Peter Hagdahl Energy, Mass, Gravitation

29 September 2018 2 December 2018

Main hall, Färgfabriken

In the autumn of 2018, Färgfabriken is exhibiting a monumental installation by the artist Peter Hagdahl. In a poetic way, the artwork represents the complex flows of contemporary society and also touches upon fundamental existential questions.

Throughout his artistic career, Hagdahl has explored contemporary phenomena, often utilizing new technology. His artistry raises many of the same questions that Färgfabriken are concerned with in the project Expanded Societies, which has been ongoing since 2016 and discusses how digital technology affects our lives.

This new installation unites the digital and physical worlds in a visually intricate weave. The installation Energy, Mass, Gravitation presented at Färgfabriken combines various media such as painting, moving images, text, sculpture and Readymade; generating a transference between different forms of representation and reality. In this manner, Hagdahl visualizes our world that is divided between a digital and physical reality. An associative chain of events represents the flow of information and images that bombards us constantly. Hagdahl describes his process as both intuitive and planned: ”The confluence of the different elements reveals connections and consistencies that I occasionally predicted, occasionally suspected but also ones that surprised me completely. I am interested in what happens when you create these meeting points between shapes, images and words.”

Photo Jean Baptiste Beranger

The artwork creates a room in the exhibition hall where two monumental panels of plexiglass are linked by a floating sculptural system. The structure of this installation makes it impossible to observe the work from one given location. It is however possible to move around the work and view it both from inside and outside of the room; the movements of the viewer can be described as a series of zoom-ins and zoom-outs. ”The specific processes and connections that are triggered by the work, and what effect this will have, depend entirely upon who the viewer is and the context in which the work is shown” says Hagdahl.

Hagdahl’s installation balances, both figuratively and literally, between various connections. These connections take the shape of associations and references, as well as physical wires forming a complex web of objects and images held in equilibrium by different weights.

About the artist

Peter Hagdahl (b.1956) is a Swedish artist based in Stockholm. He studied at the Valand School of Fine Arts in Gothenburg. Previously he taught at The Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm, where he was Professor of Fine Arts with a specialization in New Media. Hagdahl has likewise performed research at The Department of Computer and Systems Sciences at Stockholm University and MejanLabs. Today he combines his artistic practice with a role as Curator at The Public Art Agency of Sweden. Hagdahl’s work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally, and he is also represented in the prestigious collection of Moderna Museet in Stockholm. Färgfabriken has previously shown works by Peter Hagdahl in the group shows Levitation (2009) in Östersund as well as The Expanded Book (2003) in Stockholm.

Further reading

A conversation between Joachim Granit and Peter Hagdahl before the exhibition Energy, Mass, Gravitation at Färgfabriken.

Peter and I sit in Färgfabriken’s cafe recapitulating the late 80’s. We discuss different trends and directions in art development from then onwards. It was a different art scene back then, and now more than 30 yers have passed. How has art evolved and above all, what is Peter interested in today? As an artist, he began with painting, sculpture and installation, but was one of the first in his generation to quickly adopt the new digital technologies in the 90’s. He began to explore digital imaging, programming and even robotics as an artistic expression, where he saw opportunities to move beyond painting; an opportunity to explore different systems and other worlds.

In his latest exhibitions, Peter in a sense has orientated himself back again by working “analogously” again. Brush and color interact with digital expressions. In this exhibition at Färgfabriken, Peter shows images on large sheets of plexiglas joint in sections. The result is two giant images, where paint, drawings and video projections create intricate fragments and complex image puzzles. As observers we are encouraged  to make associations and create our own interpretations. Nevertheless, let’s listen to Peter’s own words and comments, which can give us some keys to this suggestive world of information, where the hand by means of drawing and paint meets fragmented information from the internet.

“I have always been interested in art as information. Characters, symbols, flow charts and collages. The images I now show at Färgfabriken are sprung from two different themes. For example, in one of the big images there is a flower that symbolises seduction and lure, you are drawn to it like a bee. It concerns the individual and the specific, my emotional life, both biologically and mentally. The different characters and symbols are components that represent different aspects within me.”

“The second image has an outlock from my horizon, towards the world. It concerns major events and processes in the world; the physical-material, the political, the social … The paintings have evolved for quite some time – it has taken at least a year to make them. That time is seen in the pictures, where I leave traces from the first drafts. I’m not  concerned that attempts and failures from the artistic process become visible. Sometimes I remove them, when they don’t feel relevant anymore. 

It has always been crucial for me to do all the steps of the artistic work myself, whether it’s painting, sculpture, complex digital processes or robots. It’s about controlling the artistic expression, but also about artistic curiosity of working with a material, even if it’s a computer program. To me, the selfmade – to not outsource work – is an artistic resistance act, increasingly important today when we have so little control and knowledge of materials and technology.”

“I take an interest in the conflict between the stable and the perishable. That is why I insert video streams that add a time-dimension to the paintings. In mental processes there is always something beyound ourselves that affects us. One of the animations was particularily fun to do, the one that is climbing around the internet looking for news. It then reads the news and tries to understand if they are good or bad. Then it sends out a Yes or No. A rather stupid intelligence really, perhaps similar to how one can perceive existence. I want to add an element of time, ‘a here and now’.”

Download the exhibition handout.

Färgfabriken’s ongoing project Expanded Societies hosts various seminars and exhibitions that discuss how digitization affects our lives.

Färgfabriken has previously presented works by Peter Hagdahl in the group exhibition Levitation (2009) in Östersund.