In her characteristic way, Helene Billgren unites diverse painterly references such as Goya, Dick Bengtsson and the covers of Enid Blyton's The Famous Five
books from the 1950s. In the new exhibition, For Good and For Bad
, she uses printmaking techniques for the first time. In her paintings, layers of color and brushstrokes build up landscapes. The dramatic landscapes remain in the prints, but pared down and with a new lightness. The figures, often in pairs, are varyingly turned toward or away from us and allow for feelings of both joy and sorrow. A portrait should by definition depict a specific person, but instead Billgren uses mass media advertising imagery and images of actors that she has collected as the basis for these works. In her pictures, the figures become vulnerable and nostalgic but also natural and independent heroines. The adventurous landscapes are simultaneously action and site of action: expansive, impossible and wholly imaginary. As viewers, we can slip in amongst the figures as Helene Billgren combines, without hierarchies, the two art historical genres of portrait and landscape.
Clothes, housewares and knick-knacks have a central role in Helene Billgren's practice, and alternate between object and motif. She has worked with total environments for theater and opera but is most known for her ink and charcoal drawings, which have been populated by a variety of girls and women over the years, such as horse-riding girls and nurses. There are clear parallels with the work of Lena Cronqvist and Marie Louise Ekman, in which a certain cast of characters make recurring appearances.
Helene Billgren was born in Norrköping, Sweden in 1952. She studied at the Valand Academy in Gothenburg, Sweden. Helene Billgren has worked on public art commissions and has exhibited at museums and galleries throughout Sweden. A retrospective exhibition of her work is currently on display at Värmland's Museum. She is represented by Galleri Magnus Karlsson.
The exhibition For Good and For Bad
opens at Wanås Konst on June 14 and runs through November 2. The exhibition is produced by Grafikens Hus, a center for contemporary graphic arts. Last winter, Helene Billgren, together with Grafikens Hus printers Jenny Olsson and Cecilia Enberg, created a completely new series of prints that is being shown for the first time in the exhibition For Good and For Bad
. After a fire in March 2014, when the art gallery at Grafikens Hus was completely destroyed, a c/o program consisting of exhibitions, workshops and seminars has been instituted at several different venues across Sweden. Follow the process at www.grafikenshus.se and on Facebook.