Home as an idea, symbol of identity and location links together Therese Szateks and Sofia Tolis exhibitions at the Stockholm Gallery SPG. Szatek makes views of rooms she has lived in, both as a child and an adult, and makes careful drawings of these for her meaning-bearing angles and spaces. A strong presence of memories are evident in light tunnels, under the table and behind the fluttery curtains.
In the interior rooms Sofia Tolis has built the surrealist installation "The remnants of the home as memory streams" with sounds and sculptures in wood and textile materials. In the sound installations she is in dialogue with her father, a Greek writer. Tolis herself is a poet, but the father's obsessed writing during childhood resulted in absence. The installation leads into a young woman's brain, with dreams and needs, shortcomings and desires. Crocheted birds appear in the exhibition as symbols of the escape and freedom of the mind.
On the evening of March 19, Sofia Tolis has her own reading in the gallery, along with the poets Marie Lundquist, Marie Silkeberg and Ann Hallström.
There are still a few days left at one of the more successful double exhibitions right now. Exhibiting two artists in the same gallery rooms often poses some challenges, and it is not always easy to handle this in an optimal way. Compromises and accompanying drainings of the overall impression are always a risk. But Sofia Tolis and Therese Szatek are two artists who work exceptionally well together, without the feeling that they have had to adapt each other's expressions or selection of works.
Sofia Tolis is based on the personal sphere too, more specifically the relationship with her writing Greek father, and the absence that his creative work brings to the outside world. Tolis' accuracy in the management of the language and the objects and her slow transformation of the motives, make my mind go to a filmmaker as Theo Angelopoulos. You get the impression that something irreversible has happened, that a shadow is available between the family members and prevents their communication. The classical purity and virgin symbols from the Greek world are there, the white linen, the crocheted laces are in place, but the mirror has broken from edge to edge. Now, the laborious effort remains, to seek through the language and the objects to regain confidence in her own ability to create a new way through life.
Anders Olofsson Info, to the text ---
Sofia Tolis is an artist and also a poet. Her works is often about her own experiences where the personal essence of it is balanced within the framework of being private.
In previous works she has been exploring existential issues such as language's relation to human aging, sexuality and religious fundamentalism. Whether she works with text-based art, photographs, installations or textile sculptures, she strives to expose the subject's inner being.
She has the ability and ambition to combine and unit different expressions without any rewriting.
The exhibition "But why dost thou shriek so loud?" has its starting point in the nostalgia concept and is about a strong longing for the father, a longing characterized by the death of Tolis’ Greek father, who died recently. Pegasos, the winged horse of Greek mythology, which since ancient times has been associated with poetic inspiration, becomes the center point for everything, in a heaven somewhere, in the border between dream and reality.
Sofia Tolis (born 1968), with education at Konstfack 1993-1999 as well as at the Nordic Writing School Biskops Arnö 1990-1991 and 2002-2003, is of Swedish and Greek descent. She has shown her exhibitions at the Skulpturens Hus in Stockholm and Röda Sten in Gothenburg. Her poetry is published in literary magazines such as OEI, Lyrikvännen and Ordfront magazine.
I always visit Gallery Candyland with great excitement. Here you often meet artists who work experimentally and really seriously, often without any clear commercial intentions. This applies to Sofia Tolis and her exhibition Anatomie de ma mère (My mother's Anatomy).
Immediately to the left when I enter the gallery, I meet a form that I first perceive as an instrument similar to the maraccas. But when I look closer I see eyeballs, eyes of crocheted yarn, picked out of their eyelids. They stare straight at me. Next to them, a big form is hanging from the ceiling, a form that you want to examine from underneath. It has the shape of a human brain, built of crocheted loops, which are twisted in and out next to each other in a complex way. After a while I see that the other sculptures in the room also are parts of the human being. And of course, the exhibition has the title "My Mom's Anatomy".
The material, time and slowness are important components of Sofia Tolis creation process. She choses such unusual materials as yarn and fabric to shape into sculptures. That means a way of working that requires time and patience to achieve the expression she intends to create. The exhibition, which is personal and singular, is carefully done with a sense of warmth and life. Lovely to see an artist so carefully and disciplined carries out an idea.
[...] The exhibition is inventive and socially critical and refers to literature sometimes, and sometimes to the artist's most private mirrors, landscapes, memories and values. The heart will grow of dreams, according to the swedish poet Bo Bergman. Otherwise, the heart is poor. Something like this he writes, and that may be right. But the heart should have something to say too. Otherwise, it is just as poor. Well, this exhibition says a lot. The approaches are many. [...]
Sofia Tolis shows two artworks. The first one consists of dress straps, fabric strips and buckles on a big board, systematically mounted, side by side around the grandmother's life. The other one consists of nurse aprons, white braces with buttons and seductively ironed slits, pockets and chest pads, and in the middle of the board where the fabric is attached towards the center: a picture of the poet Edith Södergran. The former artwork exudes a kind of safety from the clothes of a beloved person. The other artwork is to associate with a clinical purity, a strict correctness, but also disease and premature death, and the white, scattered parts of the apron are similar to a safety blown in pieces.
