Norrland. The vast landmass that covers 60% of the surface of Sweden and is home to 12% of its population. Norrland is often said to consist of wilderness. Wasted space and government subsidies. But Norrland is also a force of nature. An enabler. Yes, the image of the north is as broad as it is contradictory. And that is the backdrop for this summer’s large exhibition at the Skellefteå Art Gallery.
”in norrland, we have an India within our own borders, so long as we are sensible enough to make use of it.” That is what was said in the early 17th century and in the rivers, forests and mountains of Norrland, the Lord High Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna saw Sweden’s own colony. Over time, forests were logged, ore and gold were mined and hydroelectric dams were built on the thundering rivers, for welfare and for the future. It was painful for Norrland and beneficial to Sweden.
In some places we see public services leaving rural areas because of dwindling populations and
job markets. However, we can also see how digitalisation helps international companies remain, to support small towns and the wonderful natural environment around them, as natural places for creativity and growth.
The image of Norrland is complex. Difficult, in a way. Then again, Norrland is not homogenous, but influenced by people from various backgrounds; with different motivations,
goals and purposes.
— Of course, there is an unflattering caricature of the Norrlander. It’s often a man. He says very little, wears flannel, uses snus tobacco and drinks moonshine, explains AnnaKarin Larsson, manager at the Skellefteå Art Gallery.
This explains the origins of the exhibition “Norrland”, an exhibition about half of Sweden.
The exhibition should not be viewed as a reaction to stereotypes about Norrland as portrayed for example in popular culture.
— I feel that it is more about highlighting what a diverse place Norrland is. Also, we want to give Norrland space. Put it in the spotlight, somehow. Norrland does not take up, or is not given, the same amount of space as other parts of the country. And when it is actually portrayed, it is often from an outside perspective, where Norrland and its people are often exotified.
The exhibition gathers artists from Gävleborg in the south to northernmost Norrbotten, sharing their personal experiences of the phenomenon that is Norrland. Throughout the summer, visitors will be able to experience Katarina Pirak Sikku’s thoughts on footsteps — where they come from and where they take you. Anders Sunna’s powerful, often political art and crocheted aquarelle painted fabrics by Sven Teglund’s grandmother, amongst many other things.
— I am very proud to be able to present such an amazing collection of artists in one exhibition. If I have to pick a personal favourite, it would be the Romanian tinsmith Anton Cirurar and Umeå-based Johannes Samuelsson, touching on subjects such as the heritage and living conditions of tradesmen in a town in northern Europe.
The exhibition, Norrland is on display between June 11 and September 3 at the Skellefteå Art Gallery and participating artists are Anders Sunna, Katarina Pirak Sikku, Anton Cirurar and Johannes Samuelsson, Sara Helene Gedda, Erika Mikael Gudrunsson, Magdalena Nordin, Jonas Kjellgren and Sven Teglund. The exhibition was shown in Luleå in 2016.