Found an email containing this interview from 2011-06-13 at Busan e-FM English Radio (Inside Out Program), where I spoke about my work at an exhibition for World Environment Day, curated by Lee Jinchul, Senior Curator at Busan Museum of Modern Art. My etching work, focused on the oil spill in the Ecuadorian Amazon area and the consequences on humans and nature. For other interviews or press mentions, please chek out my Press page.
The Special Collections & Archives of the University of Kent in UK have created an archive collection that records the experiences of people in relation to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. A copy of my essay Lost Prints will be catalogued and preserved alongside their other archive collections and it will be made accessible to others in their reading room, contributing to research and engaging people with this important part of history.
Author: Gaby Berglund Cárdenas
Rebecca Solnit captures beautifully in a Field Guide to Getting Lost the difference between losing something and losing one self: “Lost really has two disparate meanings. Losing things is about the familiar falling away, getting lost is about the unfamiliar appearing. There are objects and people that disappear from your sight or knowledge or possession; you lose a bracelet, a friend, the key. You still know where you are. Everything is familiar except that there is one item less, one missing element. Or you get lost, in which case the world has become larger than your knowledge of it. Either way, there is a loss of control.”
But what is the sentiment when an artist loses a sketchbook, a manus or an original artwork? How does the artist move on?
In 2014 I was living in Busan, South Korea. At the time, I made a series of eight monotypes exploring uncertainty, the fragility of life and the perpetual human search for knowing our origin and who we are. These unique prints were meant to be shown as a collective but, due to lack of space, they weren’t displayed during an invitational solo exhibition I had at the Judith Rae Salomon Gallery in Youngstown State University, Youngstown, Ohio, USA in the autumn of 2018.
In the summer of 2019 I moved with my family back to Sweden, from Houston, Texas after a period of 10 years living as an expatriate in South Korea and the USA. During that time I earned a Master’s in Fine Arts and I developed a career as an multidisciplinary artist actively exhibiting internationally.
In 2019, my son, William Cárdenas Berglund, a young multiinstrumentalist and composer born in 2001, graduated from high school in the USA and left our home to move to York and pursue a bachelor in International Relations at York University.
During the relocation some of our wedding presents and art portfolios were stolen, including the eight monotypes I had made in South Korea. The Lost Prints were monotypes and the process involves drawing and painting wet oils directly onto a printing plate. In more traditional printing techniques such as woodcuts or etchings the image is permanently marked onto the plate, ready for several re-inkings and re-printings. With a monotype, however, we get only one chance to make a print, there is no room for mistake because once we have transferred our hand-manipulated ink to the paper from the plate, we basically have to start from scratch with new ink and a new image drawn into it. A monotype leaves an emotional trace of its passage because the medium (in this case oil painting) is worked by hand. The manual work, the resistance to the mechanical present of an industrial and digital age gives the monotypes a conservative and nostalgic feeling.
Some say that the lockdown has changed us forever. Reflecting over the hundreds of thousands of lives lost due to the COVID-19 virus, I feel superfluous to write about anything else, but I choose to write about the Lost Prints as a strategy of the creative mind to keep its sanity. I had planned a solo exhibition at Grafik i Väst Gallery in Gothenburg, Sweden during May 2020, however it was postponed until March 2023 due to the pandemic. Ironically, the exhibition theme was “Life While You Wait”, a series of woodcut prints and textile installations exploring uncertainty. At some point, I entertained the thought of making an artist’s book out of the lost monotypes and to exhibit the book at Grafik i Väst Gallery.
During the pandemic lockdown, my son, William, was in the UK composing several pieces for a music album. He wrote a poem entitled Lost Prints inspired by my story and photos of the prints. The poem has become a pivotal part of a video exhibition that I plan to release online to compensate for the postponed exhibition in Gothenburg.
