Local | Upcoming exhibition: Gittan Jönsson Parallel Lines

By on March 6, 2016

Gittan Jönsson, Parallel Lines – Marabouparken konsthall – 9 March–19 June 2016

Gittan Jönsson, Parallel Lines

“Do you still think it’s right to rebel?”
“Today, I think it’s more important to clean up.”

Gittan Jönsson allows us to experience the women’s movement’s demands for equality and the disintegration of the concept of art through women cleaning up in their homes, in the art world and in society. With the recurring themes of power structures and social relations her work is as wilful and strong as it is topical. The first major retrospective presentation of Gittan Jönsson’s work, the exhibition culminates in the new film Parallel Lines, in which the artist searches for traces of the feminist movement in Stockholm and Berlin, asking her self what became of all the rebellious efforts and actions?

Being one of Sweden’s most prominent artists, Gittan Jönsson’s artistic career spans more than six decades. She is an artist who affects us all: an artist who dares to be political and personal, an artist who gives the big events equal billing with the small. When the 1960s turned into the 1970s, several of Stockholm’s young artists had had a couple of turbulent years behind them and the rallying slogan of the women’s movement, “The Personal is Political” lay ahead. Gittan Jönsson’s oeuvre manifests this shift. Via poster art, illustrations, drawings, painting, sculpture and film, she has captured the ideas of the time and the possibilities of art. She is an artist who botanises among styles and expressions, never allowing herself to be defined or explicitly identifiable. With a feverish interest in what is going on in the world and in the many possible expressions of the image, her art never rests.

In the 1970s after having her first children, Gittan Jönsson gained a greater understanding of the prevailing gender inequality and discrimination against women in the art world, which shifted the focus of her political commitment to the women’s movement. During the 1970s Gittan Jönsson was one of the organisers of Kvinnokulturfestivalen [The Women’s Culture Festival], which was followed in 1980 by one of the major manifestations of feminist art, the exhibition Vi arbetar för livet [We Work for Life] at Liljevalchs in Stockholm. Through her alter ego Dammsugerskan [The Hooverer] she took the feminist struggle further in her eagerness to not only remove dust in general, but to clean up in the bigger picture – make the world a better place, tear down walls and make the environment and the air cleaner and easier to breathe – in the art world and the world at large. While constantly cleaning, the Hooverer visits the works of Anders Zorn, Pablo Picasso, Charlotte Gyllenhammar, Marie-Louise Ekman, Sonja Åkesson among others.

Women in domestic environments wielding washing-up brushes or paintbrushes appear in various guises, as in her 1977 Självporträtt [Self Portrait], or the 1972 portrayal of Den ensamma mammans semester [The Lonely Mother’s Holiday] where, with only the hoover for company, she sits alone by the window longingly looking at the road leading out into the world. The cleaning woman, a figure at times regarded as banal, ridiculed and overlooked both in art and society, appears frequently in Gittan Jönsson’s body of work. Not to mention the now iconic painting Diskkasterskan [The Dish Thrower] (1978) which is simultaneously a coming to terms with and a tribute to her father who competed in discus and to her housewife mother, who represented the trivialities of the everyday, washing the dishes and vacuuming, which never gave rise to any headlines.

Like many women artists of her generation, Gittan Jönsson depicted her own experiences, describing her own reality and women’s invisible history. Prinsessor utan panik [Princesses without Panic] (2005–2007) is a poignant and accurate exchange of letters in comics form between Gittan Jönsson and Kristina Abelli Elander with an accurate description of the feminist struggle of the 1970s and the male domination of the art world.

Since the 1970s, Gittan Jönsson’s painting has gone through many phases, serving as a way of filtering the world and as a place to reflect on her own situation. For Gittan Jönsson, it was film that opened the way for a new pictorial language and a focus on painting. Working as a property manager and assistant to, among others, Carl-Johan and Marie-Louise De Geer (Ekman) on the film Hallo Baby and to Jan Troell, she became aware of the mixture of illusion and authentic realities. The work Tiden och rummet [Time and Space] (1975) is one of many examples of how she uses the pictorial space as a stage set to convey the experience of inner tension and conflict. In her later paintings, Gittan Jönsson’s interest in formal aspects becomes apparent. Her political commitment is evident, as is the self-referential dimension, but now as part of a painting that is more oriented towards various painterly strategies. Maps and diagrams are mixed with elements of abstract painting and swathes of flowing colours. Styles that were previously varied in different paintings now return as parts of an individual work as in the painting Mah-Jong from 2014.

Gittan Jönsson’s work helps to remind us how the organisation of everyday life has characterised society. Vacuum cleaners and shared custody. History and Realpolitik. Consumption and socialist utopias. Jönsson’s art is witness to an activist commitment and existential matters. Break apart and move on. And equipped with a sense of humour, continue to draw.


Gittan Jönsson (b. 1948) studied at the University College of Arts, Craft and Design in Stockholm during 1967–1972 and had her first solo exhibition in 1978 at Galleri Händer in Stockholm and Malmö. Her work has been shown in many places in Sweden such as Galleri Leger in Malmö, Bohusläns konsthall, The Royal Art Academy of Fine Arts and Liljevalchs konsthall in Stockholm, Skövde konsthall, Ystad Museum of Art, Gothenburg Museum of Art, Dunkers Kulturhus. Gittan Jönsson has made several commissioned works and authored publications as Historieboken (The History Book, 1970), Prinsessor utan Panik (Princesses without Panic, 2009) along with Kristina Abelli Elander and Dammsugerskans fyrtiotvå uppdrag (The 42 Missions of the Hooverer, 2011). Jönsson is represented in The Modern Museum of Art and The National Museum in Stockholm, Gothenburg Museum of Art, The Museum of Work in Norrköping, Borås konstmuseum, The Public Art Agency Sweden with more. Gittan Jönsson lives and works in Berlin and in Brantevik, Sweden.

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