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Physical States of Learning

Julia Bondesson has created a series of wooden sculptures for the Stella Building at Linnaeus University in Kalmar.

Inspired by craft traditions from Småland, Taiwan, Thailand and Japan, Julia Bondesson has created Physical States of Learning, a series of sculptures for the Stella Building at Linnaeus University. The sculptures Ready for the Lion, The Wanderer and the Seeker and The Lighthouse are all made of linden wood, which has been sawed, carved and chiseled into shape. They run through the three floors of the building, which Bondesson has employed as a stage for the three sculptures of wood, oil paint and neon.

Curator Kristina Möster Nilsson on Physical States of Learning

Stella means ‘star’ in Latin and the Stella Building at Linnaeus University has received its name because it shines like a star. A meeting place for students and researchers, the Stella Building is the core of the university, comprising the student centre and the library. It is a building that not only shines, it shimmers and glories in gold with the sea as its backdrop. The first thing visitors encounter behind the yellow façade is the sculpture Ready for the Lion.

For the Stella Building, artist Julia Bondesson has created a profane triptych entitled Physical States of Learning, a series of sculptures that runs throughout the three floors of the building. Bondesson’s main artistic expression is sculptures of wood and wood carving. Her work relates to the Småland craft tradition as well as to the international environment which is typical of a contemporary Swedish university. Bondesson has amassed knowledge and impressions from several craft cultures. A vital part of her artistic practice has been developed in intimate proximity to craft traditions from countries including Taiwan, Thailand and Japan.

The sculptures developed by Bondesson for the Stella Building embrace an entirely new dimension of her artistic practice, a dimension that corresponds to the volume of the building. In addition to the linden wood of which the sculptures are made, important elements of Bondesson’s interpretation of the Stella Building include ideas of movement and light. Taken together, these components constitute the work Physical States of Learning. Bondesson was commissioned to create a sculptural expression that adhered to the flow of the building, as well as providing artistic surprises. The sculptures invite visitors to pause and lean against them in order to experience the sensation of wood against skin. The knowledge of how we learn through our bodies is something Bondesson has developed in the course of her career as a performance artist. What she brings from performance art is the notion of the body as a carrier of knowledge and an entry point into new knowledge, which is highly relevant in the learning environment of the university.

In Bondesson’s series of sculptures, Ready for the Lion is the first to greet visitors. Seen from the front, the figure has an intent look on its face, while from another angle its expression appears to be mocking. Most importantly, however, every visitor entering the building is acknowledged. The figure’s solid, massive body invites people to lean against the back of the sculpture. Behind Ready for the Lion, a sculptural staircase rises up through a monumental light shaft that divides the building both vertically and horizontally. Ascending the staircase, The Wanderer and the Seeker comes into focus – an enormously powerful figure that is engaged in a kind of battle by the windows. It is striving forth on all fours. Above the wooden sculpture, a neon flash illuminates the building and casts its light towards the centre of Kalmar. Finally, on the top landing, The Lighthouse is a carved torso, seemingly distressed as if in a surge of emotions. Here, not only feelings are pounding but also the pulse of the visitor who has climbed the stairs to the top floor. Bondesson has employed the building as a type of stage for sculptural sequences in wood, oil paint and neon.

The process of completing the artworks has been exceedingly challenging, not least in terms of the heavy, physical and laborious work required by the artist to develop a wooden sculpture of this impressive dimensions. A rough basic shape was cut out with a chainsaw and then carved by hand. All the sensual sculpturality which today can be enjoyed in the Stella Building is the result of manual labour and a unique artistic practice.

Kristina Möster Nilsson

On Julia Bondesson

Born in 1983 in Kinnared, Sweden, Julia Bondesson lives and works in the village of Killeberg on the border between Skåne and Småland. Educated at the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm, she has developed her artistic expression by, among other things, studies in the art of puppetry in Taiwan. Julia Bondesson’s artistic practice encompasses a world in which local craft is brought into contact with Asian art forms. Bondesson expresses herself through sculptural wood carving in which light and performance are of equal importance. In her exhibitions, the artist employs the space by introducing dramatic elements as in a theatre play, in which the expression is changed step by step. Bondesson’s art has been presented in solo exhibitions at Vandalorum, Värnamo and Färgfabriken, Stockholm, among others. Physical States of Learning is Julia Bondesson’s first permanent public artwork.