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Sweden-based UK artist draws on Darwin for Stockholm exhibition

An exhibition of British artist Richard Sexton’s latest images is currently in the Mornington Hotel lobby in Stockholm.

Sweden-based UK artist draws on Darwin for Stockholm exhibition

Richard Sexton has a name he can play with. Luckily, he also plays with images.

The theme of his current exhibition at the Mornington Hotel on Nybrogatan is Darwin, the Light of Reason and the Pursuit of the Marvellous. It’s the playful Darwin: discoveries and unexpected juxtapositions.

The works are oil pastel drawings, juggling the definition with paintings. Many incorporate handwritten messages – a sort of ‘BTW’ to make you forget medium modes.

Here’s Vladimir Nabokov, splashed in oil pastels, a summer snapshot of a tentative father’s hand on his son’s shoulder. Beside them, in clear, casual script is: “Je suis dépaysé, partout et toujours.” It’s a sentiment that many of us share, and Nabokov is saying it’s a proud profession.

The frames are hung in the Mornington’s glassy lobby, backs turned to Östermalm’s scurrying well dressed. Once in the bookshelf-lined lobby you think you’re in the hotel’s library. Actually you don’t of course, but I like the theme. A central pillar has cleverly become a pillar-bookshelf.

Inside, Richard Sexton’s frames now compete with the outside parade, but since you have to go close to read the frequent drawn messages or book titles (harmonising accidentally with the lobby, a second theme is book covers), you don’t notice middle distance.

On one drawing of a book cover, an African woman crooks a knee and smiles, sunny red dress and big hat beaming with her. The name of the book is Standing Dreaming. (The drawing of book covers leads you down another path to another medium — a third theme.)

Sexton suggests that the woman is dreaming of becoming president or prime minister. The power of aspiration is everywhere.

Richard Sexton’s earlier work was mostly with hand-made pigment paints. Inspiration has taken him often to Asia, Africa and, in one wild flight of inquisitiveness, to the desert outside Geraldton on the windswept heat of the Western Australian coast.

Bugs and beetles abound in the drawings, dying to tell us stories about nature. But “Ceci n’est pas un conte,” cautions one drawing. Another shows fragments of Rugosa fossil (an extinct order of coral) and a fig – and it’s Fårö Island! Fig trees on Gotland? Don’t get Sexton started on the shifting tectonic plates. Or rather, do, because you’ll be listening to that same joy of discovery so clearly visualised in his pictures.

Sexton and his partner Miriam were on Fårö looking for the legendary hidden Engelska kyrkogården. Fårösund was a British naval base during the Crimean war in the mid-19th century. A few English seamen were hastily buried there, and almost forgotten, after succumbing in a cholera epidemic.

It’s an exhibition of bright juxtapositions, thematic and visual. Plus richness, fun and quirky wisdom.

Were there sixteen paintings? I didn’t count.

By Kim Loughran, whose book, The Year in Sweden, is on sale now at the AdLibris online bookstore.

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Stockholm’s giant penis mural to be covered up after complaints

A giant blue penis painted on a Stockholm apartment building is to be covered up after just one week, the company which owns the building has said.

Stockholm's giant penis mural to be covered up after complaints
The penis was painted in blue with a yellow background, perhaps reflecting Sweden's national colours. Photo: Photo: Hugo Röjgård/Graffitifrämjandet
Atrium Ljungberg said it had come to the decision after receiving a barrage of complaints about the five-story high depiction of a bulging erection.  
 
“Of course we care about artistic freedom, but at the same time we must respect the opinion of our closest neighbours,” Camilla Klint, the company's marketing head, said in a statement. 
 
“By letting it remain for a short period, we are offering anyone who's interested a chance to experience the work.” 
 
The company said that it had been given no prior warning that a giant penis was about to appear on one of its blocks. 
 
“On Wednesday morning, April 11th, we saw  Kollektivet Livet's new work for the first time, at exactly the same moment as all the other people who live on Kungsholmen did,” it said in its statement.  
 
Under their arrangement, the artist collective had total artistic freedom over the works it commissioned for the wall, at Kronobergsgatan 35 on the central Stockholm island of Kungsholmen.  
 
The decision will come as a disappointment to the artist Carolina Falkholt. Her first giant penis painting, which she plastered on a wall in the Lower East Side of Manhattan in December, lasted only a few days. 
 
She said on Wednesday that she expected her native Swedes to be more receptive. 
 
Atrium Ljungberg did acknowledge that many appreciated the painting. 
 
“Some people are positive about the work and see it as playing an important part in the debate around sexuality, the body and gender,” the company wrote.
 
“Others, particularly neighbours, have received the work less well, and experience it as offensive.”
 
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