Margareta Bergman, Bladi losnar

JTF (just the facts): Published in 2023 by Multipress (here). Softcover (22 x 30 cm), 80 pages, with 66 color and black-and-white reproductions. Design by Margareta Bergman and Line Bøhmer Løkken. In an edition of 300 copies, each numbered and signed. (Cover and spread shots below.)

Comments/Context: The Norwegian artist Margareta Bergman has a background in painting and textiles, and that practice gives her photographic work a distinctive physical presence. Bergman has published several photobooks, and she considers a photobook a tool for destroying and reconstructing context. She often creates her visual narrative using found images, collages, and paintings. One of Bergman’s earlier projects from 2007 titled “Something Out of Nothing” attempted to make the familiar unfamiliar via the act of the photography. Susan Bright notes, Bergman turns “nothing really” (a wire, a leg, a door frame) into “something”. “Not quite something we can put our finger on and not something easily identifiable but something more oblique and intriguing.” 

Bergman’s work explores sensorial and evocative qualities, and it is helpful to keep this in mind when turning to her most recent photobook titled Bladi losnar (the publisher’s translation is “leaves leave”). It is a slim publication that comes in a thin plastic envelope, with a sticker on top stamped with the edition number. The book is stitched, and the knot prominently appears in the center of its spine. Slightly heavier paper is used for its cover, and it is a bit shorter at the top, revealing the artist’s name and the title that also appear on the very first page. The cover itself is an abstract painting of irregular dots organized in rows and by colors. There are no page numbers, texts, or captions in the photobook, leaving it up to viewers to make sense of its continuous visual flow.

As the publisher’s description suggests, Bladi losnar “exposes a visual intimacy that evades interpretation and instead becomes physical experience.” The visual narrative, abstract and ambiguous, is constructed using found images, clippings, paintings, and photographs. These images often appear pixelated, warped, blurry, faded, or distorted by marks from a copy machine. Bergman finds inspiration in hidden connections, layers, and double meanings, and her visual flow constantly changes, playing with humor and absurdity, avoiding easy description. 

The photobook includes numerous images of isolated parts of the human body, folded fabrics, surreal fragments of nature, abstract chemical spills, and other organic elements, many of which feel both intriguing and absurd. One spreads pairs a black and white photo of what looks like a close up of hairy man’s legs with a bandage and a pixelated purple shot of bare trees with branches sticking out horizontally. There is a unexpectedly humorous resemblance between these two images.

In another full spread, a blurry image shows feet of an elderly person standing on smooth rounded rocks, with colorful painted doodles appearing at the bottom of the shot, adding another layer of visual echo. Bergman often creates a synthesis between the images and paintings – abstract paintings are paired or layered with photographs, and in some cases are painted over photos. A full bleed shot at first glance looks like an abstract painting, yet it is close up of wrinkled skin surface, slightly folded with various dots and imperfections.

Nothing is fixed in these images and there is a play between two strikingly different visual registers. A black and white picture of the tendrils and leaves of a hanging house plant is placed next to a fading gray shot a elderly person’s nude back. In another instance, a close up of a dripping leaf appears next to the bunched drapery of a gathered sleeve. And an extra blurry shot of what looks like two candles is placed next to a narrow image of a finger with some liquid (paint or blood) dripping down. In each of these pairings, Bergman seems to be stretching for elusive connections, encouraging the photographs to wander into ephemeral essences. 

Bergman’s Bladi losnar is a curious and intriguing publication. It escapes straightforward interpretation, but if one embraces its playful and obscure nature, it turns into an unexpectedly rich formal exploration. As Bergman pushes the everyday into the uncertain, a sense of intuition starts to emerge, where fleeting moments open up to broader possibilities.

Collector’s POV: Margareta Bergman does not appear to have consistent gallery representation at this time. As a result, interested collectors should likely follow up directly with the artist via her website (linked in the sidebar).

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