Väntan — Waiting

Saskia Neuman Gallery is excited to start the new year by hosting Emma Jönsson at the gallery for a project exhibition throughout January and early February.

In a meeting between traditional craft and contemporary expression artist Emma Jönsson’s embroidery can be perceived as elusive, enchanting even. At a more measured gaze the images the artist depicts are of great gravitas, as she engages in social commentary with every stitch. Enormously affected by the recent migrant crises in Europe, the artist took to her work as a tool in which to manage her feelings of hopelessness and despair. Emma confronted the rising death toll in relation to the millions of people fleeing the war in Syria. As the migrants and asylum seekers made their way to Europe and started arriving in Sweden, Emma’s mind and hand meandered towards imagery, material and color scale that reflected the feelings evoked by the sheer magnitude of distress and misery the people fleeing had to endure. She has created images with discrete annotations to a non-descript afterlife that many of the refugees and migrants were met with due to the hazardous conditions in which they fled.

Taking on the plight of others, engaging in this social commentary via her work harks back to her predecessors, such as famed Swedish born, Norwegian textile artist Hannah Ryggen… or even contemporary Swedish textile artist and weaver, Susanne Henriques. Ryggen, not unlike Jönsson, used her craft to express her concerns in the world around her, creating complex woven tapestries, while commenting on the rise of fascism throughout Europe. Emma creates her work with similar fervor and devotion, often introducing limitations when engaging with certain subjects… allowing each stitch to highlight the subject she engages with. Evidence of this is clear in her work commenting on the refugee crises in Europe during the mid 2010s. By choosing black velvet and a limited color palette of Mouline thread, the artist strives to illustrate temples of dignity and timelessness while referencing the tragedy and death that unfolded. By using embroidery as a tool to evoke emotion and caution, Emma takes on both personal and more public topics in her work. Living on the countryside, in a large wooden house with countless rooms, the artist often listening to the Swedish state channel, Radio 1 while working. The radio becomes her a valve to the outside world, allowing Emma to submerge herself in her work, while keeping up with current events. Times merges, as does fiction with reality.

Recently the artist also spent several months at a residency in Paris. Anticipating the hot summer months, the artist was also stricken by the destitution and poverty that surrounded her when she left the studio. Her memories of Paris shifted when faced with this new reality. It was difficult to encounter and affected her work profusely. Paris, the museums, architecture, magic and mystery remained, but this new reality, marred by the realities of people fleeing war and strife to be met with homelessness in Paris, tempered by the raging heat of the summer, made a deep impression, visible in several of the artists embroideries from that period.

Waiting combines delicate imagery of harrowing images that are imprinted into our collective memory, with more abstract embroidery. Emma Jönsson creates a tableau, akin to a renaissance painting, each color of string embodies a new brush stroke of color. These abstract amalgamations of color and form are almost small composites of the unknown, and as a viewer we are encouraged to interact with these splashes of consciousness, through color, the suggestion of texture and a sense of bewilderment. As a teenager Emma worked in her uncle’s farms and gardens, contributing to a thriving agricultural community in Sörmland, Sweden. Embracing the earth, greenery, and nature stayed with the artist, creating memories ‘in pink’, a feeling that is translated literally into the artist’s more abstract work.