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Every year, the Maria Bonnier Dahlin Foundation awards grants to young Swedish artists to support their work. This year marks the 35th anniversary of the first award. Fellows in 2021 are Tobias Bradford and Ferdinand Evaldsson. The exhibition at Bonniers Konsthall provides an opportunity for the fellows to present their work on a larger scale, while new and unexpected dialogues between the artists emerge.

Tobias Bradford and Ferdinand Evaldsson share an interest in psychology, memories and fears, which they process in different craft techniques. In their studios, the artists carry out time-consuming work in which motifs are carved, moulded and painted in materials such as wood, gelatine, foam and papier-mâché. The physical and tactile processes of hand meeting material in the studio are transferred to the exhibition space, where Bradford’s moving sculptural installations are joined by Evaldsson’s pigmented wooden panels. The exhibition is structured as a visual and sonic whole in which the two artists emerge in the friction between different sensory states.

Tobias Bradford (b. 1993) borrows concepts from puppetry, illusionism and robotics. Through moving and sounding sculptures he explores the relationship between the body and the machine, where human desire versus technological development is a recurring theme. The works are often self-portraits in the form of body parts and musical instruments that have been mechanized. In repetitive patterns of movement, the sculptures embody memories of childhood, but also various obsessions and compulsions. The relatively meaningless actions performed by the sculptures (such as trembling or tapping) appear to be a low-key revolt against society’s perpetual drive for performance and productivity. The artist’s interest in spirit worlds and telepathy is evident in works such as Restless (2019), a self-propelled table that wanders away when it senses a human presence. Here, the wireless signals can be likened to a form of otherworldly communication.

The mechanics of Tobias Bradford’s sculptures are always overtly disclosed and deliberately made as simple domestic constructions. In this way, he portrays both the fragility of the body and of technology; as a cyborg or human-machine creature caught between doomsday prophecies and utopian visions of the future. A central work in the exhibition is Stage Fright (2021), a staging of a concert in which the unholy band consists of a nervous accordionist, an arrhythmic self-playing drummer, a keyboardist hiding behind a kitschy curtain – all led by a singing duck who has forgotten the words. This crossover between sound and image, man and machine, comedy and seriousness is characteristic of Bradford’s work, where the spaces in between lead to a series of surprising encounters.

Ferdinand Evaldsson (b. 1988) has a background as an icon painter. At the age of 16, he began his apprenticeship studying the Orthodox Byzantine style. His studies led him to Cairo where, in the midst of the 2011 revolution, he immersed himself in the Coptic style, a tradition that was rediscovered in the mid-20th century after having been extinct since the 16th century. Demonstrations and martial law in Cairo alternated with quiet visits to some of the world’s oldest monasteries. The experience of the monasteries in Sinai, with their bright colours and small niches where the light seeps in, surrounded by the dull colour of the sand, is something Evaldsson constantly returns to in his art.

Ferdinand Evaldsson’s visual worlds are linked to a personal loss of memory and can be understood as monuments to the struggle to regain control of something that has been lost. As the artist travels through his own personal memory, he connects it with collective memory in relation to icon painting as a craft tradition, where he mills and carves symbols and motifs into wooden panels. In the exhibition space, a large-scale work titled Fight Flight Freeze II (2020) is suspended from the ceiling in thick brass chains, adding a new dimension to his otherwise wall-hung works. The title Fight Flight Freeze refers to the term coined by the American physiologist Walter Bradford Cannon to describe the psychological response to perceived danger. The adjoining gallery displays two more large-scale reliefs that are part of the same series, one of which is clad in brass plate. The brass, as well as the saliva-polished pigmented surface, both recall the stone-like expression of icon painting.

Both Ferdinand Evaldsson and Tobias Bradford are engaged in a commemorative art in which the materials are in constant movement. The wood, gelatin and paint pigments in Evaldsson’s paintings expand and swell over time. Bradford’s moving sculptures make sounds and interact with the visitors in the exhibition space. Together, the works portray personal and collective emotions (such as fear, longing, love and wonder), where the craft itself becomes a way of grasping the truly intangible.

The 2021 guest jury is the artist Jens Fänge and the writer and curator Saskia Neuman.

Tobias Bradford
With nervous energy and choppy movements, Tobias Bradford’s sculptures break out of the expected with gentle humour. They take the leap from mechanical engineering straight into fragile life. The sculptural installations expose the relationship between technology and the unknown. Absurd, melancholic, fragile and emotional. The friction that arises in the encounter between the grotesque and the carefully observed generates a warmth that, despite its mechanical form, must be said to be deeply human.

Ferdinand Evaldsson
Ferdinand Evaldsson’s work combines antiquity with the present. Through patterns, ornaments, animal and human body parts, architecture and geometric shapes, the artist creates motifs beyond this world, like remnants of another time forced into the present. With his studies and experience of icon painting, Evaldsson combines a thousand-year-old tradition of craftsmanship with more subtle depictions of an elusive reality. Without the need for analysis or decoding, the artist expresses an exploration into personal memory. By creating a presence in physical objects, Evaldsson ties together her own memories, which in interaction with each other, are transformed into an expression that reveals both a darker past and a more hopeful future.

Tobias Bradford was born in Örebro, Sweden, and received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Goldsmiths, University of London, in 2019. Bradford’s work often draws inspiration from puppetry, robotics and stage magic to create installations and objects that are seemingly perceived as autonomous. In these ‘self-conscious’ machine sculptures, Bradford explores themes of hopelessness, radical optimism, unease, nervousness, humour and the constantly shifting boundary between body and machine in an age where technology, magic and mythology are increasingly difficult to separate. Bradford has previously exhibited at Kulturhuset in Stockholm, Accelerator, Huxley Parlour Gallery London and Supermarket Art Fair. Bradford works in Stockholm and London.

Ferdinand Evaldsson was born in Sundsvall and received a Master’s degree in Fine Arts from Konstfack in 2020. He is also a trained icon painter at the Coptic Institute in Cairo. Evaldsson works with painted wooden slates based on ancient craft methods. They are anachronistic monuments where ornamentation, mythology, memory and psychology merge. He has previously exhibited at Konsthall C, ABF-Huset in Stockholm, Monopol By Appointment at Spritmuseum, Elastic Gallery and at Melanders in collaboration with Stockholm Konst. Evaldsson lives and works in Stockholm.

Image: Tobias Bradford, Stage Fright, 2021. Installation mechanic. Installations Huxley-Parlour Gallery, Londres.

Bonniers Konsthall

Torsgatan 19

113 21 Stockholm, Sweden


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