Sunaparanta Centre for the Arts, Goa, IndiA
Solo show, focusing on abstract works in watercolor and ink,
also new works on the theme bugs and insects combined with portraits of human bodies.
I first encountered Stina’s work in the purest form: as an admirer. Five years ago, I was strolling down a street in Stockholm, I saw an exhibition of her work, I walked in and acquired a work that returned with me to Bombay. This was a character from her books, a small, surly figure, a dot on a page, white space engulfing the little illustrated boy who looked both rude and magnetic, a bit of a charming bully who now hangs on my bedroom wall in India. As I write this, he is still on my wall, staring back at me, radiating the frolic of childhood as well as its latent cruelties.
But it is the white space around him that interested me most; in it, I had glimpsed in that the artist’s expanding language, the possibilities of her imaginative vigor.
Over the years, as I got to know Virshen, I recognized her language, its atmosphere. It contained the terror of childhood – as evidenced in her books for children – but there were other threats, of erotic fire, the dance between longing and its fulfillment, the sparring of innocence with the iniquitous. Moreover, the work grew from form – of little children encountering loss and the gladness of being – into psychological etchings of sensuality. These form the bulk of her new and sublime work in Drawings on Water, which as the artist has mentioned carry the full, violent pedigree of the sea, of its ability to absorb and return, of containment. Childhood, on the other hand, pushes into darker territory themes she had relayed before; this time around, she plumbs motifs from fairy tales, of children lost in the forest, of the recognition of the adult world as one rife with betrayal and contains fruits of terror and loss. Finally, in a breakout series, The Entomologist’s Secret, she does a riff on classical drawings of butterflies and beetles but as moody, elusive impressions, reverie sketches – works that belong in a diary of the subconscious but are equally accurate for their retelling of the pinning and boarding of insects. But this time around, the artist’s ink is the ethyl acetate.
This triptych forms her show at Sunaparanta, where her strengths as an artist find unexpected tropical refuge in Goa –by the sea, but a warmer sea than her native one, yet resonant of the same tempest and wars. For works produced for her first show in India, Virshen brings a fresh and dazzling impress to India, a Scandinavian essentialism, a gorgeous terror, and a solitary mood of wondering, and wandering.