerd Schönborg's textile imagery and handicraft products are created in the junction of many very different experiences and knowledge. She grew up on a farm. There, textile handicrafts were a natural part of both work and celebration.  Her mother had filled her hope chest with beautiful weavings and embroidery. This was a starting point from which handicraft and aesthetics grew to be an increasingly important part of her life.

A few years ago, Ingegerd and her husband Anders discontinued their work as dairy farmers of twenty years. From there, her work life took a whole new turn. She trained in art and textile techniques at Mullsjö Folk High School and now works as a textile artist. She lives and has her studio at Hjälsbo Manor in Borgunda outside Skövde. There, she built her studio in a large fodder storage room where they used to prepare silage. The old life is still in the walls where her textile work emerges. An old cow stable has been renovated into a large gallery space where her new finished works will meet the first scrutinising and searching glances.

Distinctive for Ingegerd Schönborg's creative work is that her curiosity and desire for experimentation has led her to try many different materials and expressions. She seeks the excitement of the new and untested.  But that always rests on the foundation and knowledge she has of home handicrafts and craftsmanship.

She thus works with many techniques and expressions that cannot easily be captured in a uniform description. An overall picture of her work emerges, though, by looking at a number of different examples of her works of art.

Her photo-based screen printing may prove a good start. In 2012 she travelled extensively through Europe. One of her stops was the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. It is a remarkable and striking building with a fascinating appearance, not least since its appearance changes with the light. Also, many patterns and images appear to those who are exploring the play of light that the plurality of pleated façades creates for the curious eye.

Ingegerd saw a special angle that caught her interest. She took a picture. When she later looked at it, she saw that the image strangely enough resembled a dress. That was something she wanted to take further.  When studied closely, another photo turned out to show an interesting bubbly pattern. Ingegerd made the pictures black and white on her computer and prepared them for screen printing and printed them in black and grey. She did not make a pattern rapport since she wanted a free pattern and not a fabric by the metre.  A series of prints was produced in three different colourways, using the light resistant textile printing colour Acra-k. This fabric was brought with her on a journey to Accra in Africa, where she embroidered it with the stitches that felt right to her.  This included freestyle hand embroidery with straight stitches and French knots with elements of foliation in a glittering material.

Ingegerd is continually on the search for new patterns for her textile screen prints as well as various materials to get different expressions and qualities. The textile dye Levafix has the property that it sinks deep into the fabric. It works well for her printing on velvet and for painting more freely on the fabric. She works with deep and clear colours that produce a nice texture on the velvet that she is fond of. The colour is heat fixed. The image is washed first in cold water and then again in warmer water. If the print releases too much colour she has to redo it.

Cocoa beans and cocoa flowers are some of the things she has used to make patterns and dyeing with Levafix gives her the pictorial effects she wants for her expression.

Ingegerd often prints on linen, cotton and hemp and also makes pattern rapports for fabrics sold by the metre. Those are mainly on cotton or linen.

One of her designs came into being during a trip to Berlin. A piece of art in town caught her eye, covered as it was with discarded chewing gum that passers-by were encouraged to press onto it, producing a collectively created work of art and perhaps reducing litter. She took photos, pictures that would later be used as a base for a screen frame. A basic pattern was made and printed in different colourways. This pattern was later elaborated in one of her variations by using and adding an image of one of her mother-in-law's dresses she had found in the garage.

Her interest in nature is a recurring theme.

In one of her free prints, she let a bisected bracket fungus form the pattern.  Another recurring theme is the cows that were such an important part of her life for two decades. In addition to fabric, she has screened cow patterns on old metal roofing.  In yet another print we see the symbolic bäckahäst, or brook horse, from Scandinavian folklore. It carries many metaphorical meanings as he is the water spirit or neck in the shape of a horse. It's a beautiful animal. But you have to watch out! Behind the beautiful façade lies insidious devices.

Ingegerd also works with cut-up designs. Sometimes she finds an old pattern that she wants to redo. There is a sort of deconstruction of shapes, later to be reassembled in new combinations. The concrete elements make up abstract compositions. In some designs, there is a more rigid edging left, an effect she achieved with so-called disappearing plastic. Fabric is enclosed in the plastic and then stitched or embroidered on. When the finished work is soaked in water, the pieces of plastic dissolve and partially disappear; leaving the thread and fabric hardened and a pattern piece that retains its shape.

She has also worked on cotton fabrics alone, applying a special paste (actually designed for use on polyester and cotton fabrics) that burns away the cotton and turn into abstract patterns. The fragments of the delicate and thin cotton textile that are left are sewn on together with vanishing plastic which is then partially washed away. Again, she creates a meeting of generations by embroidering on parts of old textiles that used to be in the family, including a "fattigmansdräll" (poor man's dräll), which is a tablecloth formerly laid for Sunday dinners. The monogram is still there. But the ensemble is new and her own.

Ingegerd has another, different, expression in her works on beautiful duchess satin. On the glossy fabric, she has mounted squares of linen. These are then cut. When it is washed, the cuts are torn up and beautiful and very special patterns emerge. It creates an abstract work of art with special expressions and properties that are only possible in the textile arts: the particular textile structures, its shine and lustre. The thready work. The washed highlights. Her individual circumstances gives her work a special beauty.

Felting is another technique Ingegerd uses. Wool is worked with hot water and soap until it felts together into a special structure and surface. She felts the wool herself and sometimes also uses prefelted wool. She mounts long lengths, sometimes in different colours. Then she cuts the edges and rolls the cut pieces together. In this way she creates very original neckwear with a wilful beauty and a shape that resembles a really long centipede.

Felted wool is also used in her textile images as a base fabric. On this, different embroidery techniques like "kavelfrans" (napped edging), cross-stitch and French knots are applied in unconventional ways. The compositions may then form free abstract patterns, but with traditional colours and techniques.

One of her series of prints is called "Farmors låda" (Grandmother's chest). In it, materials from several generations back are reused and given a new and artistically free context. One is composed of buttons and garters. Sinfully beautiful!

She has also made a singular sculpture of felted wool. It is a torso, a felted "cast" of her body. The wool is supported by chicken wire and the shoulder straps are symbolically felted on top of barbed wire. It is white with touches of red. On the hem, a felted silk fabric. Embroidered on one side of the torso is a poem, penned by her husband Anders, about pleasant moments on the island Hovden in Vänern:

H   Hold the sea in your gaze

O   Only undisturbed quiet

V   Vast, the warmth and rest

D   Days of sunshine 

E   Earth is just for us

N   Naked and warm

 On the other side, untold secrets. Multicoloured threads from her life hang down. This work of art is called "Hemligheter" (Secrets) which could stand as a title for her entire and intensely personal body of work.  The sculpture is shown hovering and can be turned. You can find different patterns and other personal details worked into the shape.

It's easy to see that Ingegerd Schönborg always, regardless of technique, design or materials, is very present in her own art. And it is true that the personal statement that dare let out its own experiences, knowledge and hobbyhorses is the one that will capture your interest.

 

BO BORG

Art critic,

member of the International Association of Art Critics (AICA)