17 January - 10 March 2019



You are in a forest. And perhaps this forest is a life. And this life is a conversation.

A conversation made of glass. And the glass is a text. And the text is holy. And holiness is a myth. And the myth is real. And reality is a room. A room in which you stand. And you think of a forest, and the lake called Fryken, and do you hear someone singing? And what is that you see? If you close your eyes? The thread through time, through a landscape, across the ice, to the room with Grandmother, to the loom, the crochet hook, the needles, the fingers, the pattern that emerges, and the conversation, quiet, like a text made of glass. And how should this all be conveyed? How should it be kept? In a cupboard?


There is a cupboard in the room, a linen cupboard. And the cupboard will survive and Grandmother knows where the cupboard should go and the cupboard is Mother’s and the cupboard is yours, and what will you do with the cupboard? The cupboard cannot stay where it is. And nothing is a puzzle, but something must click. And this is your legacy. And you have your hands.


And you may open the cupboard, cut apart and tie together: reinterpret the forest, recreate the weaving. Nothing adds up, but something will take shape.


For what purpose. What should be understood? And what is need, and what is necessary? Who needs embroidery, lace, handwoven sheets? Who has time for these threads? A moment in history without much buzz is the moment when a grandmother’s handwoven sheets become obsolete. When handicrafts are no longer needs, but demoted to curios? An identity crisis among craftspeople who must become creators, who must make for the sake of making. Who must know that store-bought sheets are cheaper and can be purchased in a matter of minutes.


And their hands rest in their laps, like a question mark. What about this skill? Will it die out? The grandchild wants to learn to knit, and it’s like a conversation, or more like a piece of writing. A skill solidified in something completed. A double-sided potholder with ruffled lace is a present. A present is a presence; you can hear it in the word. And the word has an origin and the text is a weaving and the loom is in the room and you walk out of the room and cross the ocean and you are alone and you are not alone and the landscape is a set and the theater is a story and the story is in the woods and the trees become paper and Father has a store and the store has paint and the pigment makes the world and it rains on the meadows and everything flows out and who will help paint it and what will survive? Chance only befalls those who are well-prepared.




Where does Ingalena Klenell’s exhibition at Galleri Glas on Nybrogatan in January 2019 begin? Where does each individual object start? Or rather, are the objects the end of an infinitely long chain back to a beginning beyond artist and viewer, a beginning we cannot pin down to a particular place or date? The objects are here now. Present through countless interwoven threads. And what we see is highly concrete. Handmade.


Heated through. But is it abstract or figurative? Picture or sculpture? When and where does the image become shape? When and where do the words I write proceed into the words you read? And can these confines shape their own places? The space between. Let’s pull on one of the threads. For example, the one about Ingalena Klenell’s Museo del Vidrio residency in Bogotá, where there is no glass workshop, but which inspired several of the objects that were later produced at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, outside Seattle, USA, during her second residency there.


Gold-rich Colombia is a country of extremes. Violence and drugs meet the intoxicating beauty of the landscape. Ancient shamanism and cults of the dead meet colonial devastation and Christian missions. Homelessness and poverty meet the search for El Dorado. The greater the assets, the more there is to lose. The greater the treasure, the more desperate the search.


Humans steadfastly battle for equality and peace while fighting wars, regardless of the consequences, in order to take power. History repeats itself and is still never the same. It is easy to become a misanthrope and dystopian, if not apathetic. How is resistance possible without yielding to ideological self-righteousness? The paradox and contradiction are thought to be humanity’s breath of life, something frequently manifested in language itself, in the origins of words. For if we consider etymology, a single word often embodies vastly different meanings, yes, complete opposites in their roots. Consider a word like gäst (guest), which in contemporary Swedish has the respectful tenor of welcome. If we trace the word’s Latin and Germanic roots, we find ourselves among ghosts (gast), and at a hospital (hospitality), which in turn leads further to hostel and the bold reversal to hostility. Another word is the Greek farmakon which is usually translated to drug or medicine (pharmacy, drugstore) and which bears two diametrically opposed meanings: remedy and poison.


Angeldust is the glittering, angelic name of a hallucinogenic drug that can hardly be attributed any medicinal qualities, but which, like all drugs, offers a state that is either a neighbor of God or wedded with Death. Where and when does the beauty of danger and passion proceed into suffering? How can ruins be beautiful? How can fractures and breakdowns create vitality? Eros and Thanatos never stop dancing. All stories of creation include a pattern, a duality, a paradoxical factor. In the political media landscape of 2019, how are we to determine what is good and what is evil, where our identity begins and ends? The exhibition Angeldust travels along this border, or rather this gray area, if not to say free zone, in which eroticism and art homelessly reside. Perhaps we can think of it as a type of farmakon.


As it says in the song: The crack is where the light gets in.


What kind of room are we entering? It is as if the leaves have blown off, as if the meat and fur have disappeared from the animal and the lineage and skeleton are all that remain, life’s inner bones, or traces of them, the plaiting of text, beyond meaning and symbolism.


