The point of departure for the collection curated by Birgitta Silfverhielm for Stockholm Academic Forum (STAF) in collaboration with Public Art Agency Sweden, are artists from the two art academies that are members of STAF: Konstfack, University of Arts, Crafts and Design, and the Royal Institute of Art. This has also been the strategy adopted by Creo Arkitekter, who have created the interior design for STAF’s premises, which, in a natural way, connects the art and the interior design with STAF and its members.
The collection comprises ten works by artists of different ages, generations and genders as well as techniques, expressions and materials. A well-balanced selection of sculptures, drawings, textiles and paintings, the works have been picked to complement and comment on the activities in the location, the functions and the interior design of the spaces.
Birgitta has combined planning and intuition in the work with the design of the collections and has paid great attention to the condition of the spaces, their symbolic value and the people who work in them. She describes her process as a wide-spanning collection of impressions, materials and information garnered from the site, which have then been compiled and given their form in the art she has selected.
“I want to contribute something akin to a key,” Birgitta explains. “Something that gives rise to thoughts about how things relate to one another, what they evoke in one another.”
Birgitta’s working process is methodically intuitive and she constantly re-assesses her ideas to avoid getting stuck in habitual patterns.
For the collection at STAF she has worked with newly acquired art as well as works from the Public Art Agency Sweden’s collection and installed them in such a manner that they will interact with the site and the environment, as well as with one another. Birgitta’s working process is methodically intuitive and she constantly re-assesses her ideas to avoid getting stuck in habitual patterns. She has a plan but it is not written in stone. She tests, moves things around, contemplates… Where is the focus, how do people move in the space?
From STAF’s entrance, Mamma Andersson’s rya rug is visible on a back wall at the furthest end of the corridor. Close up, one notices the marvellous craft that characterises the rug, executed by the Märta Måås-Fjetterström Studio, and the colour fields that appear to be completely abstract. From a distance, however, the motif, a close-up of a woman, appears. The rya rug by Mamma Andersson is the work that has elicited most interest from the staff at STAF. They perceive it as exciting, beautiful and somewhat provocative and challenging: “[It is] a work that provokes ideas about how and by whom female genitalia should be portrayed,” one of them says.
In the corridor one catches a glimpse of the artworks hanging in the workrooms, and in the canteen and the lounge there are groups of works that both relate to each other and to the environment. On the canteen wall there are two works; one by Jan Manker, Myra (Ant), and a print by Pierre Olofsson, Möte (Encounter). The two artists, born in 1941 and in 1921, represent two different generations and are also different in style. Jan Manker’s art frequently presents the viewer with riddles and brain-teasers, which may also be the case here. The canvas features an ant in two parts, with a long, sharp shadow, against a backdrop that goes from grey-green to an even-toned pink, a background that does not provide any clue as to how to interpret the pictorial space. Lacking reference points, the ant appears to be either gigantic or microscopic, completely in line with Manker’s way of questioning and exploring the boundaries of perception. Olofsson’s work, in turn, reflects the artist’s idiom with a touch of concretism, 1950s modernism – the motif’s circular colour fields cutting through each other in a perpetual pattern.
Three women artists are gathered in the lounge. In addition to Mamma Andersson’s rya rug, there are two sculptures, one by Ingrid Olsson and one by Anna Fjällbäck. The two sculptures are placed together. They share a pedestal and play with wood as a material. Ingrid Olsson’s tall, strict Vinterträd (Winter Tree), in white stoneware, extends upwards, while Anna Fjällbäck’s Mutanti colourfully and playfully spreads its tufted branches. The two sculptures share the feature of growing, as a metaphor for students’ development through learning.
The collection encounters the people who work at STAF in their everyday life, and Birgitta has, throughout the work process, striven to anchor the collection with them. She explains, discusses and assesses, in order to identify art that feels natural in the premises and the context so it can become a natural element of STAF. As part of her work, Birgitta gives a guided tour of the art for the staff when the collection has been installed. At this point, she explains her ideas and method of working with the collection, and more importantly, she attempts to provide keys to the staff to help them discover and explore the art. The important thing is not that everyone should find the art aesthetically beautiful but that it arouses interest, curiosity and creates discussions.
She points out small, subtle details in the works, which may not be immediately apparent. Such as the tiny, tufted eyes on one side of Anna Fjällbäck’s Mutanti, which, at first sight, do not stand out but which, with repeated viewing, provide the sculpture with a new dimension of humanity.