Sigrid Sandström

Sigrid Sandström

Fellow: Awarded 2008
Field of Study: Fine Arts

Competition: US & Canada

Bard College

It has been a nomadic existence for Swedish artist Sigrid Sandström—an undergraduate degree from Academie Minerva in The Netherlands; a year as an exchange student at Cooper Union School of Art and Architecture in New York; graduate studies at Yale School of Art in 1999; and a year spent in the Core Residency Program at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas. But it was a 2001 Alice Kimball English Traveling Award from Yale University that allowed her to undertake a research trip to Greeenland and Iceland to explore the desolate landscapes that have come to feature so prominently in her work.  This abiding interest in these barren places led to the publication of her book Grey Hope: The persistence of melancholy (Atopia Projects, 2006) and for which she was awarded a grant from the Barbro Osher Foundation.  In 2008 she received a Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters and Sculptors grant.

Ms. Sandström’s work has been recognized by art institutions around the world and led Naomi Fry to write in ArtForum (December 2007) that the paintings "teeter on the verge of abstraction, the interplay between a more traditional naturalism and geometric fragmentation provides a salient tension."  This dialogical approach to making work has resulted in her exhibiting extensively nationally and internationally with one-person exhibitions at Inman Gallery, Houston (2002, 2004, 2006, 2008), Galleri Gunnar Olsson, Stockholm (2003, 2004, 2007), Galleri Thomas Wallner, Malmö, Sweden (2008), as well as at the Edward Thorp Gallery in New York (2007).  In addition she has had a major solo exhibition at the Frye Art Museum in Seattle (2006), for which a catalogue was published.  Ms. Sandström’s work has also been exhibited at art institutions around the world from the Contemporary Art Museum in Houston, to the Corridor in Reykjavik, Iceland, to Tokyo Opera City Gallery in Japan.  Moreover, Ms. Sandström’s work is included in the permanent collections of the Moderna Museet in Stockholm; the Museum of Fine Arts Houston; Ulrich Museum of Art in Wichita, Kansas; and the Yale University Art Gallery, among others.

Sigrid Sandström is currently an assistant professor at Bard College and has previously been a visiting artist at Massachusetts College of Art (2003-05).  She has also lectured at Boston University, Brandeis University, Maryland Art Institute, Mills College of Art, Princeton University, Royal University, Maryland Art Institute, Mills College of Art, Princeton University, Royal University College of Art in Stockholm, and  Southern Methodist University.


"A studious blind man who had mightily beat his head…to understand those names of light and colours…betrayed one day that he now understood what scarlet signified. Upon which, his friend demanded what scarlet was?  The blind man answered, it was like the sound of a trumpet."

-John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, 1690

My art practice is engaged with how space—specifically landscape—is understood as a concept, a physical site and as an emotional experience.  The complexity of spatial awareness has led my practice to take a variety of forms, with the mediums used varying from project to project.  Most recently I have used film, video, sculpture/installation, and painting.  However, I primarily see myself as a painter.  In painting, one is confronted with an already reduced, abstracted reality (2D instead of 3D), which can be utilized as a tool to dissect and reconsider what kind of space I want to engage in.  The medium itself (liquid paint) also allows me to slow down my thinking according to the speed of the actual paint application creating a process that is patient and stubborn, waiting for the right moment when things fall into place.  Yet as much as this process is amorphous I rigidly edit which I slowly resolve towards clarity.

My fascination with the actual experiences of a place, be it in real life or constructed in my painting, also incorporates the components that enable this experience.  The different aspects that contribute to the experience of a place, such as one’s memory, perceptual senses, cultural heritage, as well as its climate and geography are all crucial for me as inspirations and remain influential to my painting practice.

Recently these interests have provoked me to work with issues around property ownership.  This deeply rooted, yet mildly absurd desire to claim stake and own a part of the earth’s surface is truly fascinating to me.  Ownership requires commitment, demands loyalty, and yet the yearning to dwell speaks of an urge for safety or of an arrival after an erratic journey.

In my work I have often included what can be characterized as ambiguous signifiers.  Lately black flags have figured in the paintings and in the video work.  The incidences of these in the work have a pronounced intentional sense but its capacity to signify is left somewhat uncertain:  referencing, for instance, both the flags used to mark food deposits in polar exploration and the black flag of anarchism.  In a way, this process can be seen as an idiosyncratic re-alignment where rationality is not resolved nor is it necessarily the final destination.  I can ask myself: "In what way can a forest be melancholic?" And just like in John Locke’s assertion that the sound of a trumpet is like the color red, I can understand that meaning and sense can be separated.  Locke’s ability to suggest a generalized synaesthesia (the condition where the senses transgress upon one another, e.g., seeing sounds) concurs with my approach to create work about the experience of an attitude towards landscape.  This approach insures it retains a sense of objectless longing, but with a direction—that of arrival. 


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