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Gunnel Wåhlstrand

until September 24 2017

Gunnel Wåhlstrand, Den sista ön / The Last Island, 2012. Magasin III Collection. Photo: Jean-Baptiste Béranger Gunnel Wåhlstrand, Instön, 2003. Magasin III Museum & Foundation for Contemporary Art. Photo Björn Larsson Gunnel Wåhlstrand, ID, 2011. Gullringsbo Egendom Collection. Photo Björn Larsson Gunnel Wåhlstrand, Långedrag, 2004. Magasin III Collection. Photo: Björn Larsson. Gunnel Wåhlstrand, Viken / The Cove, 2013. UBS Collection. Photo: Jean-Baptiste Béranger.

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen presents from 24 June untill 24 September 2017 the largest solo exhibition of work by the Swedish artist Gunnel Wåhlstrand (Uppsala 1974). Wåhlstrand makes realistic large-scale ink wash paintings of monumental landscapes, compelling portraits and serene interiors with intriguing compositions. The exhibition features 23 works by Wåhlstrand – giving visitors a chance to see the majority of her very limited production of only 35 works total completed over the last 15 years.

Taking a closer look at the ink wash paintings by Swedish artist Gunnel Wåhlstrand (Uppsala 1974), it is easy to understand why they take the artist months to complete. She builds up her images in countless layers of diluted ink, cautiously preserving the light as she gradually fills the paper—any mistake is irreversible. The image slowly emerges like a photographic print in developing fluid. Ordinary family snapshots are transformed into something timeless and universal.

While studying at the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm, Wåhlstrand discovered ink wash painting at an exhibition with Marlene Dumas. During the same period, she read Roland Barthes’ Camera Lucida, in which he describes searching through photographs for the quintessential image of his dead mother. This struck a chord since Wåhlstrand never knew her father. In fact, the only connection that she had to him was a box of family photographs. To fill the silence surrounding his life and disappearance, she began to use these photographs as a point of departure for her paintings. She started spending months closely examining and painting each photograph, thereby developing a unique visual language.

Mother Profile for Rotterdam from Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen on Vimeo.

The earliest paintings focus on her father and his family. In later works, she removes all figures, leaving empty but charged landscapes. Each time she journeys into the image feeling that she actually visits the places depicted in them. In her most recent work, she has left the family albums behind and turned her attention to her own photograph of a place that is significant to her.By enlarging photographs and capturing them in minute detail, she gives a heightened sense of presence—almost as if one could step into the image.


A book is published on the occasion of the exhibition Gunnel Wåhlstrand by Magasin III Museum & Foundation for Contemporary Art together with Art & Theory, 2017. The book presents Gunnel Wåhlstrand’s complete oeuvre and is richly illustrated with reproductions of all of her works. The book is for sale at the museum shop, price € 50,-.

On view

This exhibition is on view in the Bodon Galleries of the museum. The exhibition about Gunnel Wåhlstrand is staged in collaboration with Magasin III Museum & Foundation for Contemporary Art, Stockholm, Sweden.