Touching the art.

While we are indoctrinated very early on not to touch an artwork, with the exception of occasional permission granted by an artist in a communal or inter active work, perhaps it has become more pertinent to ask ‘can the work touch us’? Turning the question around allows for an even more participatory situation where our investment in looking and reacting can assimilate the idea and practice of touch. By invoking the phenomenon of synaesthesia – a neurological condition where two or more sensory perceptions are conjoined – an embodiment through looking is suggested. This ‘mirror touch’ opens the possibility of images being reflected in our bodies: a sensory experience that connects our eyes to the body and its surroundings. Such complex folding of how we comprehend touch and our ‘collective bodies’ are found in the work of Ingrid Klintskog’s paintings at Umeå Art Academy.

Klintskog’s paintings are large – indeed often bigger then the artist herself. She has painted feet and arms, portraits and now, more abstract looking paintings. I don't think that she is very interested in the different categories of painting in terms of deciding patterns and hierarchies of power. Arguments of abstract versus figuration, lyrical or process based mark makings seem to be less useful tools in trying to penetrate this work, or should I say might lead one up the wrong path in understanding what is at stake here.  Her's is not a game of positionings, or endless labyrinths of redistribution, reconfigurations and realignements. Ingrid seems to be trying to make sense of an innate bodily need which is comparable to having breakfast or getting dressed. It is a bodily pattern which leaves a trace, one that she paints.

This does not mean that she turns her back on the world to use Agnes Martin's words. Klintskog is fully  in and of the world and she paints the one she knows. That leaves no space for ironic distance. We come up to the surface of these paintings and it is completely present. Fields of paint, layered in stripes or triangles. Colours of skin and flesh, kitchen cupboards and sky. Sometimes dirty and unwashed and also airy and transparent. At the same time.

One painting in particular has an almost radiant presence. It depicts a number of what seems at first to be flat surfaces, triangles interlocking. The tips elongated and skewed braiding a sophisticated weave or plait. Shapes evoking human forms but also rooms, Klintskog refuses our grasp of what is depicted – a fold of flatness and space to be entered and felt. Red and green in different shades of opacity letting light pass through or not. The physical reaction to it is surprising and very direct. The feeling is of looking at something intensely intimate, almost too intimate, as though we have no right to witness it but cannot stop ourselves. It is an invitation to communicate on a sensory level. Is this reaction to do with a recognition of a pattern that already exist in our bodies? Could even this recognition press itself onto the political sphere, a spilling out of what we term the inside and outside of our collective intimacies?


Ingrid Klintskog makes paintings as though they are necessary for her survival. It seems to be part of her breath. In and out, slowly filling the body and emptying. Breath being the very beginning of every action or movement. She puts paint on and then rubs it off. She scrubs the painting clean and then puts another layer on. Accumulations of paint collecting and vanishing and of course there is now a trace of that breath, a layer of dye, an imprint of a body and an action. It is almost like breath on a mirror but this one stays and our bodies are reflected. Could it be Klintskog's breath that we see, or think that we see looking at this painting? I don't know but I cannot stop looking.

Martin Gustavsson

Catalouge text, Cultural Capital, Umeå Bildmuseet, 2014

ingrid klintskog