Katarina Löfström

Fredrik Liew

Visual stimulus

Fredrik Liew

"I thought about the brilliance of the memories, about the enchanting colour they take on with time, and admired the soul's instinctive work, which eliminates and suppresses everything which lessens its attraction at the moment of the experience. I compared this idealization with the effect of the works of fantasy."
Eugène Delacroix1

At times the world seems unnecessarily palpable. For example, the soft, somewhat misty reality that disappears when I put on my glasses is often more beautiful than the sharp, angular and overly bright world in which I spend most of my waking hours. Not infrequently it proves more interesting, richer than the world seen through my glasses. Without them I can experience things that, strictly speaking, I am not able to see.

In the dreamlike world that Katarina Löfström creates, circles, fields of colour and surfaces merge in a similar, timeless and seemingly infinite land of fantasy, with neither beginning nor end. It seems just as though - when we see her work - we are looking at something that is taking form; as though an image is born again and again in front of our eyes. In other words, Katarina Löfström's work fuses what we see with what becomes visible, what is general (the work itself) with what is private (our sense or thought). But the presence of what is general could never, on its own, produce thought, if it were not for the germinating seed within us - in our presence and participation.

Thus Katarina Löfström addresses her relationship with us as viewers directly: with our vision, our capacity for associating and our imagination. She unites us in something that we cannot express in words, something that is intimate and indivisible. The visible language that she creates through her work - colour, form, sound, repetition, extension in time, surface, rhythm - is naturally of decisive importance to our experience. But her "cinematography" is, in this context, limited in an interesting fashion: in spite of the fact that the image is constantly changing (forms arise, disappear, slide in and out of vision), the "camera" remains fixed in position and passive which, in turn, leads to a similar, restful, almost trancelike vision on the part of the viewer. Even though (or perhaps precisely because) nothing ever really happens in Katarina Löfström's videos, watching their constant transformation is both pleasant and exciting. Just as in a kaleidoscope, the gradual shifts create a meditative focus and are more important than the individual images. After a while we can even close our eyes and continue the image's transformation within ourselves. What is concrete has been completely transformed into thought. Time seems fluid and indefinite. The past, the present and the future exist in parallel - and what is what has fallen outside the artist's control.

In spite of this it is of course entirely possible, in accordance with conventional dogma, to approach Katarina Löfström's work through history and tradition. One can relate her work to modernist painting, to mass culture or to both at once. Works like "Hang Ten Sunset" (2000), "Pan A.M." (2002) or "Whiteout" (2001) have parallel references to design, kitsch, painting and MTV culture - quite simply our everyday world of highbrow/lowbrow images. The starting point for "An Island" (2004) is the Stockholm amusement park Gröna Lund, in reality a world of stress, hubbub and noise but, in Katarina Löfström's work, an oasis of meditative calm. In "Red Light" (2002) she has used a street scene from Uganda as a base for her abstraction. But when we subsequently see a striped T-shirt in a shop window that reminds us of "Hang Ten Sunset", a heavily aestheticised poster for a rock concert that looks like "Pan A.M." or a hyper-modernist abstract painting that reminds us of "An Island", are we then not seeing reality through her works and our imagination?

This matter is not lacking in interest but, against a background of such thoughts and ideas, what specifically fascinates is not the references - playing with history and with the present, the praise (or criticism) - but the result itself. One might argue, ironically and paradoxically, that Katarina Löfström's "impure" (and not even wholly non-figurative) works in the gallery space in a way achieve what so many of modernism's abstract painters, through their purism, have sought to achieve - only better. Liberated from theory and the romanticisation of Art she embodies their dream of narratives in an abstract language of colours and forms that are free to express mystical, spiritual forces and feelings directly without the limiting literalness that characterises representation.

Despite this, I am unwilling to see Katarina Löfström's work as an extension of painting, modernism, minimalism or pop art. Too much definition, as we know, can lead to collective blindness; not unlike the effect caused by directing so much light at something that it almost disappears beneath the illumination. But if we speak of our relationship with her images in terms of "visual concepts"2 we can still elucidate an intellectually progressive meaning in our subjective experience. The term allows us to claim that her art creates conditions which permit, while simultaneously demanding, "that we can understand with our eyes and see with our minds"3. Works that are abstract and based in perception and that primarily make our thoughts soar and liberate our imagination, are tools through which we can imagine something that does not necessarily exist. And the capacity to imagine something non-real by means of something concrete - to be able to see the actual object but also what it represents - is not just one of the finest abilities that we have, it is also essential to understanding and to the generation of new knowledge. We simply cannot strive towards something that we cannot conceive.

1Delacroix Eugène, "The Journal of Eugène Delacroix", Oxford, 1980
2Berefelt Gunnar, "Om Baertling", på www.baertling.com

(text written for the catalogue "Katarina Löfström" 2005)