Leakage in the garden of innocence

Artist: thale vangen Tags: Permanent art

The difference between art and research lies most profoundly in the fictive liberties that can be taken by art. In her triptych Leakage in the Garden of Innocence (Läckage i oskuldens trädgård), Thale Vangen has created three evocative figures that contrast against the otherwise clinical environment of cutting-edge biotechnology research in Solna, where SciLifeLab, SOBI and KISP AB have their operations.Like an artist, the scientist explores the world in which we live and finds new connections. Focusing on the unknown, new horizons appear, and in order to contribute vital knowledge about the world both artist and scientist need to take a position beyond what they already know and be receptive in their quest for new insights. With her three multifaceted sculptures, Vangen adds a rich dimension to our notion of what constitutes science, and inspires us to think outside the box.

On the hardened surface in front of the entrance stands a bronze foxglove with delicate yet heavy flowers that have borrowed clappers from cow bells and give off a dull sound when set in motion. The bells of this giant plant have a green patina around their brims, emphasising their fragile appearance in comparison with the sturdy stalk.

On the other side of the building, a pair of legs belonging to Pan, ending before the hip, stride up the wooded hillside. Pan, the Greek forest god, is associated with forests, fields, shepherds and their flocks, but also with the devil and eroticism. He is half man, half beast, which is finely revealed in Vangen’s deft rendering of the hairy legs with cleft hoofs and human knees and muscular thighs. Despite its brutality, this part of the triptych enhances the enchanting sliver of forest wedged between the buildings.

The most characteristic part is the vellum sculpture inside the lobby. With the charged logic of dreams, the narrative is twisted to reveal peculiar undercurrents. Five premature goat heads protrude from an oversized oyster shell. Inside, the shell is filled with crumpled vellum frills to emulate the meaty innards of an oyster. From out of this abundance, the goat heads aim their blind eyes out towards the world. Vellum is not seen that often in contemporary art, but in the past it was widely used for writing and to protect weapons. Unlike concrete, with its industrial connotations, vellum is a natural material, strong and tough, yet translucently delicate, verging on the romantic in its appearance. Balancing carefully her choice of materials, Vangen confidently leaves room for the spectator to discover shifts in meaning. Strategically placed in relation to the surroundings and sight lines, and to each other, Vangen’s sculptures evoke the magic and irrationality of everyday life.

Lotta Mossum