Carl Johan De Geer's exhibition at Bildmuseet in Umeå (Sweden) is the occasion to approach the patterns and colours of this versatile artist and designer.

One, big room at the third floor of the museum’s building – and that’s it. When entering into the exhibition’s space, one is literally surrounded by a colourful explosion. Of objects, textiles, furniture and clothes. This is enough to fall in love with the work of De Geer (b. 1938). 

About Carl Johan De Geer

Born in Canada, De Geer moved to Europe with his family to live between Belgium, Poland and Denmark. But then he moved one last time again to Stockholm, where he grew up with his grandmother (who was, by the way, a convinced Nazi-supporter) in a castle. He studied at Konstfack during the early Sixties and already in 1964 he founded the fabric printing company (and shop) Fontessa. Besides some critical acclaim, he couldn’t achieve the results he expected so he dedicated himself to fashion photography instead. It was only in 1970 – when De Geer was co-founder of the textile-collective “10-gruppen” – that he went back to the textile design. And despite he left 10-gruppen after a short while, he continued this path individually, and successfully.

The big misconception

“At that time [during the Sixites] we had this idea: we wanted to make the world better, peaceful, with the help of patterns, vibrant colours and music. It was a mistaken interpretation”. This quote clarifies the title chosen for the exhibition, Den stora missuppfattningen (The big misconception), showing De Geer’s work from the Sixties to the early 2000’s and serves as an explanation of his work. Inspired by William Morris‘ patterns and Medieval wall- and floortiles, the artist/ designer/ writer/ filmmaker/ photographer is also influenced by pop culture and Oriental art.

Where De Geer uses an iconic symbol, like in the revised version of Edvard Munch‘s The Scream (1893), I perceive the echo of Andy Warhol‘s Maos and Marilyns. Red and yellow dinosaurs remind me of Keith Haring‘s and Basquiat‘s graffiti art. And the curvy dragons (Drakar – mid 60’s) are a clear reference to the Far-East culture – and to The Blue Lotus Tin Tin’s album, as affirmed by De Geer himself. 

Den stora missuppfattningen has been for me an amazing path into the world of textile design. And I continue to love art because it is still able to surprise me, from time to time. This was one of those times.

De Geer, Drakar (mid-60's)
Hergé, Tin Tin and The Blue Lotus
Basquiat's dinosaur
Andy Warhol's Mao

About

Carl Johan De Geer, Den stora missuppfattningen

Bildmuseet, Umeå (Sweden)
12th April – 15th September 2019
Opening times. Tuesday-Thursday 10-17 | Friday 10-21 | Saturday-Sunday 10-17
Free entrance