Jan Svenungsson


January 22, 2023 – "Druck & Buch"
In Berlin I have finished moving and reorganizing my studio and started to work on new paintings. I'm relieved that the three month long transfer period is over. I no longer have a view of water from my studio window but I will also be able to use my time more efficiently. The studio is back in the back part of our large apartment, the same rooms which it occupied in the period 1997-2001. Four years which were among the most productive in my career so far. In 2002 I wanted to put a distance between private and work sphere and moved out. Now the opposite is enticing, because I spend far too much time on the road anyway.

Right now I'm on the train to Vienna,again. For once on the Eastern route, passing Prague. This week I will visit Susanne Padberg's Galerie Druck & Buch, where my artist's book "2022" is on display in the exhibition "Best of 2022". This gallery is very special: it exclusively deals with artist's books and has a specialist collector audience all over Europe and the US. Susanne spends half her time on the road, visiting her clients with a suitcase full of treasures.

January 4, 2023 – "Comedy"
In conversations on the rotten character of politics, you sometimes hear wishful thinking expressed along the lines of "it would be better if artists would lead us". My answer is always "please not". It was tried once, in Germany, and it did not go well. However, in this article in the New Yorker, Masha Gessen makes a compelling argument why it is precisely Volodymyr Zelensky's comedic competence which is central to his extraordinary ability and usefulness as Ukraine's war president. He is supremely able to read a room, and shape his (unwavering) message accordingly:

... through three hundred days of nightly addresses to the Ukrainian people and regular speeches to Western political bodies, Zelensky has, almost without fail, found the right tone and the right timing to insure that the audience stays with him. His and the Ukrainian people’s lives depend on it.

January 2, 2023 – "2022"

It feels like an in-between time right now. I am thinking of global challenges of course. Of decisions which either will be made or not. And if they are made: either will be implemented or not. I am thinking of politics and the brutal war so close to here. Yet there are other issues as well, and some but not all, are connected. Because I am who I am I think about the role of art in this situation and I think about what should be my position and I think about whether I should think about it at all or if it is better not to. Whether I should just do? But what do I want to do? What can I? It is a time of questions. Maybe a paradigm shift – but in what direction? An in-between time.

Last spring I was thinking too much in these terms and I didn't know what to do. Then suddenly I did. In Vienna I saw a linocut in black. It was a still life, but it wasn't what was in the image which triggered me, it was the way it had been made. Sketched very fast, cut very carefully. In a flash I knew I wanted to work like this and I knew what the ostensible subject matter of the images should be and that they would become an artist's book.

First I planned the book would contain ten prints, then I thought a year has twelve months, not ten. I decided to call the book 2022. As soon as this decision had been made, I knew I wanted to finish the work as soon as possible, long before the year was over.

The last week in March or early April I began to work on my plates, in Berlin. In Vienna a little later Tina Graf heard about my project and offered to be the printer. Together we made some tests, and realized a (modified) Japanese binding would be necessary. I wanted each of the twelve prints to be on white paper and on the right side of a double page – but the opposite page should be all black. This black had to be printed as well. A single sheet couldn't hold that much colour without buckling. Everything should be black, except the background of the right side images. Black leather on the outside as well. Black, black.

I finished cutting my plates in late May. Tina had printed all the pages in July and in late August Markus Rottmann in Berlin finished the bookbinding for an edition of ten. Now 2022 is over and soon "2022" will be shown in public. From today, a full documentation is available here.


Having thus described my book, I would like to recommend this podcast interview, which Arkady Ostrovsky made with Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv just before Christmas.

January 1, 2023 – "2023"
What to say on the first day of the new year? It has begun.