Jan Svenungsson

Holm, Eva-Lotta. "Jan Svenungsson - Galleri Engström",

in: Material, # 27, 1995

"GÅ VIDARE" ("MOVE ON") is the title of Jan Svenungsson's latest show at Galleri Engström in Stockholm. The title appears strange at first, since it looks as if Svenungsson was rather looking backwards and staging a retrospective. In other words, this is another show based on the allpervasive theme of the chimneys, a subject which has occupied Svenungsson for almost a decade. What is new is the variety of modes of representation, the abundance of techniques. Repeated with almost manic fervor, the motif is found in drawings, photographs, etchings and casts.

The starting point is a 19th century chimney, with its characteristically shaped brick architecture, and as such it is rich with historical and archetypical connotations although one suspects that there is more to the Svenungssonian obsession than this. One might of course associate to the wellknown strategy of a single motif set in a repetitive series, a strategy originating in the minimal art of the 60s which now has become the very trademark of an introspective and esoterically reflexive art for art's sake.

However, I believe that such a reading could go astray, both method and motif might just as well constitute something which leads out of the sphere of art, and this is how Svenungsson makes his point. This stubborn repetitiveness contains both humor and derision, and it seems as if Svenungsson has acquired a sense of selfirony over the years. Previously drawing mainly on theoretical sources, the chimney imagery now seems to have opened onto a sphere of personal fantasies and projections. This is especially the case with the drawings, some of which are executed with an almost childish meticulousness, others with a precocious and painstaking sense of detail, as if these signalled a more personal disclosure than is usually the case. The drawings display a new and bold openness, above all in toying with the motif's sexual ambivalence. One can occasionally detect a kinship to another Swedish artist, Maria Lindberg, whose work masterly develops the same sexually charged undercurrents and understatements.

Svenungsson has, in other words, dismantled the monolithic structure of the chimney into a series of discrete parts, where the focus has shifted from conceptual investigations to what appears to be a more autobiographical address; from a discussion of originals vs. copies, via the physical realization of ideas (in Stockholm, Seoul, and Kotka, Finland), the stress now lies on subjectivity and personal experiences. The pervasive impression of the show as a whole - and which gives the title "Move on" its proper sense - is that Svenungsson wants to put an end to a decadelong investigation, which now seems more than exhausted.

Eva-Lotta Holm