Leif Elggren — Macula Lutea


Leif Elggren was born in Linköping, anno domini 1950. As a young man he wanted, by all his heart, to study at an aesthetic gymnasium in order to improve his drawing skills. But his parents would not allow it, so he began studying the technical program. It was four years containing all that is adolescence ascribed but, come Friday, there was suddenly time for drawing. Since 1977, Elggren has conducted a close study of the relationship between two extremes in terms of colour: black and yellow. Before then, it was the white that responded to the black when they met on paper in the drawings. But these expressions did not contain any real colour, and this he wanted to get away from, taking another decision and a launch in a new direction. According to Elggren, white was eventually changed to yellow, which is the brightest colour. The human being perceives the sun’s light as yellow, despite the fact that it would be seen as white from space, because the particles of the atmosphere pollute the sun’s actual light scale.

We know black as the darkest of colours; a colour that has historically symbolized death and the night in contrast to the life-giving daylight as well as the rays of the sun. The truth, however, is that few people have seen the colour black for real. In nature, black is usually a mixture of colours with blue as a base. By time, black objects fade by sunlight or is washed and gets a grey-blue or brown tone. Nevertheless, NASA has recently developed a material for space research that absorbs 99% of all light and therefore is perceived as completely black.

Twice articulated, the black and the yellow arose as Elggren began working with them. Poisonous plants and insects often carry these colours to signal danger to predators and as to say: swallowing me is not worth it. The evolutionary phenomenon is called aposematism. The colour scheme of the wasp causes most people to flinch rather than waving them off like it was a simple fly, as would be the natural thing to do. Thus, harmless species also have developed what is termed mimicry. The hoverfly mimics the wasp’s yellow-black pattern in order to obtain the equivalent deterrent effect, hence escaping predators.

Elggren wanted to embrace the black and yellow. This desire grew and during strolls he began seeing the patterns: perfectly triangular warning signs for icicles, live rails or ongoing construction work were marked with tape displaying this colour combination. How come mankind, just like wasps or exotic plants, urged caution by using these colours? Who had decided it? Is it universally human? The dialogue between the said desire and the reality suddenly came together. He began to photograph the patterns and thought to himself, that it must be he himself who had produced them. Should he sign the tape and the warning signs? No, to grab the public space does not suit Elggren. No signature is needed for the universally human. It can belong to someone as well as to all of us. To play with the roles via their own perception, alongside that, that is not patented or acquired.

The study of the black and the yellow together with the boundary between them continued. The dark versus the bright. Like an aging medieval monk at the pulpit, it proceeded. But over time, the boundary began to blur, the eyes could no longer maintain living up to the sharp line in the painting. The macula lutea, the”yellow spot”, that does not make up more than 2,5 millimetres of the retina, renders most of the colours we discern. No exact causes to problems with the macula lutea and its function have been established. However, Elggren has got it. His study of the sharp contrasts between black and yellow has suddenly resulted in something else. The reality that previously surprised with the familiar evolutionary, universally human patterns, was studied to the gentle degree that reality spoke up. A phenomenon called drusen occurs. Everyone gets it in the end, but those who are hit extra hard by it get a considerable accumulation of these dots that affect the eye’s perception of reality. To stare at Elggren’s paintings consisting of the impeccable lines between the colours strikes the eyes noticeably, after just five minutes. What would not, at least 40 years, do?

Accordingly, the next study deals with how the boundary has been dissolved and the possibilities that originate when the colours are mixed. Elggren does not paint with NASA’s deep- black colour so consequently the black tint based on most of the dark colours, is mixed up in exciting ways with the yellow. For a while he painted wearing polarized sunglasses to bridge the distance betwixt the colours and thereby outwit the drus. The study has continued since 1977 with a master’s patience and has only in recent years changed fundamentally. But it’s not over yet.

Valter Sydén, March 2019


Leif Elggren (born 1950, Linköping, Sweden), is a Swedish artist who lives and works in Stockholm. Active since the late 1970s, Leif Elggren has become one of the most constantly surprising conceptual artists to work in the combined worlds of audio and visual. Together with artist Carl Michael von Hausswolff, he is a founder of the Kingdoms of Elgaland-Vargaland (KREV) where he enjoys the title of King. Elggren spent five years at the Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm, specializing in drawing, design and bookprinting. In the late ‘70s he began to associate with performance groups, meeting people like Hausswolff and Thomas Liljenberg. With the latter he formed Firework in 1978, a duo that put up exhibitions and performances. Around the same time he purchased a press and started to publish art books. In 1988 he formed the duo Guds Söner (The Sons of God) with Kent Tankred, whom he had met four years earlier. The duo excels in creating long, puzzling stage performances that give equal roles to physical action (or inaction) and soundtrack (live or taped) with themes such as violence, love, the quotidian, food and royalty. Together with Hausswolff, Elggren represented Sweden in the Nordic Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2001 (with Tommi Grönlund and Petteri Nisunen from Finland and Anders Tomren from Norway).

