A Tree Reflected (Malus sylvestris)

A seven-metre tall mirror construction encircles a tree. In time, the crab apple will grow larger and the branches will meander along the glass and eventually merge with the strict framework.

On A Tree reflected

The artwork stands among stately oaks at the Botanical institution in the university area of Frescati on the island of Djurgården in Stockholm. In the nearby buildings, students are learning about botany, the doctrine of the plant kingdom, which is reflected in Henrik Håkansson’s multifaceted work A Tree Reflected (Malus sylvestris).

The tall glass construction circles the trunk of the crab apple tree and extends in four directions. The glass is laminated and partly transparent, partly reflective, depending on the position of the viewer and the time of day and weather conditions. The yellow autumn leaves and the apple bloom will appear in different layers through the reflections of the glass. In time the tree will merge with the walls.

Measuring 7 x 7 metres, this gigantic work creates an interesting interplay with the surrounding park and the large oaks. It also displays consideration for the fauna; the thin, horizontal lines along the glass prevent small birds from colliding with it

Curator text by Peter Hagdahl

Observations in nature, studies of plants and animals, are never simple. An investigation must have a goal, fill in existing knowledge gaps and correspond with a scientific system in time and space. A meditation comprises many dimensions, whether by a field biologist or an artist.

Henrik Håkansson’s work A Tree Reflected (Malus sylvestris) is a visual system, reminiscent of the study of plants and animals. Located in proximity to the botanical institutions, the artwork proposes a discourse on how we contemplate, study and understand nature. The gigantic glass walls placed around the crab apple’s trunk in four directions become botany’s visual instrument. It screens and reflects, while at the same time it is transparent and shows what is on the other side. Layers of reality are put together creating double tiers, like a simulacrum or a strange hallucination that changes depending on the viewer’s movements, position and direction.

It is interesting to see how Henrik Håkansson has used photography in a sculptural manner. A Tree Reflected (Malus sylvestris) is, in many ways, a work of images. The glass that creates photographs in several dimensions simultaneously places the viewer behind and in front of the camera lens. It raises the question of how we deal with the paradox of studying something when only parts of it are visible from a fixed position.

There is also a romantic backstory here. The focus is on a crab apple tree, its fruit symbolises knowledge, it is a living place that will be home for birds and insects. In time, the crab apple will grow and take over large parts of the hard glass plates, creating a symbiosis, an encounter between art and science.

On Henrik Håkansson

Henrik Håkansson (b.1968) is one of the most internationally successful and well-known Swedish artists of his generation. In a career spanning over 20 years, he has consistently worked with the relationship between nature and culture, varying his expressions by using film, photography, sound and, not least, plants and live animals.

Born in 1968 in Helsingborg, Henrik Håkansson lives and works in Sweden and Germany. Håkansson graduated from the Department of Photography at the Valand Academy, the University of Gothenburg in 1991 and in 1993 from the Department of Sculpture at Konstfack, University of Arts, Craft and Design, Stockholm. He has participated in numerous international group exhibitions, including the Venice Biennial (1997, 2003), the Berlin Biennial (2001), the São Paulo Biennial (2004) and the Yokohama Triennial (2011). He has held solo exhibitions at, among others, Kunsthalle Basel (1999), Wiener Secession (2002), De Appel, Amsterdam (2003), c/o Moderna Museet at Riddarhuset, Stockholm (2003), Dunkers kulturhus, Helsingborg (2004), Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2006) and Museo Tamayo, Mexico City (2008).

Sketch A tree Reflected

The sketch proposal for Henrik Håkansson’s A Tree Reflected (Malus sylvestris), located in the Frescati campus area on Djurgården, is available for download here. The sketch proposal was submitted in 2017 and the artwork was inaugurated in 2018. More information on the artwork is available in the menu on the right.