Gunnel Wåhlstrand 2013 - ENGLISH

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GUNNEL
WÅHLSTRAND
BY
ELISABETH
FAGERSTEDT

Uppsala Art Museum has long nurtured a dream of exhibiting Gunnel
Wåhlstrand’s fascinating paintings in the museum’s history-saturated
halls. Discussions have gone on for years, and considering the
enormous amount of time and effort needed to create the large inkwash
works, it is with exceptional delight that we can now finally open
the exhibition at Uppsala Art Museum. Gunnel Wåhlstrand and her
family lived in Uppsala during the first year of her life. She was born in
1974. Her father lived and worked in Uppsala for the better part of his
life. He was a doctor and research scientist. It is his, as well as Gunnel
Wåhlstrand’s grandfather’s family album and photographs that have
constituted vital points of departure in her work as an artist.
The photographs show a more or less ordered family life in an upperclass
environment. The scenes include the family’s pastime activities
and portraits of family members. Gunnel Wåhlstrand’s own father as a
child is featured frequently. For the past ten years she has painted the
photographs in a large format in ink on paper. It has been a laborious
and slow process that has involved so much more than merely copying
an image. Its purpose has been about truly seeing, understanding,
delving into and gaining insight– and perhaps ultimately about foreboding
an imminent catastrophe. By deepening her gaze and her
presence in a pre-stage, by minutely seeing how the rooms, furniture,
clothes, gazes, light and shadows together create a scene, she just
might gain an understanding of what lies under the surface. “A secret
lies in the motif, and it is only by painting it that I can gain insight.”
Gunnel Wåhlstrand’s father chose to take his life while in his 30s. He
appears frequently in her paintings. In her latest works, however, he is
no longer present. In one of her paintings, the artist has intentionally
taken her father out of the picture, with only the environment itself
remaining. She has now chosen to view the location through his
camera lens and through his eyes, to position herself on the same side
of the motif as her father. Side by side. A continued research, but from a
new-old perspective. That was how she started ten years ago.
The exhibition points to an interesting art historical line of questioning
with regard to, among other things, the paradox of translation, the relationship
between photography and painting, as well as the act of depicting
and realism. The personal and private dimension in Gunnel
Wåhlstrand’s work, her incessant quest and research, and her belief in
the image as a witness and time document is in itself both fascinating
and profoundly moving.
Elisabeth Fagerstedt
Museum director/curator, Uppsala Art Museum