Christine Ödlund's art is timeless as it communicates with both history and the present. Her materials are plants and sounds, natural circuits and future visions, greenhouses and laboratory environments, occultism and science - all in a constant pendulum movement between the smallest particles and the unfathomable.
In her artistry, Ödlund has with finely calibrated sensitivity and daring precision, explored and given shape to phenomena and worlds that we humans, with our limited senses, rarely can perceive. Her openness to both science and esoteric knowledge often allow surprising cross-links, and the collaborations she has entered into with scientists from different areas has been proof of how different disciplines can stimulate each other and bring out new knowledge. Scientific facts or sounds can be translated into colors, music transformed into form or motion and images become aromas. As part of this interdisciplinary thinking, Ödlund has, among other things, followed researchers in ecological chemistry at KTH (Royal Institute of Technology) in Stockholm in their attempt to decipher plants' chemical languages. She has transformed the researchers' data into notes and sounds and created aesthetically suggestive scores that could potentially bridge the language barrier between plants and humans. A third step in this collaboration was a concert based on this score, presented by students at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm.
A major and important area of Ödlund's investigations of nature has been to study the Admiral butterfly. Studies at KTH have shown that the yellow Admiral butterfly, during specific periods uses its' front legs like drumsticks to hit plants. The favored plant of the butterfly is the nettle, which, like humans, belongs to the biological category Eukaryotes. (The researchers believe that the drumming is aimed at extracting chemical information from the plant.)
From her position, Ödlund has studied this activity and identified certain patterns and rhythms. Her artistic interpretation is that the Admiral butterflies, with their drumming, put the plants into hypnosis and in this disarmed state, they reveal their innermost chemical secrets. These studies gave rise to several works in the exhibition, Music for Eukaryotes at Gallery Riis in 2013, including sculptural installations in which living plants seemed to have taken over a laboratory environment, and where nettles were exposed to sounds like rhythmic cracking or music. Here Ödlund comes close to experiments performed by Cleve Backster and Dorothy Retallack in the 1960s and 1970s. They investigated the human characteristics of plants using, among other things, lie detectors, Indian sitar music and rock music (the latter was said to have caused the plants to wither and die).
Another topic for Ödlund has been the Atlantis myth. In one painting, Ödlund describes the effect of global warming - making the land impossible to inhabit, except for mushrooms and mold. In this vision of dystopia, humanity has sought shelter in underwater biosphere parks. The landscape is strange, furrows and meanders resembling the brain's topography lead the viewer into the image's terrain. A major video work where Ödlund animated a journey to Atlantis has been, since 2012, installed at the Equinor (former Statoil) headquarters in Oslo.
The meeting between art, science and the esoteric can be seen as a space of possibilities where Ödlund can cross boundaries and create speculative – but earnest scenarios. The pioneers of theosophy, Helena Blavatsky and Annie Besant, have been an important inspiration for Ödlund; she sees the synthesis of philosophy, spirituality, art and science as a holistic way of approaching the world.
In the exhibition Tunnel Vision at The 8th Momentum Biennial in Moss 2015, Ödlund presented an installation consisting of nettles and butterfly larvae. The large scale solo exhibition Aether & Einstein at Magasin III Museum, and the Foundation for Contemporary Art in Stockholm in 2016, featured sound recordings of root systems from plants that were part of the large installation Xylem Floem. In both of these exhibitions, there were also stained glass window paintings spreading a specter of light and colors into the space. Ödlund's installations are often considered Gesamtkunstwerk.
Christine Ödlund's second exhibition at Galleri Riis Stockholm in 2016, Daydarkness, featured parts of possible visual explanations of major scientific disciplines and phenomena. This is also an important path in Ödlund's artistry, in devoting herself to drawing and painting to illustrate invisible chemical and biological phenomena. The main theme of the exhibition was a solar eclipse that occurred in Guntur, India in 1868, and which led to the discovery of Helium. The periodic table also found its' way into Ödlund's work; a system which is graphically tangible and concrete, but how can we see and actually understand these elements? Ödlund again strives to make visible that which is impossible and too complex. The waves, the non-material phenomena: flows, sounds and lights: all conveyed in collage and drawing.
If her first exhibition at the gallery, Music for Eukaryotes (2013), examined the possibility of transcending language barriers between people and plants, Daydarkness witnessed a barrier between the invisible and the visible. In playful images, Ödlund developed a simple yet refined imagery aimed at visualizing enormous processes, chemical and astronomical phenomena.
Sound waves have often featured in Ödlund's various practices and exhibitions. That is, sound, and the image of sound. For the forthcoming exhibition at Galleri Riis in Oslo, sound is physically manifested in a brutalist sculpture of cast aluminum. It has the shape of a pointed mountain skyline that Ödlund calls Tripod Amplifier. Sound waves are completely frozen in a moment. The upcoming exhibition will also include stained glass windows specially made for the windows of the gallery's main space. These contain patterns of chemical formulas derived from both established science and occult theosophy, ie. chemical phenomena that cannot really be captured in physical form. Daylight and the stained glass expand into a spatial installation. Light becomes a material in itself.
