Tomas Colbengtson

Girl—where to?

Tomas Colbengtson’s pieces for this biennale are two silkscreen portraits of Sámi people printed on polycarbonate glass. The portraits are placed in nature, with a river as their backdrop. We can see the faces of two women, visualized through patterns taken from old carvings on reindeer antlers. The river passes behind their faces, symbolising the years that have passed and the culture that has vanished.

Colbengtson’s work in Ii is based on the colonial history and legacy and uses photographs of Sámi people from the Tärna area in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In his works, history is the material—how we remember and act upon it, reflect on our past. Citing the loss of his language as the main reason he works with visual art, Colbengtson focuses on loss, memory and restitution.

Colbengtson (b. 1957) was born in Tärna, Sweden, and is of south Sámi descent. In his works, he often refers to Sámi culture, asking questions about cultural identity and existence. He explores images, colours and forms based on Sámi culture and the landscape of northern Scandinavia. Sámi culture is closely connected to nature, so light and landscape are important parts of his work. Colbengtson experiments with combinations of media and material and developed a new way of screen printing. He prints on Graal-glass, a type of overlay glass using images and colours. He also does screen printing on metal—aluminium, brass and silver—and uses etching and digital art techniques.

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