From the series Landet Utom Sig, A Country Beside Itself, this poster rendition of Lars Tunbjörk’s “Öland, 1991” presents a shirtless man standing entranced by a television with his back towards us. Humidity envelopes this image, a humidity not necessarily brought about by the heat of the Swedish island of Öland but by a pregnant albeit sterile stillness and weight of discordant visual temperatures that make this painterly photograph affect stickiness. This image feels uncomfortable too: the chair to the right looks Spartan against the man’s plush tan skin, the white overhead light burns dissonant to the light ochre-painted walls of the room, the small television screen is a but too strenuous to focus on.
Undoubtedly one of Sweden’s most internationally acclaimed and legendary photographers, the late Lars Tunbjörk began his practice with black-and-white photography, eventually switching to medium format colour photography in the style of 1970’s American photographers to animate and document the absurdity and incongruence that belie modern life. Irony, absurdity, incongruence — these words essentially grasp at the everyday odd that became the artist’s main point of interest during his career, an interest he quite literally investigated under the hard light of his camera’s flash. What resulted from Tunbjörk’s elixir of emblazoning flash and saturated colour were deadpan, acidic social portraits from suburbia to the office, of commercial environments that seemed to have cropped up like mushrooms across Earth, of domestic settings that consequently grew increasingly abandoned and decreasingly colourful, of a collective unconscious that feigned the idyllic. Though and perhaps because Tunbjörk’s images are bright and playfully colourful, they simmer a dark humour and satire that credit the artist’s work with a socially critical eye.
In the autumn of 2018, Fotografiska Stockholm hosted a major retrospective of Tunbjörk’s work entitled Tunbjörklandet — A View from the Side, in which “Öland, 1991” featured. While the artist had begun planning a retrospective, both a book and an exhibition, before his death in April 2015, this plan was fruitfully executed posthumously by his wife and filmmaker Maud Nycander, and curator and photographer Hasse Persson. Tunbjörk’s photographs belong to many major collections of museums, from the Museum of Modern Art in New York and in Stockholm, to the Centre Pompidou and the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris. He was a member of L’Agence Vu for almost 20 years and worked prolifically as an editorial photographer for The New York Times Magazine, GEO, and many other publications including TIME. Apart from all of this, and perhaps most meaningful to the artist’s career, Tunbjörk’s influence is evident in an expression common in Swedish photography circles: a ‘Tunbjörkare’ or ‘Tunbjörkland’ — an image or a place with a special quality, particularly one that reflects absurd everyday observations and a critical view of life. This poster, one of five posters created in connection with this exhibition, allows you to take some of this absurdity for yourself as well.
Size: 19.69”W 27.56”H (50x70 cm)
Printed on FSC-certified paper