Instead of H&M In her exhibition at Gallery Två, Uppsala artist Eva Högberg depicts the duality between natural and artificial. With Greta the poodle as her icon, Högberg explores femininity, writes Robert Stasinski.
“Everything in Eva Högberg’s art is organic and at the same time completely artificial. In her work, familiar things like fishing net, string, and metal wires are transformed into what we might call a cross between nature and society, a cultural ecosystem, we might say. Throughout human history, people have feared the unknown, the primordial, and in Högberg’s art, this combined fascination and fear of nature surfaces, sometimes as dazzling beauty, sometimes as perverse shapes.”
Two rooms at Gallery Två display outgrowths from Högberg’s work, with a common denominator of the ever-present duality between people’s endeavour to free themselves from nature and nature’s eternal power to attract us to it. In the triptych Catrine, we see a fabricated female body – legs, pelvic region, hips and what looks like a face made of newspaper, metal, and wire netting. Here, not only a feeling of over-explicit unreality is awakened but the sculptures also arouse an everyday indifference to objects in the same way vases, telephone cords and music stereos can. We see them as something else than what they actually are.
The meaning of the exhibition’s title “Push Up” becomes especially intensified, however, in the three untitled paintings, where I stand in front of three pictures of a white poodle wearing a push-up bra and pumps. The dog, Greta, is congenial to Högberg’s art and has both a mythical and functional position in the exhibition. Avoiding a connection of this thoroughly ironic image to the annual H&M campaign for women’s underwear is impossible. The same day, I learn that H&M has chosen not to launch its touched-up Christmas babe this year. In Högberg’s paintings, nature has taken the place of human beings instead.
More of this constant feeling of femininity and retouching is emphasized in the inner work, which lacks a title but hardly a subtitle. In 24 signs resembling advertising, the same number of human body parts fight for the eye of the observer, or perhaps of an imagined consumer. Here are categories like The Labia, The Breasts, The Eyes, and The Hips, unashamedly placed next to The Brain and The Kidneys. In the gallery room, I see informative red labels by the signs The Stomach, The Hands, and The Skin—is it the pictures in the exhibition that are for sale or the parts of the body in the pictures?
Christmas is a time when sales records get beaten in an overwhelming pattern year after year, when we are more than ever exposed to wishes for MP3 players, wok pans or DVD movies. But will we soon see new lips, eyelids or thinner waistlines on the wish lists?
When I turn to look at Eva Högberg’s art, the answer feels neither faithful nor absurd.
Robert Stasinski, Critic Uppsala Nya Tidning 27 november 2004