|The photograph you see on this page speaks volumes. The eyes sparkle with happiness. The mouth tells of its owner's appetite for life. Whether the impression the portrait seeks to convey is a true one, only Gunilla Mann herself can say. But we can all say that the image is one that fits in well with her oeuvre.|
She is a Gothenburger by birth, born in Masthugget and trained at the Gothenburg School of Arts & Crafts (1962-67) and Börje Hovedskou's famous College of Art (1968-77). The paintings from her student years revealed a steadily more dedicated painter. Her choice of colours became sober, and she used her brushes with a firm hand. Had she continued along those lines the results would probably have been a flow of traditional landscapes and seascapes, aesthetically pleasing and easy on the eye but, for all that, oh so run-of-the mill!
What actually happened was something entirely different. The pattern of her life changed completely. She moved to Österlen and the flat landscape of South-Eastern Sweden and her work, which up until then had borne the imprint of noble artistry suddenly began to explode with candour and joie de vivre.
That was at the beginning of the 1980s. From then on Gunilla Mann has been an unruly narrator of her art, delighting in line and clour. Her large-scale oil paintings depict swarms of dancing, singing people. Circus artistes turn somersaults, dancers flaunt their bodies outside their tents at Kiviks Market. Men court women with flowers, and women cycle with smiling lips and opulent posteriors through surroundings ablaze with colour. Students open up like spring anemones around the old university of Lund. Here we see the home of the novelist Fritiof Nilsson "the Pirate". There the cathedral in Växjö. Elsewhere we catch a glimpse of the blue waters of Lake Siljan. In fact, the whole of Sweden is caught up in a transport of joy.
The brushwork is naïve, because the pace of narration is so fast that there is no time for sophisticated technique. It tells its own tale, one that is easy to grasp and immediately goes home among Gunilla Mann's public. "Sweden is fantastic!" was the title of her one-man shows when she was invited to exhibit overseas. It is a highly appropriate one, because it's exactly this experience that her pictures invite us to share, an experience that's so far been enjoyed by people in Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle and other towns and cities near and far, including Bucharest and Constanza in Romania and Tokyo in Japan.
It's an experience that has also been shared by the many galleries and museums in Scandinavia where her work has been exhibited and whose collections include paintings by Gunilla Mann. And when she has helped to decorate public buildings, most recently the new Opera House in Gothenburg. The 5th IAAF World Championships that the city hosted in 1995 purchased a complete edition of one of her lithographs, and in 1992 Systembolaget turned her into a popular Christmas artist.
Wherever Gunilla Mann appears, portrayals of life and carefreeness also make their appearance. Admittedly, hers is a country that is far off the beaten track for most people, but it is a country in which she does not scruple to create an untrammelled world.