As an artist, William understands the sentiment of losing one’s original work, whether a visual or a written piece. In the poem, he refers to the prints as “a child of metal and ink”.’ and ends the poem with the words “until found, present, here today”. With this poem, William has given a new life to the lost child: the set of prints. This transformation or reincarnation, from a visual piece of art to the subject of inspiration for a poem, gives both artist and poet a sense of transcendence. It reminds us of our perpetual becoming. It reminds us of Plato’s dialogue, Meno, where he asks Socrates, ‘whether virtue can be taught.’ to which Socrates replies that he does not as yet know what virtue is, and has never known anyone who did. It also brings us to the question of how we know who we are if we are eternally transforming and changing.
Facing change and unpredictability in our daily lives is one of the main causes of human suffering and anxiety. The Daoists, one of the two great indigenous philosophical traditions of China dating back to c.100s B.C.E. emphasized the importance of surrendering to the unknown in order to achieve balance or groundness, which Socrates calls magnanimity, a good of the soul. As important as surrendering is letting go of attachments to material things or emotions, because, according to The Daoists and Buddhists, that is one of the main causes of our suffering.
This realization brings a new perspective and contributes to moving forward. The lost prints on paper have transformed into an eternal bedsheet of text and poetry that will forever exist in the digital cloud. The child of ink and metal became a poem and a new form of communication between mother and son, a son who had recently left his nest to become independent.
Someone said that inspiration comes from “I don’t know” and that surrendering to those three humble words can open the door to a world of possibilities. In the creative process, just like in life, we encounter uncertainty, we never know what he final artwork will look like, we never know what the child will become.
by William Cárdenas Berglund
A child of metal and ink,
Nurtured by brush and milk,
Transcendent of the physical state,
From womb to cradle, cradle to coffin,
Mind to desk, desk to an office,
Only worthy of its name,
Beaks and the beholder,
Meant to pluck the tasteful shoulders,
Off the children, only ever conceived,
It was lost in the dark,
Neglecting the mother of a spark,
Until found, present, here today.’”
“Mindfulness and meditation are often discussed in relation to mental health; many have found such techniques help to manage anxiety and depression. Cárdenas lived in South Korea whilst studying for a Masters in Fine Arts; whilst she was there she explored Buddhism and the role meditation has within the religion. For Cárdenas writing the phrase “no mind” became a way to quiet her brain and body. This piece is composed of an antique spool, around which Nepalese paper is wrapped; holding the object also makes you aware of the fragility of the work. Today Cárdenas lives in Sweden; you can find more of her works here.”
“Cumulatively these books help to show not only the diversity of mental health but also the strength of responses to it. Recording and making work in response to periods of mental illness can, for some, be an act of healing in itself. The books in Prescriptions also serve to challenge and improve relationships between treatment-giver and treatment-receiver; however they also contribute to opening up dialogue and removing stigma around lived experiences. They can inspire responses and new approaches to mental health – whether with you to create your own art or with generating empathy and understanding on any scale, be it individual or wider.”
Click here to read the full blog post of May 21st, 2020 published during Mental Health Awareness Week by the Special Collections and Archives at the University of Kent, UK.
Due to the pandemic my exhibition “Life While You Wait” at Grafik i Väst, initially planned for May 2020, has been postponed to March 2021. Please follow the gallery on social media and their alternative online events. I continue to create, work on a couple of new series about meditations and share my creative process through social media (Instagram and Facebook). I recently published a distance collaboration with my son and I am participating in a Youtube exhibition about art in the corona era. Thank you for your continuous support!
As with any curated exhibition, what the curators selected and how they selected it is often only revealed either through their catalog writings or talks they give. Because they are not often in the gallery when most viewers are, it is up to the viewers to come to their own conclusions about the work on display.
The viewers are also frequently in the dark about what the artist has to say about where they are coming from, where they hope to go, and how they are getting there.
With this in mind, the curators Chris Perry and Alice Walsh asked the artists of Freed Formats: The Book Reconsidered (March-September 2019, New York, Connecticut) to respond to a scripted list of questions, the answers were then recorded, and the resulting audio files are here for the viewer to listen to, either while they are in the gallery, or later at their leisure.
Select the artist file and click on the small arrow on the left to hear what the artist has to say.
“The Biblical story is just as contemporary as it is ancient. Communication is more important now than ever and the fascination of languages and the diverse peoples who speak them can be a life-long passion.
