2 December

Which were the raunchiest and most shocking exhibitions in 2020? Today we hear from Martin Gustavsson, who is an artist based in London and Stockholm.

Miriam Cahn, WAS MICH ANSCHAUT, 1.11.2019, 200 x 190 cm, 2019.

Miriam Cahn, Me As Happening,Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen

I was floored by Miriam Cahn’s paintings at Kunsthal Charlottenborg. My whole body was activated; resistance was futile. The violent pleasure of the paint paired with the narrative force she unleashes made my body tremble and my eyes cross. That this was Cahn’s first major exhibition in the Nordic countries was a big deal, as she has made me see painting in a new way. After that, there is no going back. The enormous freedom and curiosity manifested in her work is so liberating and corporeal that I feel the sensitivity of my tentacles in a whole new register. 

Lena Cronqvist, Dinner with Shrimp, 135 x 150 cm, 1974. Photo: David Schreiner, Sundsvall Museum.

Lena Cronqvist, Prince Eugen’s Waldemarsudde, Stockholm

Cronqvist can be described as Cahn’s Swedish counterpart. In her big retrospective at Waldemarsudde, I was moved particularly by the works from the 1970s. The colouring and the slightly sluggish paint application is wonderful. It kind of hurts a little when you look and follow how the brush is fighting with the narrative. I also see a relationship with Cecilia Edefalk (who had a big retrospective in Norrköping) that is new to me. The series of paintings of bourgeois dinner parties is completely on point, the guests suffocating from unpleasant shrimp shells and heavy cathedral-like dining chairs. This exhibition was a complete surprise to me, and I almost missed it. Thanks to the student who made me go.

Nicolas Poussin, Nymph with Satyrs, 66.4 × 50.3 cm, 1627. National Gallery, London.

Arcadia – A Paradise Lost, National Museum, Stockholm

This autumn, the National Museum staged a Priapus festival with all the attributes on display. I rejoiced in the unbridled power of sexuality and desire. Here was everything one could possibly ask for when it comes to depravity. The museum even included Poussin’s painting of two voyeuristic satyrs who’ve crept up on a nymph who, eyes closed, is pleasuring herself. The usual distinction between the Apollonian and the Dionysian faded. Instead, they were presented as two sides of the same coin. This was an invitation to dance, in a time of scant joy. 

– Martin Gustavsson (b. 1964) is an artist and lecturer in painting at Konstfack University of Arts, Crafts and Design in Stockholm. Based in London and Stockholm, Gustavsson works primarily with painting, painting’s relationship to performance and the moving image. He also directs a workshop for young artists in Lima, Peru, that was recently presented online: www.haciendocontexto.com

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