Ordinary surroundings and everyday life has been a rich thematic source for artists over the centuries, from prehistoric cave paintings to contemporary art. Karin Laaja’s artistic design for the end facade of the new operations centre for Trafikverket (the Swedish Transport Administration) in Ånge springs from this poignant thematic category. From out of the many events and potential motifs available in the surroundings, Karin Laaja has focused on a group that rarely captivates contemporary artists.
We have all seen, and perhaps even been part of, the groups of adolescent boys gathered round the local hot dog stand, pizzeria or train station. These gangs are often associated with rural villages where there is not much else to do than to take one’s moped down to the usual meeting place and hang out with the lads. Although this phenomenon is by no means restricted to the countryside but also occurs in cities, it has come to be epitomised by places such as Ånge. And it isn’t the lack of things to do, or the specific location, that is the root cause of these groups and meeting places, but a more basic need for company and a sense of community.
Karin Laaja has chosen to depict her subject in an almost documentary style. Based on observations of countless situations in different places, she delivers a work that is a summarised interpretation. Despite her desire to penetrate and understand the world she depicts, she remains an observer, without direct access to it. This distance to the subject, and the fact that it is a rare subject in art lends a veritably exotic feel to the work, but it can also be seen as a lyrical tribute to a very ordinary element in our surroundings and the young men in particular.