We live today in an era of technological dominance and mass media, whose is bigger, better, makes more money. World population increases faster than a colony of rabbits, buildings grow higher, closer together, squeezing out the green. There is an increasingly larger gap between the wealthy and the average. The language behind our technology, underlying our cars, our spaceships, our televisions, our skyscrapers is becoming English. The theme of Towers and a single language is not farfetched.“
“The story of the Tower of Babel is well known in most cultures. It is not only a story out of Genesis, the first Book of the Hebrew Bible, it is also an allegory of the human condition. It is particularly interesting to those who deal with language, letters and writing.
The concept of an exhibit with the theme “The Tower of Babel” is especially appropriate following the founding of the European Union. Suddenly packaging is covered with information in not just 2 or 3 languages as previously, but in 20 or 25 languages. From all countries of the world: Europe, Asia, South America. It was a cornucopia of scripts and languages. Rather than throw away the cardboard and plastic packaging, it could make an interesting artist’s book.
In 2015 a group of artists founded VIS – Venetiae Incipit Scriptorium and organised courses, activities and exhibits. After the international exhibit “VOLUMEN ET ROTULUS” The Tower of Babel was proposed to follow the same guidelines. The concept of multiple languages written in multiple scripts could appeal to a broader range of artists: However, the exhibit is open not only to lettering artists, but also calligraphers, painters, sculpters, book artists, printers and even philosophers; and not only to VIS members but to anyone wishing to participate. The choice of text is up to the artists and all forms of artistic expression and in any language are welcome.
The Biblical story is just as contemporary as it is ancient. Communication is more important now than ever and the fascination of languages and the diverse peoples who speak them can be a life-long passion.
We live today in an era of technological dominance and mass media, whose is bigger, better, makes more money. World population increases faster than a colony of rabbits, buildings grow higher, closer together, squeezing out the green. There is an increasingly larger gap between the wealthy and the average. The language behind our technology, underlying our cars, our spaceships, our televisions, our skyscrapers is becoming English. The theme of Towers and a single language is not farfetched.
Towers as art is exciting; languages maintain our diversity, exhibits keep us aware of what is important. It is our way of saying, let diversity live, let differences survive, let us struggle to understand. As one artist put it: The show is very beautiful. 45 artists from around the world, all different from one another: book artists, textile artists, engravers, calligraphers, art quilt , it is all beautiful and all works together in harmony.
As an added quality to the show, a communal tower is being constructed. Everyone, from toddlers to great-grandparents, artist or not, can make a paper brick which folds up and is then reconstructed to build the tower during the show.“
I visited Alkmaar, NL (about 25 km north of Amsterdam) to participate in 100% FEMALE at the Grand Church of Alkmaar (Oct.24-27), a breathtaking Gothic building dating back to the 10th century. I must confess it had been a secret dream to exhibit my work at a church due to its architecture, history and aesthetic appeal.
It was a great experience meeting the Curator, Jeroen Van Paassen, with whom I have been working with since 2015, at different venues and countries. It was also amazing to meet many of the 100 participating artists, from all corners of the globe, and to share experiences and perspectives. I had exhibited together with some of the artists throughout the last years, without meeting personally. It was an honor to exhibit together with California based artist Clare Hebert, who was my oil painting teacher more than 10 years ago in Gothenburg.
The international exhibition “100% FEMALE” aimed to correct the stereotypical representation of women. Curator Jeroen Van Paassen, told RODI newspaper reporter “In the past 10 years I have met many female artists during the organization of international exhibitions. I have been impressed by their strength, militancy and creativity. How these women manage to evade the position in which they are forced by their environment is admirable and above all inspiring.” (2019-10-16)
The 4-day-exhibition-program included a fantastic opening party, music, performances and a political debate, organized by Stichting White Cube. There was good local press coverage, a video on YouTube and a Facebook page with multiple albums and statements from the artists.
Upon return to Sweden I got a letter stating I was accepted by Gothenburg University to study Global Gender Studies, which was another dream (goal) of mine. Overall 2019 have been a great year with many changes, moving back to Sweden from USA in July after 10 amazing years in Busan, South Korea and Houston, Texas. Sweden represents now many new challenges but also new opportunities, dreams and journeys. So many things to be grateful for!
