Interview with Gunilla Klingberg

KLINGBERG rice gallery

Gunilla Klingberg
Wheel of Everyday Life
January 31 – March 17, 2013
Commission, Rice University Art Gallery, Houston, Texas
Photo: Nash Baker ©

Gunilla Klingberg has transformed Rice Gallery, from the building’s entrance to the interior of the gallery, with her signature radiating patterns. The installation, the latest in her series called Brand New View, opens tonight, but I have been watching the artwork grow gradually over the past week as I walked through Sewall Hall on my way to class. Curious about the design, I asked Klingberg for an interview and she generously agreed, even in the midst of install.

Rachel Hooper: How did you decide to continue the Brand New View series here in Houston? Does location play a role in determining the symbols and patterns in your installation?

Gunilla Klingberg: I made a site visit to Houston and Rice Gallery two years ago. Making a new pattern in that series specifically for Rice seemed really interesting, both in terms of how I experienced the city landscape, with its strong presence of billboards and signs, as well as the very significant gallery architecture, located inside the university building. Then I got the idea of letting the pattern grow by extending it from the gallery space out to the foyer space and meandering up the windows, to emphasize the viral aspect of the pattern. I like the fact that the foyer area also is a passage, there is no way to escape the pattern but one is forced to walk on it.

RH: Bold tone and pattern are really strong in your installation. How did you decide on the color for the Rice installation? Were you thinking of a specific mood or message? Is there a hierarchy of forms in the pattern itself?

GK: The center is the starting point when I begin to create the pattern, but all circles have the same value. For this work at Rice, I wanted the pattern to merge into the space and floor as much as possible, and also to have a significant contrast.Black felt natural against the grey floor, and makes the pattern a bit more abstract.

RH: Yes, it seems that through repetition the logos and brand names in your work become more about patterns and shapes than specific meanings.Would you say there is a possibility for transcendence in your work, a sense of rising above the everyday world from which your imagery is drawn?

GK: I am interested in images used for spiritual guidance, like the Buddhist/Hindu mandala, a cosmological diagram used in meditation. My patterns consist of everyday Western street iconography and become images of how our daily rhythm of commonplace activities blends with advertising, which enters deep into our lives, homes and minds. The title for this specific work is Wheel of Everyday Life—maybe it is possible to turn even the most ordinary rituals into something spiritual.

RH: Yet there is an egalitarian aspect to the logos. Andy Warhol had this great quote about Coke, “You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it and you know it.”

GK: The logos I use for my patterns are all taken from discount supermarkets or gas stations, etc., things around the corner that are not glamorous. They represent brands we do not identify with, brands that are instead a part of our everyday doings and rituals. The logos, as well as the shops, are big chains that look more or less the same all over the world, and often even have the same owners everywhere. The logos link us all together. And they are a link between our public and private spheres, maybe even to the collective unconscious.

Photo: Nash Baker ©

Photo: Nash Baker ©

Gunilla Klingberg was born in Stockholm, Sweden, where she studied sculpture at Konstfack (University College of Arts, Crafts, Design) and magazine and newspaper design at RMI-Berghs. She has had solo exhibitions in museums and galleries throughout Europe, including ARCO (2008), the 10th Istanbul Biennial (2007) and recently in Philagrafika: The Graphic Unconscious (2010) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Largescale public commissions include the Triangeln Railway Station (2010) in central Malmö, Sweden and the Nye Akershus Hospital (2008) in Norway. In 2010, Klingberg received the Edstrandska Foundation Award and a five-year working grant from The Swedish Visual Arts Fund. She lives and work in Stockholm. She is represented by Galerie Nordenhake, Stockholm and Berlin.

Rachel Hooper is an art critic and curator who writes a blog on Glasstire. She is currently a PhD student in art history and Humanities Research Center fellow at Rice University.
Gunilla Klingberg
Wheel of Everyday Life
On view through March 17, 2013
Artist talk at Rice Gallery Friday, February 1 at 12:00 noon. A complimentary light lunch will be provided to all who attend. No reservations are necessary.

also by Rachel Hooper

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