Exhibition running from June 7th until August 8th 2014.
The exhibition comes as a result of a research residency Sigrid Holmwood undertook at Hallands Art Museum, in Halmstad, Sweden, working in response to their collection of peasant paintings. These peasant paintings are particular to the region of Halland and Småland in South West Sweden, and are believed to originate in church painting and the mediaeval tradition of painted wall hangings which was once widespread in Sweden. Between 1750 – 1850 this practice underwent a great revival and development among the peasant farmers in South West Sweden. Many named and unnamed, men and women, painted these large canvases in egg tempera. They were designed to fit exactly the walls of the typical local peasant cabin and were used for special occasions such as Christmas and weddings. The biblical scenes were painted alongside everyday scenes of peasant life revealing their particular interpretation of these stories, and their relationship to the land and their animals. The nativity is shown to be a story about the fertility of humans, animals and the earth, and the farm animals are as much protagonists in the story as the humans. Several schools and styles associated with various villages developed and some painters gained particular respect and fame in their communities. Above all, this rich culture of peasant painting challenges the dominant idea of painting as a bourgeois phenomenon, and that anything outwith should be considered singular instances of ‘outsider’ art. In this exhibition, Sigrid Holmwood presents them as an alternative art history.
The imagery in Sigrid Holmwood’s paintings comes from the open air museum in Halmstad, and archive photographs by the 19th century romantic painter-cum-ethnographer, Severin Nilsson who documented these peasants as their culture was in the process of disappearing. Holmwood has painted using the same pigments and techniques as the peasant painters, painting in egg tempera on handwoven linen. Apart from mineral and earth pigments, plant-based pigments were used, and for this exhibition Sigrid Holmwood has planted a garden of wild-flowers native to Sweden and dye plants that may have been used by the Peasant Painter’s for making pigments. She will be using the garden to make performative workshops on the process of pigment-making. Furthermore, she has adapted these plant-pigment recipes to make pigments from mushrooms with the help of local mushroom dye enthusiasts in Sweden, where it is a relatively new craft, having only started in the 1980s. Holmwood’s research into the world of the Peasant Painters draws on the magical and pre-Christian beliefs that formed a part of the world view of the peasant farmer and which are revealed in the details of their paintings. It is a world without vacuum, filled with interconnecting forces to which the peasant body was open and permeable. This is reflected in the giant paintbrush/hobby horse/witches broom which Holmwood attempts to ride in the film A Painter’s Flight. The video shows the process of pigment-making and egg tempera (from eggs laid by Sigrid Holmwood herself), and reveals the way certain plant based pigments glow under UV light giving a psychedelic twist to the peasant painter’s world.
Sigrid Holmwood (b.78) is a half Swedish, half British artist based in London. Past exhibitions include a solo show at Hallands Art Museum, Halmstad, Sweden (2013), Painted Performances at Upton House National Trust (2012), Journey to WuMu at Annely Juda Fine Art, London (2012) and Vitamin Creative Space ‘The Pavilion’, Beijing (2011) and the Saatchi Gallery in Adelaide, at the Art Gallery of South Australia (2011