Open: Wed-Fri 12-18, sat 12-16. Closed: May 26, June 3-4, June 24-25.
Juan-Pedro Fabra Guemberena uses several different strategies to create a powerful effect in the viewer. Whether the effect is slow and seeping, or immediate, his art seems to move underneath the skin of the beholder. An artwork that at a first glance seems to enter a conversation about abstraction in painting reveals itself as also deconstructing a nations self-image through entering a conversation around innovation, design export and the concept of care. I am talking about Better Shelter – a work of art that is also the title of Juan-Pedro Fabra Guemberena’s exhibition in Södertälje.
The title Better Shelter is taken from Ikeas name of the modular houses that in flat packaging are sent to conflict-affected areas around the world. JFabra Guemberena borrows the name for an installation where the content of the Ikea-packaging has been taken away and the wrapping turned into abstract painting. The artwork aligns itself both with the artists own personal narrative and a discussion about the country of Sweden. Juan-Pedro Fabra Guemberena and his family arrived at a refugee camp in the town of Moheda in the district of Småland (the home of Ikea) in the late 1970s. The family was fleeing from the military dictatorship in Uruguay, and soon the simple housing structures and their worn Ikea-furniture became a kind of temporary “home”. Fabra Guemberena has used the experiences of the refugee camp as a point of departure for several artistic strategies. During his research he found the study “The Global Shelter Imaginary” from a university of Minnesota. The study proposes that Ikeas design solutions to the complex human drama of the refugee in many ways can be seen to “lock” the notions of being a refugee and having to flee from one’s home. Improving the temporary physical shelter of the refugee focuses on the refugee as the problem to solve, “you could become a better refugee” to quote the artist himself.
The installation Better Shelter is currently being shown in two different versions at two different art institutions simultaneously, among some of Sweden’s most well-known modernistic paintings in the exhibition “A Home” at Thielska Galleriet and in Juan-Pedro Fabra Guemberena’s solo exhibition in Södertälje konsthall. The effect of the work is startling and of different character in the two locations. In Thielska Galleriet it seems as though the installation Better Shelter enters a direct and triumphant dialogue with Nordic art history, it sets center stage with simple materials and strong, vibrant colours next to the work of painters Eugène Jansson and Edvard Munch. In Södertälje konsthall the refections around the artwork is of a different kind, and the lingering sentiment of a darker character.
Better Shelter encourages us to reflect around difficult topics, of that which might remain hidden and secret, by doing so Juan-Pedro Fabra Guemberena inverts the idea of “helping out”. The viewer is given the option of seeing things clearer and thereby the artist joins a canon of artists that create the conditions for the viewer to become more decerning, both by introspection and in a critical dialogue with society – simultaneously.
Joanna Sandell, director Södertälje konsthall