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Shapes and Bodies


GAN, Gösta Adrian-Nilsson
Julia Bondesson
Michael Rupini
Przemek Pyszczek
Hilde Retzlaff
Julius Göthlin
Malin Gabriella Nordin

English below

GAN, Gösta Adrian-Nilsson, 1884-1965 är en av de mest betydande svenska modernisterna. Inspirerade av tyska Der Sturm-konstnärer under sin tid i Berlin och senare av de franska kubisterna, främst vännen Fernand Léger under sin Parisperiod, utvecklade han ständigt sitt arbete och skapade en egen stil, där allt mer abstrakta uttryck mötte teknik och maskulinitet. Han porträtterade ofta machomän, sjöman, militärer och atleter, motiv ur en egen erotisk längtan och som en slags protestkonst i en tid då homosexualitet var förbjudet.
I utställningen visar vi två av GANs tidiga verk, akvarellerna Tahiti, från 1917 och Marin Français från 1922. Båda akvarellerna avbildar sjömän, badande i geometriska former och figurer.

Med GANs akvareller som utgångspunkt har vi skapat en grupputställning med samtida konstnärer som i sitt utforskande arbete snuddar vid GANs uttryck. Verken berör upp GANs arbete formalistiskt eller metodiskt.

Julia Bondesson (född 1983) arbetar med skulpturer i trä och med performance. Bondesson är utbildad på Kungliga konsthögskolan och i Thailand, Japan och Taiwan i träskulptur och dockteater. Hennes skulpturer som ofta visar kroppar och kroppsdelar av människor och djur är laddade med skönhet, känslighet och inte sällan en viss brutalitet.

Michael Rupini (född 1975) är utbildad på Konstfack och arbetar både med performance, skulpturer och måleri med en grund i såväl automatisk skrift som rave-kultur. Hans verk är laddade med energi och expressivitet. I målningarna i utställningen har han utgått från GANs färgställningar och uttryck.

Przemek Pyszczek (född 1985 i Polen) arbetar med skulpturer och reliefer som tar sin grund i en östeuropeisk arkitektur och estetik. Med starka färger och geometriska former påminner skulpturerna ofta om dekonstruerade lekplatser i klara toner. Till utställningen har han skapat en ny väggrelief i pastelltoner med referenser till Bauhaus och kubism.

Hilde Retzlaff (född 1990) är utbildad på Konstfack och Kungliga konsthögskolan och arbetar skulpturalt och med väggverk i olika funna material som sammanfogas eller beabetas till nya verk med en egen mytologi. I utställningen inkluderas en skulptur i betong ur ”Logogram”, en serie skulpturer gjutna med packmaterial som form.

Julius Göthlin (född 1984) arbetar främst med måleri, med ett arbetssätt där han söker eliminera konstnärens hand från verket och låta materialet ha sin egen expressiva process. Ofta låter han materialet manipulera duken och skapa organiska uttryck, där urvalsprocessen är en del i tillblivandet. Till utställningen har han skapat en serie målningar där den blå färgen i GANs akvareller är grunden för abstrakta akrylmålningar. Göthlin är utbildad på Kungliga konsthögskolan.

Malin Gabriella Nordin (född 1988) är utbildad i Bergen, Norge. Hennes måleri utgår från färger och former och hon skapar collage och målningar, liksom verk i textil och skulpturer. Hennes arbete utgår från känslor och hur känslor och former samverkar.

Shapes and bodies 23.02.19-23.03.19

GAN, Gösta Adrian-Nilsson, 1884-1965, is one of the most important Swedish modernists. Inspired by the German Der Sturm artists during his time in Berlin and later by the French cubists, primarily Fernand Léger during his time in Paris, he constantly developed his artistic work and created a style of his own, where an increasingly abstract expression met technology and masculinity. He often portrayed macho men, sailors, military men and athletes, motives stemming from his own erotic desires and as a kind of protest art in a time when homosexuality was illegal.
In the exhibition two of GAN’s earlier works are on display, the watercolours Tahiti, from 1917 and Marin Français from 1922. Both watercolours depict sailors, bathing in geometric shapes and figures.

