Rebel of the Swedish People’s Home: Marie-Louise Ekman

Marie-Louise EkmanMarie-Louise Ekman. Photo: Roger Sternberg

“In the IHME Projects life and art are interlinked. Like Kateřina Šedá, the Swedish artist Marie-Louise Ekman also makes visible things that are invisible in everyday life, thus creating a link between her production and the themes of this year’s IHME,” says IHME’s Executive Director Paula Toppila.

Nonconformist politics

Everyday surrealism, humour tinged with absurdity, playing with familiar roles and power relations – Ekman’s production of the ‘70s and ‘80s is still as relevant, and as wilfully playful, as it was at the moment of its inception.

Ekman’s politics is not proclamatory. It is more a matter of rejecting pre-set classifications and definitions, and of uncovering their ambiguity. Furthermore, Ekman succeeds in giving visibility to experiences that are overlooked and nullified – many times those of a woman, and occasionally also of a child.

Ekman’s works remind us that women are often overlooked, not only in everyday situations, but also in the writing of art history. In the screen prints to be seen on the IHME Days Ekman parodies the works of famous male artists. In a pastiche of Giorgio de Chirico she places a woman’s breast on the edge of a metaphysical void, meanwhile, in her adaptation of Sandro Botticelli‘s work Venus is replaced by a little girl.

What do they do at art school?

Ekman has played numerous roles in the Swedish artworld. She is known not only as a visual artist, but also as a dramatist, playwright and director. Besides that she has held top posts in the country’s art institutions – the last being as Director of Dramaten, the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm.

In an interview she gave in the 1990s, Ekman said that she saw the series she wrote and directed for Swedish television, Målarskolan (The Painting School), as being a true depiction of life in an art school. This claim gains credibility from her years as a Professor and Dean at Stockholm’s Royal Institute of Art. “Everything that happens in the series can be multiplied by ten in real life,” says the artist.

The TV series, which will be shown on the IHME Days, has links with Sunday’s theme at the IHME Days. Various parts of the Sunday programme ask: What do artists do when they create art? Watching Målarskolan and the excesses of the pretentious art students prompts the question: What if it is artists’ job is to be simply impossible?

In many senses, impossibility also describes Ekman herself – both her artisthood and her personal history. Having a career that took her to the top of Sweden’s art world was not an obvious prospect for a woman who was expelled from school more than once in her youth.

Ekman has sought her own place as an artist, too. As someone who went her own way when she was young, she did not belong in the modernist art circles or the women’s movement of the day, any more than she did in political-art groupings. ‘Artist’ is the only category in which Ekman has felt at home.

Read more about Ekman’s exhibition and the screening of Målarskolan on the IHME Days!