Delightful Tensions

The encounter between Bella Rune’s thin, almost transparent threads and Carl Eldh’s heavy realist sculptures is remarkably beautiful and moving.

Bella Rune, Blood Stream Missile and Impossible Floral Fountain, 2019. Photo: Urban Jörén.

Strings of colour have crept in among the white plaster and stone sculptures at the Carl Eldh Studio Museum in Stockholm. Sometimes suspended, sometimes on the floor, one must look carefully so as not to miss any of Bella Rune’s works. Despite the relatively limited space, the exhibition manages to showcase the breadth of Rune’s artistic practice; included are sculptures in macramé, metal and mohair, 3-D printed plastic objects, and augmented reality in the form of severed arms that emerge if we aim our phones towards the garden, using the app Bella Runes Portal.

The Neoclassical studio environment built in 1918–1919 accentuates the ethereal, almost spiritual, properties of Rune’s hanging sculptures, hand dyed with various Kool Aid flavours, highlighter pens, and spices. Especially in the part of the museum called the Rotunda. It’s like witnessing a revelation – far more biblical than sci-fi. Perhaps it’s the encounter with the room frozen in time, left exactly as it was during Eldh’s lifetime (1873–1954), that so perfectly captures the connotations of the title, Suspended Animation.

Bella Rune, Petite Titan in Tension Inferno, 2020. Photo: Urban Jörén.

The result is spectacular, so beautiful, so moving! The contrast between Carl Eldh’s heavy sculptures and Rune’s thin, almost transparent, threads amounts to a truly sensory experience. The setting not only summons new qualities in Rune’s work, it also brings forth qualities that have always been present her sculptures. In these dark times, this is a true pleasure to experience.

But the exhibition also contains genuinely novel encounters. The arms from a pre-study for Eldh’s imposing monument to August Strindberg, The Titan (1937), reoccur in new works made for the exhibition. Their strength is tested, measured against rubber bands in an intricate and beautiful sculpture with the name Petite Titan in Tension – Inferno (2020). Intricate, because it is based on something that resembles a defiance of gravity and thereby contains the threat of impending collapse. The white arms reappear as miniatures in a vitrine, as easy to miss as to delight in when one notices the artist herself reproduced as a perfect 3D-scanned miniature, sometimes carrying the large arm, sometimes with her head cut in half.

It is in the installation that gives the exhibition its name, however, in which the experience reaches its peak. Reflected in a sheet of glass, the severed arms assume the shape of a hologram suspended in a perpetual loop, thus transforming the classicist ideal into something futuristically freaky. At the same time, there is a fragile and evasive beauty that, when stripped of its strength, becomes irresistible. It appears like a mirage: impossible to approach, impossible to grasp, and just as impossible to stop looking at.

This work summarises the strength of Rune’s exhibition and captures the essence of her work. It is about inbuilt tension, the tension that makes her sculptures so potent, drawing the viewer’s attention to a kind of balancing act, an intricate system that braids or weaves all these elements together. This exhibition is an embodiment of that inherent tension.

Bella Rune, Cherry Chroma Berry Beam, 2020. Photo: Urban Jörén.