With GAN’s watercolours as a starting point we have created a group show with contemporary artists whose explorations touches the expressions of GAN. The works touches upon GAN’s work, formalistically or methodically.

Julia Bondesson (born 1983) works with wood sculptures and performance. Bondesson attended the Royal Insititute of Art and is also educated in wood sculpting and puppetry in Thailand, Japan and Taiwan. Her sculptures, often depicting bodies and body parts of humans and animals are charged with beauty and often a certain level of brutality.

Michael Rupini (born 1975) is educated at Konstfack, University of Arts, Craft and Design. He works with performance, sculpture and painting, with a departing point in automatic writing and rave culture. His works are charged with energy and expressions. His paintings in the exhibition are based on the colours and expressions of GAN’s watercolours.

Przemek Pyszczek (born 1985 in Poland) works with sculptures and reliefs founded on Eastern European architecture and aesthetics. With strong colours and geometric shapes, the sculptures often bring to mind deconstructed playgrounds in clear colours. For the exhibition he has created a new relief in pastel tones, with Bauhaus and cubist references.

Hilde Retzlaff (born 1990) is educated at Konstfack, University of Arts, Craft and Design and the Royal Institute of Art. She works sculpturally and with two-dimensional works in various found materials, processed into new works with their own mythology. In the exhibition a sculpture from the series “Logogram” is shown. Logogram 1 is cast in concrete, using packing material as a mould.

Julius Göthlin (born 1984) primarily works with painting, with methods where he aims to eliminate the hand of the artist from the work and allows for the material to have their own expressive process. He often lets the material manipulate the canvas and create organic expressions where selection is part of the creation. For the exhibition he has created a series of paintings where the blue colour in GAN’s watercolours is the foundation for abstract acrylic paintings. Göthlin is educated at the Royal Institute of Art.

Malin Gabriella Nordin (born 1988) is educated in Bergen, Norway. Her paintings start from the exploration of shapes and colours, and she works with collage and paintings as well as works in textile and sculptures. Her work uses emotions and how emotions and shapes consociates as a starting point.

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”Art is in our DNA, and we strive to redefine the role that art fills in a hotel. On January 30, we take another step in this endeavor, opening up Gallery At Six. In partnership with Belenius, we will highlight some of the most prominent artists of the contemporary art scene in Sweden. Doing so, we wish to build an ongoing narrative for guests and Stockholmers alike, open for all with interest for fine art. We hope that this gallery will become an international platform where Swedish creators are able to find their way abroad. And in contrary to the rest of the hotel, all works are up for sale.

The opening exhibition features a representative selection from Belenius-affiliated artists. The airbrush experiments of Julius Göthlin. The allegorical borderland between sculpture and painting by Karl Norin, photographies by Julia Peirone. Linnea Sjöbergs unconventional weavings and sculptures with performative backgrounds. Hilde Retzlaff with her brutal style in sculpture. Michael Rupini with his automatic writing that leaves you in awe. All of them, excellent examples of artists with a unique expression that we’re proud to have in our hotel.”

Artists on display:
Karl Norin
Linnéa Sjöberg
Julius Göthlin
Julia Peirone
Michael Rupini
Hilde Retzlaff

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Swedish text below

Michael Rupinis’ colourful works might be perceived as consisting of a jumble of letters or symbols, written randomly and lacking the periodic logic of how a book is read with structured lines. It signals and reminds us of the using of tags found in graffiti culture and expression – not least because of his use of airbrush technique. Indeed Rupinis’ personal style is to be understood in the context of graffiti – but as he said himself “it was never meant as graffiti, nor do I come from that tradition”. When graffiti ends up in high end galleries it ceases to be graffiti. Sophistication stands juxtaposed with the very subject of Rupini, nothing is to be refined to fit in posh standards. In his case it concerns a transcendental gesture called automatic writing wherein the hand of the artist gets to work freely over the canvas in a tradition that is above too scientific and overthought artistry. He defies institutions, museums and all exalted objects swimming against the current. The aim of others constitute the anti-thesis of him. The unlucky number 13 inspires Rupini. Advertising, social media and pretending to save the world just for show, for ones’ ego is far from his style. Punk’s not dead. Automatic writing brings back the lost purpose to once again inspire.

