Blå skuggor i medicinträdgården

Johanna Arvidsson

Note: opening Thursday Sep 5th as a part of GIBCA Extended!
Artist talk Sunday September 29th at 1pm. 

Blue shades in the medical garden

Each point in history has its own cultural codes. Images created in our societies constitute an important historical stuff, and are a part of that which created the perspectives and norms of today. In Blue shades in the medical garden, part of a longer project, Johanna Arvidsson works with the representation of the female body through different eras and philosophical traditions in Western (art) history, where medical and religious history are notably prominent. In her project, Johanna uses her own position as a woman, an artist, and recently having become a mother as her starting point, and she explores female perspectives and stories in order to blur the bounderies of time and discuss these with contemporary eyes.

Johanna uses images and stories from history and picks details that are symbolical and objectifying but also gestures of protest and resistance in order to question the perspective by we see the image of woman, as well as to decode symbols associated with her through the history of painting. Johanna works with these images on texile materials chosen from historical references, and the exhibition begins with a blue curtain where a shadow appears: it is a shadow of a religious painting symbolizing birth and the life cycle through woman. Religious stories are often the base for historical motifs and have consituted an ideal for their times. Velvet has been an important status symbol in fashion and religion, and the color blue itself has many references in religion; it is also the color of melancholy. The current ideal of a woman that has been portrayed through art history is often closely connected with the medical situation for women and so called women’s diseases whose medical diagnoses tend to change over time. In the exhibition’s innermost room, handwoven bed linen have been dyed with color pigments from medical plants gathered from Trotula of Salerno’s extensive works. She was a physician in the early 13th century and specialized in women’s health. The Trotula texts were the prevailing handbook for women’s health until the male physician took over the power over the female body.

Even though women’s history often has not been recorded in texts and history books, it is important for Johanna to look back on the history we are surrounded by and to reflect on women’s situations through all times. By placing images often made by a male eye in a new context and seeing woman through another gaze, Johanna wishes to open the way for a dialogue about today’s situation for woman.