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Imagine a car park called Tony. Imagine three giant lipstick holders with marble for the colour. Imagine a mad tea party where the March Hare has rather impressive breasts and Alice does something sexual to the Mad Hatter before eating ice cream and drowning in a tsunami of chocolate and cake. Imagine a strip tease that starts with a clothed woman and ends up with a dove. Imagine a 1,800 million year old rock.

Redskap (2017) by Åsa Jungnelius

If you can imagine all of those things, you’d be somewhere near Artipelag, an art gallery we visited today.

Signature Woman is an exhibition featuring the work of around 50 women artists tracing their contributions to Swedish art over the last 100 years. Each decade is represented by various works. I enjoyed it while Mirinda was left somewhat unimpressed.

Actually, there were three things which Mirinda really liked, and they were not part of the exhibition.

Artipelag is an amazing gallery, placed on a small outcrop, overlooking the Baltic, almost opposite Saltsjöbaden. It has been designed to at once exist in the landscape while not being seen beyond the immediate vicinity. The location and building are exquisite. I can imagine driving to Artipelag to just go to the restaurant.

Artipelag does have a restaurant but it’s currently closed. It also has a café with an amazing view. The café houses the oldest artwork in the place. It is 1,800 million years old. (Obviously to an American that would be 1.8 billion years ago but that’s more about the American desire to impress people than accurate numbering.)

In the local language of the ‘archipelago folk’ this is a Båda. In English, it’s a big flat rock. While it was first formed 1,800 million years ago, it was worn down and scraped by glaciers 11,000 years ago. Then, as the sea rose with the melting ice, the Båda sat on the bottom of the sea for a bit before being revealed as the climate improved.

It is a perfect centrepiece for Artipelag which prides itself on representing the co-existence of man and landscape. Which, coincidentally, harked back to a conversation Mirinda had with Tommy (of The Perfect Swedish Family) when we dropped the girls off.

They were discussing the need for humans to get sufficient vitamin D, something lacking in the Lockdown world at the moment but in great quantities in the Swedes.

In fact, on the news this morning, there was an item saying that the British government is going to give over a million people vitamin D supplements to make up for the lack caused by staying indoors. Typical that the government makes the taxpayers foot the bill for something that comes free of charge from the sun.

Not that we saw any sun today, but we did see a lot of the outside world.

Outside the gallery space, the natural landscape is captured by Artipelag in their Sculpture in Nature, this year’s outside exhibition. This is a series of pieces, most of them dotted around outside, which show how artists have, to some extent, rejected the traditional ‘white space’ of an art gallery and embraced the natural landscape to showcase their work.

And it works, really, really well. In fact, it was the outside pieces that Mirinda liked best of all.

Ainsa IV (2012) by Jaume Plensa (plus a Gary with wet bottom)

But, back inside, the art was calling me. I really do love discovering new works by new artists (to me anyway). I rarely like everything but tend to find most of it interesting. I tried to explain to a less than enthusiastic Mirinda that I find art lets me see the world how the artist sees it.

For me, it’s rarely about the content but more about the emotional response. In me. And sometimes in others around me.

Obviously, given the fact that 95% of Swedish art over the last 100 years has been created by men, a lot of the works are deeply political. They speak of gender inequality and of a world not usually expressed by women. I found a lot of the pieces haunting, some of them disturbing and only one boring.

Though, I should say, that the clothes did nothing for me. I’m not sure what the mannequins in dresses were saying apart from what a dress shop looks like. I guess it could be suggesting that women’s clothing is merely a decorative cage. But if so, it wasn’t obvious.

Of all the works, my favourite was a small painting by Siri Rathsman.

Unknown title (1931) by Siri Rathsman

For me, it has hints of the oriental, of mythical gods, of ancient rituals. I love the simplicity and at the same time the complexity. Most of all, it moved me.

I was very interested by the work of film director and artist Marie-Louise Ekman. Her three canvases depicted cartoon stories which were quite disturbing. PickNick, for example, featured a lot of poo-ing on the beach. I rather liked her Striptease. Though, personally, I’d have started with the dove then the woman then the man then the monkey. but maybe that’s just me.

Striptease (1973) by Marie-Louise Ekman

All in all, we had a lovely time at Artipelag and will definitely return for the next exhibition. Signature Women ends tomorrow and who knows what or when the next one will be.

From the gallery we decided to try our local Italian family-style restaurant at Trollbäcken. When we arrived, we were the only people (apart from staff) who were there. To be fair, it was an odd time for a meal or as we call it, Linner. And it didn’t take long for the place to fill up.

It was at Lilla Rött that I experienced what was easily the worst bit of ‘art’ I saw all day. While the restaurant may call it a tropical pizza (pineapple, banana, curry, ham) I called it a crime against humanity. It was truly terrifying. And Mirinda ate every bit of it.

In the meanwhilst, the girls had a lovely day with the Perfect Swedish Family. They even visited Sara’s parents, cheering up her mum who has been feeling poorly with back problems. The girls cheered her up beautifully.

They also got to visit some ducks and swans down by the lake not far from Sara’s parent’s house. Freya was well happy. Emma rolled in the sand. Everyone enjoyed their day.

And I saw some art.

The perfect Saturday in Sweden.

And here’s a little bit of how my mind works. This tiny matchbox perfectly sums up the way I view travel to new places and the experience of new cultures.

But I can’t really leave this post without mentioning The White Bus by Jan Håfström. In brief, this could be described as a man having a dream on January 20 about being on a white bus full of dead passengers and his depiction of it. In fact, it’s actually about (sort of) the Final Solution that the Nazis decided on regarding the Jews in 1942. And I can see that but it’s no less inaccessible fpr the explanation.

For a start, I had to read through a couple of paragraphs on the Artipelag website in order to appreciate what the work was about. I appreciate the paragraphs being there.

It was very odd with lots of different coloured pictures of skulls, a rather childlike picture of the white bus and a series of signposts which told the story of the dream.

The ‘piece’ was displayed in a huge open area which had been curtained off into distinct areas. In one was a series of tables and chairs each supplied with drawing things. Childrens’ pictures of their experience of The White Bus were then hung on bits of string along one wall. Some of these pictures were quite disturbing (though not as bad as Mirinda’s dinner).

Neither of us were very impressed by The White Bus.

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