Patterns of Memory: Ann Makander in the StudioMay 13, 2016
Swedish painter and printmaker Ann Makander is holding a picnic, and everyone is invited. Ann came to WSW as our first Swedish studio exchange resident to continue work inspired by the textures, colors, and design of vintage blankets from the 1920s to the 1940s. In our Silkscreen Studio she incorporated imagery of children’s games into her patterned prints, interweaving memory with a sense of play. The dominoes and Chinese checkers coupled with the warm and welcoming textile patterns creates a springtime picnic on the grass that triggers cultural and personal nostalgia.
“You could ask your mother and father to describe the blankets they had as children and maybe they wouldn’t remember,” says Ann. “But once they see it again, all of those memories come back.”
Through the imagery of the blanket, Ann creates work that evokes leisure, playfulness, and comfort. Her prints take us to an open field on a warm spring day, a cool breeze blowing friends laugh and begin to lay out food on a favorite blanket. Someone pulls out a Chinese checkers board, marbles rolls down the wrinkles of the quilt. Someone else sets up some dominoes, another lays out cards for the game Memory—a meta wink at the intersection of these childhood games with our own personal histories.
“People can see things you don’t expect in the work, even with something as simple as dominoes,” says Ann.
But this work focusing on blanket imagery did not begin as a study in memory; rather, it grew from an exploration of design. In earlier work, Ann found repetition and patterns in the natural world around her. She painted the ripples of raindrops on a puddle, the composition of a tortoise’s shell, the shadows of leaves hit by the sun. In the last five years, Ann pushed these textures and patterns further, turning to the abstraction of the blanket as a vessel for her exploration.
In her 2014 solo exhibition Picknick, Ann displayed fifty interpretations of these blankets painted on wood, all wildly different in pattern, palette, and shape. She employed a range of scales: some paintings were barely a foot wide and clustered together, while others were over six feet across and large enough for the viewer to lose themselves in the frenzy of colors and patterns. In the middle of the exhibition space sat piles of vintage blankets housed in Plexiglas, each echoing a piece on the wall, grounding Ann’s abstract works in reality.
Using a language similar to the Pattern and Decoration artists of the 1970s, Ann builds flat fields with stripes, grids, plaid, color blocking, and doily-like flowers, pushing textile design imagery into an art context. The result is a geometric, hard-edged take on the place of these patterns—and their nostalgic associations with the home, family, and women’s work—in our lives and in the art world.
During her residency, she repeated several such forms, like the lacy flower pattern serving as the background of multiple screenprints. The bold, saturated colors of the Chinese checkers and the red and turquoise dominoes vibrate against and clash with the pastel pinks, blues, and yellows of the delicate cluster design. On a darker plaid “blanket,” bright blue Memory cards pop against thick blocks of black and red. Together, the work is a delightful jumble of unmatched, contrasting prints, shapes, and textures.
“I think with how vivid this work is, that I need to make some work that is just black and white so that I can clear my mind and catch my breath,” Ann says with a smile.
Ann Makander is a painter and printmaker that divides her time between her studio space in Malmö, Sweden and her home in Sweden’s rich countryside. She graduated from the Art Academy of Stockholm and has shown in several Swedish galleries. You can see more of Ann’s work at her website annmakander.se and check out more images from her residency on our Flickr.