Ulla Wiggen – Outside / Inside Fridericianum in Kassel from February 24th until June 2nd 2024

30 maj, 2024 kl. 11:00 – 20:00
Museum Fridericianum, Friedrichsplatz 18, 34117 Kassel, Tyskland

In the first half of 2024 the Fridericianum presents an exhibition comprising more than 50 paintings and drawings by Swedish artist Ulla Wiggen. The retrospective survey bears testimony to Wiggen’s ongoing interest in visually exploring complex systems – from computers to the human body and mind.

The work of the artist Ulla Wiggen, born in Stockholm in 1942, is characterized by outstanding formal and conceptual precision. Spanning six decades, from the 1960s to the present day, her oeuvre comprises four bodies of paintings: renderings of circuit boards and other electronic components, portraits, medical imagery showing bones and internal organs, and works focusing on the iris of the eye. These motifs are formally linked by Wiggen’s painterly refinement and attention to detail.

Groups of works

Inventarienr: NM 6170 Konstnärens namn: Ulla Wiggen Titel: Trask

In the early 1960s, the artist began painting pictures of circuit boards and other electronic components. Digital technology was still entirely new at the time. Wiggen had access to it through the work of her late husband, Knut Wiggen. He was a composer and head of the electronic music studio at the Swedish radio (Elektronmusikstudion/EMS). Wiggen’s filigree images are modeled on the flat, schematic arrangement and formal aesthetics of circuit boards. The clean lines and blocks of color visualize the flow of electricity that usually remains hidden from view inside electronic devices. But the artist does not just copy circuit diagrams. The depicted circuits would not fulfill their function, but they do employ an aesthetic logic. It was these works that garnered institutional recognition for the young painter: In 1968, some of the paintings were featured in the groundbreaking exhibition Cybernetic Serendipity held at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London while the Moderna Museet in Stockholm acquired the work TRASK (1967).

Around 1970, Wiggen turned her attention towards traditional portraiture. The persons depicted are presented in front of wide seascapes with low horizons or in front of neutral backgrounds. The artist’s view of her subjects is as attentive and intimate as it is objective and detail oriented, just like her technical paintings from the previous decade. While her earlier works explore the interior of electronic systems, in her portraits she approaches the theme of interiority and exteriority via a meticulous observation of faces. In doing so, she invites the viewer into a silent dialogue with the portrayed subjects – the eyes and lines of their faces appear exceptionally vivid due to the depth of their invisible, yet clearly revealed psychological make-up.

Ulla Wiggen: Horisonten (The Horizon), 1969, Acrylic on panel, Collection of the Norrköpings Konstmuseum. Photo: Norrköpings Konstmuseum/Per Myrehed

Between the early 1980s and the early 2010s, Wiggen focused primarily on her work as a psychotherapist. Encouraged by a series of solo and group exhibitions highlighting the renewed enthusiasm for her circuit paintings from the 1960s among younger curators, artists, and audiences sensitized to the historical impact of digital technology, Wiggen then embarked upon a series of paintings based on medical representations of bones or parts of the human brain, applying the same precision and attention to detail that are characteristic of her earlier works. The 2014 painting Conscientia, for instance, shows a schematic representation of a brain against the background of a network of neurons and synapses. The work raises the question of where consciousness is located as a defining feature of human psychology and how it can be represented.

Wiggen’s most recent group of works, beginning in 2016 and still ongoing, combines the portrait-like with medical depictions of the complex and intricately patterned human iris, which she paints on circular panels with slightly irregular edges. Commonly referred to as windows to the soul, eyes are generally seen as occupying a special position between the physical outside world and the mental inner world – which seems to be located in the almost cosmic depth of the black pupil at the center of Wiggen’s paintings. In a less poetic context, digital eye scans form the basis for biometric identification technology, as each person’s iris reveals a unique pattern. In this respect, the eyes in Wiggen’s paintings mark an intersection between the individuality of her models and the digital systems she explored with her work from the 1960s.

The Swedish painter’s presentation in Kassel follows exhibitions of her paintings at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm (2013), Galerie Belenius in Stockholm (2018 and 2020), and Galerie Buchholz in Cologne (2020) and Berlin (2023). In recent years, Wiggen’s work has featured in numerous international group exhibitions, including DREAM MACHINES at the Slaughterhouse on Hydra (2023), the 59th Venice Biennale (2022), Worlds of Network at the Centre Pompidou in Paris (2022), Shapeshifters at Malmö Konstmuseum (2020), Electronic Superhighway at the Whitechapel Gallery in London (2016), and Ghosts in the Machine at the New Museum in New York (2012). Her works are found in the collections of Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Lunds Universitet, Göteborgs Konstmuseum, Malmö Konstmuseum, and other public collections.

The exhibition is held under the patronage of Her Excellency Veronika Wand-Danielsson, Ambassador of Sweden to Germany. It is being realized in collaboration with the EMMA – Espoo Museum of Modern Art in Finland.

With the generous support of the Leinemann Stiftung für Bildung und Kunst, the Karin und Uwe Hollweg Stiftung, the Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation and the Swedish Arts Grants Committee’s International Programme for Visual and Applied Arts (IASPIS).



Opening hours Fridericianum & Café
Tue–Sun & public holidays 11 am–6 pm, Thu 11 am–8 pm

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