The Body Without and the Body Within by Måns Holst- Ekström


Swedish art historian Mårten Snickare has written that the
art of drawing seems to be the most unbodily of the fine
Roland Barthes’ saying that ”The line – any kind of line on
a piece of paper – denies the significance of the body, the
body as flesh…”. For centuries drawing has been associated
with intellectual activity, and painting with the senses,
with the body. But then Snickare goes on to observe that the
body is perhaps more present in drawing than in the other
visual media. Seen from this angle bodily presence is to
be seen in centuries of life-drawings of twisting and posing
bodies, as well as in the graphic traces of the artist’s bodily
movements, the lines of the drawing.

In her most recent exhibition, A Perfect Day in a Perfect
Body, Lena Mattsson presents a series of drawings and videos,
as well as a sculpture, Turning, all conceived and executed
in 2007-08. The works have been executed during
an ongoing, and undiagnosed, protracted illness causing
frequent seizures. They deal with experiences of hospitalization,
as in the video Overloaded Room No 1, of changed
living conditions, as in the video The End of the Road or a
drawing like Rollerboy, but they also speak of problems
in contemporary artistic practice, most explicit and with a
large dose of black humour and self-irony in This Is Not a
Performance. Lena Mattsson will also do a live performance
together with colleague Virgil Dejarv on the opening day.

The performance, with references to Andy Warhol, is integrated
with the show in its questioning of current ideas
considering perfect lives and perfect bodies.

Mattsson was trained as painter and then moved on to use
video as her main medium – usually connected to different
forms of performance and installations – but she has continued
to use references to painting, as in Breakfast for Everybody,
a video-performance paraphrase on Manet, at the
Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in 1997-98. She develops
some themes – visual and conceptual – from this work
in Anyone Breaks Fast, first shown at her solo exhibition A
Small Fairy Tale at Malmö Konsthall 2001-02. Drawings,
and the act of drawing, has always been a part both of her
work process, in preparatory sketches, and in her works,
for instance as animations, or as a performance medium.

Lena Mattsson’s works often combine experiences of social
injustice, with those of corporeal experiences, in many
cases painful. “The camera is my brush and what I have
seen and experienced in life is my colour.”
in a Perfect Body this proximity to sensory experience and
a continued quest to find its artistic expression is almost distressingly
present. The drawings in the show have motives
varying from realist observations to the purely abstract and
the slightly surreal. The drawn body as well as the drawing
body are equally tangible.

Måns Holst-Ekström, art critic

1 M Snickare, Kroppen – den tecknande och den tecknade, in Kroppen. Konst och vetenskap, 
Nationalmuseum, 2008, pp. 55 ff.
2 Said in an interview with Birgitta Collberg when Lena Mattsson recieved a grant, Region
Skånes kulturstipendium in 2001. See:
(August 20, 2008)