100% VROUW (100% FEMALE)
24 – 27 October 2019
Grand or St. Laurens Church Alkmaar, Alkmaar, Netherlands
“At this juncture in our history, the digital revolution has become so fundamental as to prompt the question: what is the purpose of the codex in our time? The artists in Freed Formats argue passionately for its continued relevance: their work maintains an important connection of mind/body/soul in the act of engaging with a book. We are invited to turn, flip, finger, read, peer, wear, crane, smell, delight, ponder, and empathize…. They help us remember: a book is a universe unto itself.” (From the New Havens Independent Newspaper, 2019-07-01)
Freed Formats: the book reconsidered — an exhibition that presents us with a variety of works that challenge all that we may think about books. This is a traveling exhibition of book art by 53 artists,135 works representing 17 states and 2 countries that will be exhibited in six Arts Centers over the next several months.
Curators: Book Artist Chris Perry of Ridgefield, CT and Alice Walsh of Carmel, NY
After moving to Sweden, I participated in the Summer Showcase in London, a free two-day festival of ideas for curious minds, held from 21-22 June 2019. The British Academy opened up their beautiful building with 15 interactive exhibits alongside pop-up talks, workshops and performances, bringing the best new humanities and social sciences research to life.
Our exhibition featured artists’ books, aiming to transform the way we think about health, wellbeing and illness: “Since the 1980s, a growing number of book artists have used their craft to share stories about health, wellbeing and illness. These artworks give a voice to those living with disability, chronic illness or cancer, while challenging stigma and discrimination. But can they also help medical professionals to better understand their patients? Featuring multi sensory works by contemporary artists, this exhibit explores the vital intersection between art and science. Handle artists’ books, learn about the lives of the makers and craft your own book to take home.”
These two articles by Dr. Stella Bolaki focus on artists’ books, while my work was featured in the first one:
Co-exhibitors: Artists Egidija Čiricaitė and Darian Goldin Stahl
Artists’ books by: Sophie Adams, Judith Alder, Penny Alexander, Karen Apps, Gunilla Åsberg, Gaby Berglund Cardenas, Lizzie Brewer, Julie Brixey-Williams, Sally Chinea, Egidija Čiricaitė, Allison Cooke Brown, Amanda Couch, Bernard Fairhurst, Elizabeth Fraser, Sue Hague, Martha A. Hall, Andrew Hladky, Deborah Humm, Gemma Lacey, Pauline Lamont-Fisher, Mindy Lee, Andrew Malone, Richard Nash, Anne Parfitt, Corinne Perry, Stevie Ronnie, Mary Rouncefield, Erin K. Schmidt, Alison Stewart, Randi Annie Strand, Noriko Suzuki-Bosco, Ruchika Wason Singh, Amanda Watson-Will.
A few days ago my family and I moved back to Sweden after 10 years of living as expats and exhibiting my work in Asia and USA. Now I will be balancing my studio practice between the city of Gothenburg and a countryside studio by a lake. While visiting Sweden during the last summers the forest was perfect to work on my last 2 series which were exhibited in USA so I feel positive that the Swedish nature, a slower pace and the daily practice of taichi which I learned while living in Houston will provide the space and time to create new work once we settle down.
In the meantime I’m grateful for my upcoming exhibitions this year and in 2020:
Solo Exhibition, Grafik i Väst, Gothenburg, Sweden (May 2-20, 2020)
100% Female, Grote Kerk Alkmaar (The Grand Church of Alkmaar), Alkmaar, Netherlands (Oct.24-27, 2019)
The Tower of Babel, Scuola Internazionale di Grafica, Venice, Italy (Aug.26-31, 2019)
Freed Formats: The book reconsidered, travelling exhibition, New York-Connecticut, USA (Mar.1-Oct.31, 2019)
Summer Showcase 2019, The British Academy, London, UK (June 21-22, 2019)
So excited about how things will develop for our family and I’m looking forward to meeting new artists, reconnecting with good friends, visiting new places, learning new things and experiencing all the seasons!