14 December

This year’s most phenomenal exhibitions according to critic and novelist Hanna Johansson.

Sixten Sandra Österberg, Time of Nothingness: Everything Happens, 200 x 160 cm, oil on canvas, 2023.

Sixten Sandra Österberg, Time of Nothingness: Everything Happens, Andréhn-Schiptjenko, Stockholm

At Andréhn-Schiptjenko, a detail at the edge of one of Sixten Sandra Österberg’s paintings sent me into a frenzy: an abstract, chaotic area. I could have looked at it for hours. But the artist’s realistic technique was equally fascinating. The way she paints the edges and stitches of a mesh top, or how a nipple is flattened by the material, recalls the sort of glossy, precise, and almost creepy quality of some of the artists of the New Objectivity, but with an unmistakable, vibrating pulse. It was totally immersive, totally phenomenal.

Jordan Strafer, Loophole, video still, 2023.

Jordan Strafer, Loophole, Index, Stockholm

Jordan Strafer’s video installation LOOPHOLE (2023) is based on the trial of John F. Kennedy’s nephew William after he was accused of raping 29-year-old Patricia Bowman in 1991. Truth be told, it’s more interesting as a set of aesthetic references and vibes – 80s and 90s erotic thrillers, celebrity culture, televised trials, the coldly gluttonous transformation of horrific crimes into easily digestible entertainment by the media and the era – than as a film, but it has stayed with me because of the favourably uncanny mix of production value and amateurishness, and for its peculiarity.

Lisa Tan, Waiting Room Series, detail, 2019/2023. Installation view, Accelerator. Stockholm. Photo: Jean-Baptiste Béranger.

Lisa Tan, Dodge and/orBurn, Accelerator, Stockholm

When I first saw Lisa Tan’s work at Galleri Riis in 2015, I had a strange feeling that her visual language followed me out of the exhibition space. A week after visiting Dodge and/or Burn, I accidentally found myself in a psychologist’s office where I immediately recognised two motifs from her Waiting Room Series (2019/2023); now it was complete, although this time I was the stalker, not the other way around. While the exhibition’s intelligence and humour were obvious from the start, what impressed me most was its sensitivity – the sense that existence is simultaneously very banal, terrible, and full of beauty.

Hanna Johansson is an author, critic, and art editor at Svenska Dagbladet. Next year, her debut novel Antiken (Antiquity, 2020) will be published in English translation by Kira Josefsson.

For this year’s contributions to the Advent Calendar, see here.