But hear the angel’s trumpets play! Emblems create a framework, Narcissus glimmers in glass, scented with the fragrance of a childhood. A snake is a rope, a snare, or rather an escape? A metamorphosis on the run. A quest for gold in the glass in the myth of the desirable, the craving, the longing to die. Tell me, why is the rifle made of glass? Tell me about the transformation. Is Gregor Samsa a beetle or an author or a skein of glass?


In Angeldust, the details are not primarily assimilated with the whole. The architectural claims, the actual construction, which has often been central to Ingalena Klenell’s previous exhibitions, have fallen apart and with each object, they create in their own right a distinctive tension in the room. A form of urbanization is underway, a deconstruction, a city that is incompatible with nature’s holistic eco-cycle. The forbidden fruit was eaten long ago. The objects cry out for interpretation, the image is unclear, the letters have not melded into smooth syntax. The urge to create something beautiful and inhabited has been pushed aside for a polyphonic and eclectic pressure. Who knows if a giant or a terrible archangel somewhere among the mountains won’t soon wander into our gallery and trample the insects, the flowers, the frightful human race, which does not know how to keep order among good and evil, drugs and medicine, the wicked and beautiful.



We can behold the river, how it flows and coils. We know where it begins and the ocean into which it pours out; it has one or several names, but if we dip our hands into the actual water...we notice that not even the idiomatic expression a drop in the ocean is useful. Water does not separate. It is difficult to summarize life and work. Only from a distance can one describe “what it is about.” Drawing chronological lines and making selected points hides as much as it reveals. In my encounter with Ingalena Klenell and her art, this becomes acute. It is impossible to separate life from art, but nevertheless I try to discern a few crucial turning points.

The decision not to blow designed series of functional glass, as expected of a studio glassblower, is one such turning point. To begin instead to collect junk and tackle new techniques like fusing, slumping and lampwork is another. That these tests led in turn to more project-based public art, to many powerful collaborations, to big questions, ideas and university, to a master’s in environmental science, to a teaching practice and numerous prestigious awards confirms Ingalena Klenell’s singular artistry, but also shows how irrelevant genre determinations and classifications often are in artistic contexts.


The evocative and magnificent exhibitions of recent years have emerged from trying processes in which small oven-cast, fused individual pieces of glass were randomly merged into larger units which have formed monumental sets, enormous spatial installations, often based on the interpretation of a place and/or human fate. Glimmering Gone for the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, USA in collaboration with Beth Lipman; Forest of Säffle in Säffle; Borderland at Glassfactory and Avesta Art; Mörka mörker mörkt kristall (“Dark darkness darkened crystal”) at the Kristinehamn Art Museum with Maria Quarfort Brising and the enormous installation in the Walk the Line project at the Dunker Culture House in Helsingborg are just a few of them.


Even though critical discourse of the hierarchical value scale that keeps handicrafts and fine art at a safe distance from one another has been grinding away for decades, artists who work with glass are still referred to as glass artists. In turn, this is connected to handicrafts, to the material, with a focus above all on the various techniques we associate with it. How is it made? Which ovens, which colors, which chemical compositions? Did you use glue?! At what price? What technical limitations were pushed to their limits, what ingrained patterns were broken? These are apt questions. But in the context of handicrafts, they are often aimed exclusively at the material, rather than the artistic process. That is what still comprises the difference in how we view handicrafts and art. The material is something to cling to, the questions can revolve around practice, just as the question how are you? is easier to answer if interpreted physically: “my hips are a little achy, I had a cold, otherwise all is well.” Mental states are always harder and more chaotic to survey and explain.


So where do we place an artist who says herself, “I have worked with glass seven days a week for 40 years, but I still feel like a strange bird in the glass world.”


All industries have their limits, their taboos and parties. Belonging or not is perhaps a nonissue. But regardless, a sense of exclusion, of not conforming to expectations and frameworks can still be true. This could involve something as simple as where you live. Rejecting the city in favor of a house in Fryken, near Sunne, is one factor. Running your own studio there with a partner in the same field and bringing four sons into the world is another.


A great deal of literature, philosophy and thinking has been filtered through Ingalena’s art. Inspiration comes from Martin Buber, from Selma Lagerlöf, eco-philosophy and perhaps above all, from poetry. But she is not an artist who speaks to us from a naval-gazing ivory tower, or from natural-romantic forest escapism; no, when it comes to her larger projects, most of the actual work time has been spent communicating with municipal politicians, with technicians, with museum directors, with electricians. Many of her projects have had a local connection to Värmland, but just as many have been based on distant places, residencies on the American continent, on countless trips, and as previously mentioned, the world of books.


Perhaps this intense exploration of both inner and outer movements, the interest in peripheral destinies and far-off places becomes so expansive and grand specifically because the thread has a home, a genuine place, a linen cupboard against which to be tried? The threads through church shawls, bridal sheets, tablecloths and potholders are, in their traditionalism, also what make it possible to break new ground, to take interest in complicated, low-status techniques, to let the threads flutter in a sincere question: where we are going? What is this humanity, what are these forests and texts and weavings we see before us? Is there a future? Daring to stop pretending that anyone knows where the cupboard ought to be. And yet, to continue holding on. This is a fragment of everything that Ingalena Klenell’s work says to me.

Sara Mannheimer