In her eagerness to describe the world, Ödlund has the gaze of a chronicler, without being a loud political artist, she shows that the world and its' resources are finite, but above all that we live in an incredibly complex and amazing world that we definitely do not fully understand. Many of the scientific phenomena that Ödlund has described and treated in her art has been verified in recent years. Plant's communication, by sending out stress signals, (see Ödlunds work Stress Call of the Stinging Nettle, 2010) has now also been observed in maize plants in a study by SLU (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences) published earlier this year. The German forester, Peter Wohlleben's book The Hidden Life of Trees (published 2015) has become a major success in popular science and confirms Ödlund's notion, that we are not alone in our constant communication and in our relation-building efforts. Around us an endless variety of wordless communication is ongoing.
A new painterly notion in Ödlund's oeuvre began in 2017 with a suite of distinct and graphic paintings. Common to these works is the use of plant pigments, and motives that are abstracted from natural science processes, with titles such as The Narrow Portal of Photosynthesis and Floem Four-shield. Some of the works resemble medieval heraldry. They are a closed circuit to the extent that they incorporate Ödlund's various artistic tracks, and are made with plant pigments, thus containing the power of plants and nature's condition. This exhibition features her most extensive suite of these paintings to date.
Christine Ödlund (born 1963) lives and works in Stockholm. She graduated from EMS Elektronmusikstudion (the center for Swedish electroacoustic music and sound-art), Stockholm in 2004, the Royal Institute of Art, Stockholm in 1996, and Konstfack, Stockholm in 1995.
- Born 1963 in Sweden
- Lives and works in Stockholm, Sweden
- 2002-2004Elecroacoustic Music (EAM-linjen), Stockholm
- 1995-1996Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Video Department, Stockholm
- 1992-1995Academy of Photography, Konstfack, Stockholm
SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS
- 2018Ionosphere * Plant * Metal * Aura, Galleri Riis, Oslo
- 2016The Great Solar Eclipse 1868, Guntur, India, Galleri Riis, Stockholm
- 2016Aether & Einstein, Magasin III Museum & Foundation for Contemporary Art, Stockholm
- 2014Music for Eukaryotes, Trondheim Museum of Art
- 2013Musik för Eukaryoter (Music for Eukaryotes), Galleri Riis, Stockholm
- 2011Thought-Form Materializing, The Armory Show, Milliken Gallery, New York
- 2009Thought-Forms, Christian Larsen, Stockholm (Curator: Liv Stoltz)
- 1999Sthlm Art Fair, Focus, Y1, Mongoo, Stockholm
- 1997Y1, Haha standby, Stockholm
- 1995Ynglingagatan 1, The role-anxiety dilemma, Stockholm
SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS
- 2018Modernatutställingen (The Moderna Exhibition) at the Moderna Museet, Stockholm
- 2018Traces Escrites / Written Traces, Galleria Marie-Laure Fleisch, Brussels, Belgium
- 2018The Beautiful Escape, CF Hill, Stockholm
- 2017Utopins Arkeologi, CF Hill, Stockholm
- 2016Freq_out 12 - the last edition, at The Third Man, Sewer, Vienna
- 2016Life Itself, Moderna Museet, Stockholm
- 2016Konstnären/The Artist, Nationalmuseum, Stockholm
- 2015MOMENTUM 8 - Tunnel Vision, The Nordic Biennial of Contemporary Art, Moss, Norway
- 2014The Drawing Room, Magasin III Museum & Foundation for Contemporary Art, Stockholm
- 2013Channelled, Lunds Konsthall, Lund, Sweden
- 2013Freq_out 9, Sonic Acts Festival, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Netherlands
- 2012Art and Music - Search for New Synesthesia, Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, Japan
- 2012Freq_out 8, Moderna Museet, Stockholm
- 2011Ynglingagatan 1, Moderna Museet, Stockholm
- 2011Nordic Darkness, Kristinehamns Konstmuseum, Kristinehamn, Sweden
- 2011Music in Art, Milliken Gallery, Stockholm
- 2010The Moderna Exhibition 2010, Moderna Museet, Stockholm
- 2010Thrice Upon a Time, Magasin III, Stockholm
- 2010Marabouparken Park Life, Sundbyberg, Sweden
- 2010Worshipping the Sun, Braverman Gallery, Tel Aviv, Israel (Curator: Sandra Weil)
- 2008Sonic Voices, Rocking Hard, Neederlands Instituut voor de Mediakunst, Amsterdam
- 2008Changing Matters, The Swedish Museum of Natural History, Stockholm
- 2007How Imitations Get Cornered By The Real, UKS, Oslo, Norway
SCREENINGS AND PERFORMANCES
SELECTED PUBLIC COLLECTIONS