Curator text by Kristina Möster Nilsson
Rening (Purification) by Meta Isæus-Berlin
Lund is a city with a surprising number of fountains. One of the best known is Klas Anshelm and Arne Jones’ LTH Fountain (1966–1970), at the Faculty of Engineering (LTH) at Lund University, a monument to the idea of a grand fountain. Another eye-catching fountain is Helgo Zettervall’s water sculpture at University Square (1889) in Lundagård. When Meta Isæus-Berlin was commissioned to produce a sketch for an artistic intervention in the pond at Lund’s new District Court building, it was this particular fountain she regarded as an archetype for a meticulously executed and beautiful fountain. She was impressed by the University’s flower arrangements at the University Square, the different levels of the water and the water features.
Water – An Artistic Medium
Just as Isæus-Berlin allows other artists and architects to speak to her artistic practice, there are many contemporary artists who regard Isæus-Berlin as a renewer of art. She has created a number of memorable works which are part of Swedish art history. Since her graduation exhibition at the Royal Institute of Art, Stockholm in the 1990s, she has repeatedly worked with water as a medium. Her art installations at the housing expo Bo-01 in Malmö were received with amazement. The artwork Vattenhem (The Water Home) filled a room with water, bringing out the beauty of everyday objects and blurring the solidity of the material. There was a feeling that something had gone terribly awry in the rooms. Many years later, the Lund District Court and the property owner took a courageous artistic decision to invite Isæus-Berlin to create an artistic intervention in central Lund.
Art in Urban Development
Just as the construction of the Faculty of Engineering at Lund University in the 1960s and University Square and its surroundings in the 19th century represented an enormous change in urban development, the District Court building is part of a larger ongoing development of the area around Lund Central Station. Fojab Arkitekter have created an imposing building that addresses the neighbourhood with its heavy organic design in copper and stone. When the entire area has been redesigned, Lund District Court will be one of the central buildings. Meta Isæus-Berlin’s installation and fountain Rening (Purification) are located in the pond that runs along the façade, a few steps from the Bjered Park and a couple of minutes from the station.
Purification in Water and Bronze
From a distance Rening (Purification) appears as a small object next to the monumental building. The platforms and passing trains, street musicians and playing children create an intense soundscape and it is not until one gets closer that the gushing water of the fountain can be heard. In comparison to the building, the bronze installation with the bed and the chair are as small as a person. Based on human dimensions, the easily recognisable furniture is in a scale of 1:1. For Isæus-Berlin, bronze was the obvious choice of material. Patinated in a brown tone, the bronze is directly related to the building’s copper façade. A red patinated quilt and a white pillow are on the bed. Transformed into bronze, the objects are meticulously detailed, including the lace of the bed linen and the red wool structure of the quilt. The wealth of detail is significant and can be seen both from the edge of the pond and from inside the building. The small distortions are significant. This is no real bed, it belongs as much to a mythical world as to everyone’s reality. The chair symbolises togetherness and is a gentle reminder that we are not alone. The water flowing down from the back of the chair awakens our curiosity and wonder. Rening (Purification) is also joy, the pleasure of being beside the water, of splashing and playing. In the winter, the water is replaced by heat and the temperature of Rening (Purification) rises, melting the ice and snow.
In many ways Rening (Purification) embraces Isæus-Berlin’s earlier work, including Chair beside Bed, which was shown in the 1996 exhibition On Time: New Swedish Art at Moderna Museet, Stockholm. There is, however, a tonality that is reminiscent of the artist’s painting. For several years Isæus-Berlin has focused on painting, occasionally returning to her installations. The possibilities and limitations of bronze forms a new phase in her artistic practice. Rening (Purification) marks the start of this period.