Disa Rytt Liljevalchs Vårsalong, Stockholm, 30th January - 29th March 2009, and upcoming: Kungliga Konsthögskolan (Royal University College of Fine Art), Stockholm, 29th May - 15th June 2009

The works of Disa Rytt (Stockholm, b. 1984) make gender norms and conventions in our society visible, partly through her choice of motifs and also by using a technique which is highly demanding, both when it comes to patience and time, which is rather unusual in a society that so embraces capitalistic ideals. According to the artist herself, the most important aim of the work is to make her audience reflect on their position in contemporary society

. The painting Stilla (in English: still, as in peaceful, quiet) from 2008 which was featured in this year's edition of Vårsalongen, the famous annual open call-exhibition at Liljevalchs kunsthalle in Stockholm. It shows the figure of an undressed woman, slightly larger than life-size, sitting on the floor and seemingly deep within a contemplative and peaceful state of mind. Rytt has thus managed the extremely difficult task, despite the cultural baggage of the naked woman, to portray a woman without clothes as a thinking and autonomous individual, quite the opposite of the traditional image which has governed throughout art history of the woman as either a religious mother-figure or simply a desirable body and an object for the beholder to ”own”.

This technique of painting, following the heritage from the Renaissance and the portraits by the Old Masters from the 16th Century, directs the gaze of the beholder onto details and an almost palpable presence, an illusionary physicality and the experience of a living volume on the flat surface. The eye is measuring and recognising, while the gaze switches between the two-dimensional surface before us and the positively sculptural elements that seem to appear. The eye looks momentarily past the surface, attempts to see life under the skin, only to be brought back to the painterly details and more material qualities. The time-consuming method of painting also has an important impact on the motif, as the artist puts explains: ”I want to reach the core of what I am painting and that is why the process is important to me as the theories behind my work also develop alongside the motif which is taking shape on the canvas.”

The issue of the undressed body is also dealt with in the pair of paintings called Untitled and Babe from 2009. According to the artist, the paraphrase on Botticelli's Mars (From Venus and Mars, Ca 1485) may function as a form of visual title for the larger painting. As such, it opens up a dialogue between the pieces and introduces to the audience thoughts regarding the relation between the figure of the man and the discarded sheet floating in the deep, dark water of a lake. Rytt describes her works as formulating ”... a visual theory which is open to each person's further interpretation.” Images are used to visualise thoughts and establish a context instead of the commonly used, especially in exhibition-environments, textual elements that tend to make definitions that sometimes act as more of a hindrance than a help in the communication between work and beholder.

Emma Gradin, freelance curator