Sofia Tolis insects (color paintings) are inspired by the Swiss psychiatrist Rorschach's famous ink plump test, which is about irregular forms, that can make us associate with incidents and feelings. Sofia Tolis' own ink plumps made her remember a dream characterized of fear that dark forces would take over. Unpleasant insects were occupying her room. But with the help of magic and fire, she managed to ward them away.
The light - symbol of change
Today, the opening of Sofia Tolis' exhibition takes place at Frosbacka bruk. "Texts in Space" is the name of the exhibition that deals with creation in general and Sylvia Plath in particular.
The exhibition, taking place in Blåsmaskin with its tall bare stone walls, consists of both pictures, sound, texts and video. In the first big room a suite of drawings is hanging, titled from Sylvia Plath's poems. The drawings, in which the same motive return in a few different ways, has got appearances of film sheets or slide projections, as they hang loose against the coarse stone walls. Their physical appearance is prominent in the room, as well as their expression of deficiency and fragments. For example: a drawing of a nursery room where three beds have names, first Sylvia, then her two children Nicholas and Frieda. Present in his absence is the husband Ted Hughes. A soundtrack in the background goes on and on with a fragment from a poem: "When I fell out of the light", words that Sofia Tolis puts together, breaks apart, repeats and pronounces over and over again ... until they finally built a whole sentence.
- I imagine she tasted the words.
Video about creating anguish
In connection to the exhibition [Language is a virus from outer space], a poetry evening was arranged on Saturday night. The four participating poets [Ola Julén, Janus Kodal, Susanne Pettersson and Sofia Tolis] chosed different locations in the exhibition hall, where they wanted to read their poems. Poems that appealed to the art object that hung on that particular spot. Since there are no templates, rules, something right or wrong, and since the four authors own interpretations are the starting point for what they present, it was very exciting to see how they had interpreted their artwork. [...]
The poet and artist Sofia Tolis from Stockholm mixed humor and seriousness in her poems. With a mix of humor and seriousness, one can also consider Lotta Mossum's artwork with wagons and the rolling projection: "Where is my mind". In one of her poems, Sofia Tolis gave voice to an old woman with memory problems. Another of Tolis' poems, the best for the evening, was about the woman whose husband lived under the floor. She laughed so much about this that she ended up at a hospital. Locked up, she got a white rock of cotton to wear until "next time". Out and in, back and forth to hospital, the woman went. A strong poem, humorous and tragic, all at once.
As well as using the language, Sofia Tolis work with images and sculpture. And throughout all her work this can be observed, which of course is not so strange because she has been writing a lot. Prior art higher education she studied at the Writers' School. Linguistic awareness and literary proficiency are prerequisites for her way of working, but one can also say that the writing led her to this creation grip.
What happens to the language when old age overwhelms you? This has been investigated by Tolis, an issue that has become one of her main themes. What happens to the spoken language when memory loss hits? The vocabulary reduces, sometimes basic issues of existence flow out in the language, sexual underflows and religious fundamentalism become visible among the words.
Sofia has previously worked with herself in her artworks, so called self-staging method, in a way that accurately balances between private and personal. What made the strongest impression to me is her pursuit of simplicity and immediacy, and that she constantly avoids to be part of cryptic style exercises.
And she considers the expressions of a person with dementia in a similar way. In one of her artworks she processed an old woman's mumbling monologue by recording it, writing it down and getting it read on tape. This remodeling of a documentary material becomes a clear example of how the form is subordinated the content, and that a fairly neutral representation of what the demented woman actually says works best for the linguistic exploration. But even where Sofia works purely with image, as in her series of photographs from the elderly woman's home, with clothes and belongings that have been arranged at a stage of begining decay, she succeeds to create the same feeling of simplicity and immediacy.
From the old clothes in the photographs, the feelings of subconscious from an increasingly chaotic memory stream out as amazing visions. The result is a kind of reverse fetishism, and she draws the line in front of pornography, a factor that one always have to deal with when biographical material are used. And biography seems to be her method.
Sofia highlights Louise Bourgeois, an aged artist with anoristic mind that in old days neither lost her linguistic string nor sculptural formality. Bourgeois's self-biographical work with stuffed old clothes is reflected in Sofia's photographs, but her own way of staging makes the pictures cut loose and gain own strength. The authentic environment becomes an asset here. The raw coolness of the cooled home comes out of the images and hits you.
I perceive one of Sofia's degree works "Model of a Suffering", as beeing a direct tribute to Bourgeois, while the text collage "A white suit, a debt paid" shows its own way from there, as in the pictures. The artwork made of three cut books, in an exhibition cabinet, that can be thought of as a nightstand as well as a gravestone - can be seen as a didactic model of how the structures of consciousness are running. When you are looking at it and read the words and sentences, with unexpected meetings, you can not escape the feeling of a threatening chaos behind the corner.
As a writer, you write about yourself or others. As an artist, you have basically the same choices, but how to create another person's inner essence without falling into worn expressionist manners? Sofia Tolis has the ability and ambition to solve this, by combining or rather synthesizing language, image and sculpture, and I look forward to more attempts. They can result in something completely new.