Rupini has been involved in fine art for a long period of time, for example participating in performances at the Venice biennale. He went through the backdoor via fine art now showcasing his new works in a different setting and at an intersection of these two. Unravelling the secret of the wordless scribbles the message is to be perceived as a spell of goodwill, as voodoo. We now understand that his scribbling is not chaotic but fixated as a charm or a spell with specific intentions. These spells are carefully woven in and above the layers of colour in the backboard. The voodoo part of it is the intersubjective longing for fixing whatever problem we might have. This wish of goodwill is a welcome counterpart to imminent doom, caused by the greed of man, climate-change and ambition instead of solidarity.

The cargo cult, a cult of seeing the messianic in cargo, found in undeveloped societies living on desolate islands inspires Rupini. A small island constitutes their whole universe, which lead to them having no conception of what fleet cargo is when it’s washed up on their shores. The expression in his using of colour and the automatic writingin the airbrush technique is similar to their natural respect and wonder of objects. The German philosopher Theodor Adorno states in his book Aesthetic Theory that “Art is a promise of happiness that is always being broken”. Perhaps the poignancy of Rupinis’ work hold the magical voodoo to prove Adorno wrong.

Text by Valter Sydén
Translation by Katarina Sjögren
January 2019


Michael Rupinis färgstarka verk kan uppfattas som bestående av ett virrvarr bokstäver och symboler, som nedtecknats på måfå bortom ordningens strukturerade och periodiska logik. De vittnar om hur tags används i graffitikulturen och dess uttryck, inte minst genom hur han använder airbrushtekniken. Rupinis personliga stil skall förstås i en graffitikontext – men med hans egna ord ”det var aldrig menat som graffiti och jag kommer inte från den traditionen”. När graffiti visas inom finkulturella sfärer upphör det att vara graffiti. Här ska inget poleras för att passa in i de tjusiga salongerna, förfiningen står i kontrast med själva syftet hos Rupini. Här handlar det snarare om en transcendental rörelse, en automatisk skrift där konstnärens hand fritt får spelrum över duken i en tradition som vida övergår dagens vetenskapliga och intellektualiserade konstutövning. Att gå mot strömmen i dylika sammanhang är att trotsa just det, institutionerna, museerna, det upphöjda och jämna. Det vilket andra siktar mot och vill nå fungerar som antites till hans konstnärskap. Olyckstalet 13 fungerar exempelvis som inspiration för Rupini. Reklam, sociala medier och att rädda världen för syns skull blir inaktuellt eftersom man ändå inte kan lasta honom för den typen av egocentrerat självförverkligande. Punken är inte död. Normen har lagts på soptippen och formaterats om så att materialet kan födas på nytt utan att vara påtvingat, och i denna automatiska skrift återfås syftet i konsten att stå för någonting som inspirerar.

Rupini har varit involverad i konstscenen under en lång tid, han har till exempel medverkat i performanceverk på Venedigbiennalen. Han gick bakvägen via konsten och visar nya verk i en annan miljö och i ett möte mellan de två sammanhangen. Genom hemligheterna i den ordlösa massan höjs de upp som en trollformel av välvilja, likt voodoo. Hans textklotter är inte kaotiskt, utan fixerat som en slags amulett eller förtrollning med specifika intentioner. De är noggrant invävda i och över färglagren. Voodoon är hos Rupini del av den intersubjektiva längtan att överbrygga ondska. Det spirituella budskapet av välvilja är välkommet som en motkraft mot förestående undergång, orsakat inte bara av människans girighet, klimatförändringar eller förödande krig utan också vår ambition att klå medmänniskan istället för att visa solidaritet.

Cargokulten återfunnet hos vissa folk i söderhavsöarna som lever ovetande om resterande mänskligt liv och som ser messianska budskap materialiserade i last (på engelska ”cargo”) inspirerar Rupini. En liten ö kan utgöra deras totala universum, vilket leder till att de förundras och bokstavligen dyrkar dessa omvärldens rester som spolas upp på stranden. Uttrycket i färgerna och den automatiska skriften i airbrushtekniken hos Rupini tangerar denna naturliga respekt för föremål genom hans konst. Den tyske filosofen Theodor Adorno uttrycker i sin bok ”Estetisk teori” att ”konst är ett löfte om lycka som alltid bryts”. Kanske bär Rupinis verk den magiska potens som motbevisar Adorno.

Text av Valter Syden
Översättning av Katarina Sjögren
Januari 2019


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