Dr. Gary Svensson on Ture Sjolander.

"Who, in fact, knows anything about pictures? And why do we understand so little about visual semantics? Photography and motion pictures have existed for 100 years, television for 50. Despite this, pictures have not attained more than a purely illustrative function. Why? Probably, because most of our pictures are created by Word people. In fact, roughly half the items on TV today could just as well be broadcast on radio instead." This is a quotation from a paper "The impact of New Technology on the Development of Culture" presented by Ture Sjölander at the World Conference on Culture in Stockholm, March 31 - April 2 1998.

Ture Sjolander (b. 1937) has become known as an experimental photographer and avant-garde artist. He made his artistic debut in 1961, with a solo exhibition at the Sundsvall Museum. Unlike many artists presented here, there is some documentation on Sjolander. In the magazine Konstrevy (1:1963), there is detailed presentation of him, as well as in Aktuell Fotografi (12:1977). The earlier presentation was written after the exhibition at the Gallery Observatiorium with Lars Hillersberg och Ulf Rahmberg, at a time when Sjolander has just established himself as an artist. In the same year, he participated in a group exhibition at the White Chapel Art Gallery in London, and also qualified himself for the Swedish Government Artist Grant (Statens Konstnärsstipendium) and the Stockholm City Cultural Grant (Stockholms Stads Kulturstipendium). The article from 1977, was written after Sjolander had designed a big tapestry based on his own ABBA-photographs, for Polar Music AB.

Sjolander was a pioneer in what came to be known as "new media". In his preface to the exhibition in Sundsvall, Öyvind Fahlström wrote: To the photo-graphic artists, as he calls those who feel dissatisfied with the dialectics of the traditional photographer's relationship with his motif: when he looks around for the motif, he is its superb master, in command of every choice. But at the exact moment when he presses the button, he has already turned into a slave of the motif, and he no longer has the painter's freedom to rearrange, exclude or accentuate anything in his picture - other than in a strictly limited way. (From Öyvind Fahlström's preface to the exhibition in 1961, "On the photo-graphic art of Ture Sjolander".)

In 1964, much was written about Ture Sjolander in connection with his exhibition "You have been photographed", at the Karlsson Gallery (19-24 - 11-13). It is likely that this controversial exhibition gave the gallery its place as one of Stockholm's most influential galleries in the domains of political art, as well as in sub- and counterculture. At the time of Sjolander's exhibition, many people (among them Ulf Hård af Segerstad) voiced criticism against this seemingly dadaistic version of photography. In the same year, another acquaintance from Sundsvall, Sven Inge de Monér, exhibited his works at the Gallery Karlsson. Along with another artist, Bror Wikström, Sjolander and de Moner began working together on various projects in the 1960's. The three men were interested in electronic experiments and Sjolander's contacts with the Swedish Broadcasting Corporation proved crucial. Sjolander does not want to describe the 1960's as a revolutionary time, but rather as a re-evolutionary one. Later on, he has explained how he, as an artist, tried to work with different types of techniques. An example of this can be seen in the films Time and Monument. They have been broadcasted on Swedish television, and have also received attention abroad. He was a driving force in the "multi-art" project, which was led by Kristian Romare, the producer of Monument. This is what Rune Jonsson writes about it in 1977: "In the news program Aktuellt, Ulf Thorén showed part of the exhibition, and Sjolander coined the following expression: "I want to exhibit, not to inhibit" [ om man skall ställa ut så skall man ju inte ställa in] . Some 10,000 visitors came to the exhibition during the two weeks that it was on. Many of the viewers were attracted by the television news-program and this made Sjolander think about new ways of distributing visual art. It should be possible to attract more visitors with the help of television and outdoor exhibitions. ("Ture Sjolander, a revolutionary in Swedish photography," Aktuell Fotografi 12:1977).

Ture Sjolander was widely noticed for his artistic activities in the 1960's. The experimental films Time and Monument were to be his most successful pieces of work in the 1960's. Included in his more recent projects, is Video Nu (Video Now) in Stockholm. He was again in the public eye in the 1970's, for taking the first colour photos of Greta Garbo and using Charlie Chaplin as a model. Ture Sjolander now lives and works in Australia.

Gary Svensson.


from the book: Digitala Pionjarer, Datorkonstens introduktion i Sverige - 2000 - Carlssons Bokforlag Stockholm Sweden.