Our website uses cookies

Cookies enable us to provide the best experience possible and help us understand how visitors use our website. By browsing Essential Retail Magazine, you agree to our use of cookies.

Okay, I understand Learn more

VM inspiration: Sigrid Holmwood’s neon image at the Saatchi Gallery

The Saachi Gallery has an interesting exhibition at present that might provide inspiration for visual merchandisers.

Champagne Life celebrates the work of British/Swedish artist Sigrid Holmwood, who works in London. She draws on her Swedish heritage to create a series of large canvases reimagining the everyday activities of European peasants in a palette of neon brush strokes. The word ‘peasant’ has recently been reclaimed and linked to other indigenous peoples, and is used by Holmwood in questioning notions of progress in Western art, in her reenactments of a vanished way of life.

‘Church Boats,’ records the reenactment of a Swedish mid-summer festival, where villagers cross Lake Siljan to attend church in boats adorned with a giant wreath made from birch. Holmwood records the regional designs boat in this part of Sweden, which is thought to epitomize picturesque notions of Sweden’s past. Interested in the point at which Western painters sought to record the disappearing peasant way of life during industrialization in the 19th century, Holmwood reminds us, Van Gogh sought to live with peasants in the south of France, likening creating his paintings to their employment in the fields.

In an on-going investigation of 19th century themes Holmwood makes some of her own paints from vegetation, and sometimes works on hand-woven linen. Her brushwork, aside from the neon colour palette, is reminiscent of impressionist techniques, but she is clear this interest is not driven by nostalgia. In ‘Frying Fish,’ a portrait of a woman dressed in a headscarf and an apron, frying fish over an open fire watched by a small child, the composition is reminiscent of Dutch domestic scenes from the Golden Age (17th century).

Note how perfectly the green flagon in the foreground enhances the red neon backdrop. Paintings such as these, or perhaps something similar, would enliven VM displays for kitchen goods, as they are often neutral-coloured, composed of browns, whites, and beiges, with wood and metal, and the topic is congruent.

A member of an English Tudor re-enactment group, Holmwood and her fellow participants see the process of relearning a 16th century lifestyle as an opportunity to relearn life-skills of the past. She says: “We don’t pretend to be in the olden days. We are modern people discovering how things work through doing it.”

‘Making Lye’ was based on a reenactment in London, creating one of the components of soap by pouring water through wood ash. As lye was also used in pigment production, Holmwood was also making a painting twice over, in recreating both content and material. Again, the confident brush stokes and the this time yellow neon palette draw attention, much as neon clothing on the grey streets of any wintertime city.

This final image is composed of a wide mix of materials in the fashion of post-modernity. Holmwood has included cochineal (made from ground-up beetles) and egg tempera (used by Renaissance fresco painters) along with ready-prepared neon artists’ paints in a wider palette than her other images. The extreme contrast between image and colour here might make perfect inspiration for a backdrop to Japanese or Antwerp Six designers’ work as an extreme contrast to asymmetrical black garments.