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Interview with Christine Ödlund

 

Recently, you’ve been using various strategies for communicating with plants in your art. What’s that all about? 

It’s a new development: research is being done into the ways in which plants communicate. Mostly how they communicate chemically, but also acoustically. Because of their survival strategies, their capacity to orient themselves using an array of different senses, and their awareness of their surroundings, some researchers are even claiming that plants should be considered the equals of animals. You could say that this is something that we, or at least some of us, have sensed since time immemorial. However, the most interesting part is the consequences this might have in the future. Walking around in a forest or buying a potted plant will never be the same again

How do these more recent works relate to your earlier ones?

My new paintings are a continuation of the plant studies in which I worked with plant pigments. Abstract floral painting incorporating archaic shapes–a kind of heraldry of the plant kingdom.

In the newer works, the idiom is related to chemical symbols (chlorophyll) and abstract charts of photosynthesis, the process through which light is converted into chemically stored energy. However, they also serve as symbols in graphical notation for a piece of music. These chemical and musical shapes have much in common, and overlap in many ways.

 
  The Spike. 2018. Plant pigment, tempera, and mixed binder on paper. 72,6 x 53,4 cm

The Spike. 2018. Plant pigment, tempera, and mixed binder on paper. 72,6 x 53,4 cm

  Molekyl. 2018. Plant pigment, tempera, and mixed binder on paper. 71,9 x 53,8 cm

Molekyl. 2018. Plant pigment, tempera, and mixed binder on paper. 71,9 x 53,8 cm

  Clorophilia. 2018. Plant pigment, tempera and mixed binder on paper. 139 x 94,6 cm   

Clorophilia. 2018. Plant pigment, tempera and mixed binder on paper. 139 x 94,6 cm
 

 

Tell us briefly about your life in music, and the influence it has had on your creative work.

I’ve always had music around me, I used to play the recorder and the piano as a child. During my art studies, I concluded that I am dependent on music and sound, as an active aspect of my artistic work. Therefore, I studied electroacoustic music at EMS in Stockholm. I often think in terms of music when I create pictures, and vice versa.

You started out in music, and then discovered photography and film… How did you get involved in metascience, or parascience?

This happened mainly as a result of my interest in synaesthesia and the theosophical descriptions of musical experiences. Theosophist Annie Besant (1837–1933) claimed that certain individuals possess a certain sensitivity (clairvoyance) which cases them to experience music as materialised, as colours, shapes, and motion. In a synaesthete, this is a neurological phenomenon in which sensory impressions are transmitted through crossed paths. Both of these perceptual modes are of great interest to me. I consider art an excellent tool for exploring the borderlands between science and metaphysics.

If one were to approach your works as sheet music, which notes, harmonies, and sounds would one hear?

It fluctuates between chaos and order!

These works contain very special pigments, can you tell us something about them and their various meanings?

I’ve used plant pigments: thyme, stinging nettle, madder, strawberry, mead wort, indigo, buckthorn, St John’s wort, and mahogany. This was a way for me to get to know the plants as colour substances. I find their significances in medicine, folk healing, and alchemy interesting. This, along with my exploratory chemical experiments, has revealed that these pigments are often not easy to paint with–they can behave both erratically and unpredictably at times!