Photo från artmuseum with painting on the wall

Per Wizén, The Hunt, Installationview from Liljevalchs jubilee exhibition Vårsalongen 100 years, 2022 Photo: Carl Henrik Tillberg

Per Wizén about the Forest

Read an essay by artist Per Wizén that describes central thoughts behind the works in his exhibition Undercurrents. The artist writes about the forest as theme in his work.

It’s not that I have a particular interest in forests from a nature conservation perspective. The forest has snuck into my work more and more in a largely subconscious way. In 2001, I began building a series of collages that came to be called Quiet Battles, in which I made use of Paolo Uccello’s paintings. The first was a carousel in an urban space. After this one, I planned to build another carousel against the background of a night wood.

Step one was to liberate the forest from all the hunters, their dogs, and their quarry that were in it. As this emptied forest began to emerge, I realized that it was getting so complex and intricate in itself that, rather than using it as only a background, I now wanted it to be the primary motif in its own right. Ultimately it became the work The Hunt, whose title I borrowed from one of Uccello’s paintings.

Painting of dead forest
Per Wizén, The Hunt Photo: Carl Henrik Tillberg

I had long been interested in Paolo Uccello’s The Hunt, but had always imagined away all the hunters, dogs, and quarry his painting is full of. With time I have come to realize that my fascination may be because this forest reminds me of the one I could have gotten lost in as a child if I’d been just a little less lucky.

Painting of hunt in the forest
Paolo Ucello, The hunt in the forest, 1465–1470 © Ashmolean Museum
It’s not that I have a particular interest in forests from a nature conservation perspective. The forest has snuck into my work more and more in a largely subconscious way.

I always wanted to play with my older brother and his friends, and he probably thought, as all older siblings do, that I was just a pain. One day I ran after them deep into the forest, but they were much faster than I, and when we had gotten a good way into the forest I lost them. Only then did I realize that I had no idea where I was or which way I had come. I was about five years old, so I don’t remember everything that went through my head, but I remember feeling the fear of never finding my way home again. It was pure luck that I turned and walked in the right direction and after a long time was able to find my way out into a field and to a road where an adult could help me get home.

When The Hunt was shown for the first time in Sweden, it was hung together with a little picture in which I had taken Botticelli’s painting of Dante’s funnel into hell and converted it into a child’s spinning top. This opened the door to a reading of The Hunt as Dante’s forest or as a forest in which hunts of an entirely different character or events of an entirely different nature can take place.

Image of a forest
Per Wizén, Blue Hunt (cropped), 2022 Photo: Per Wizén

After finishing the Quiet Battles collage series, I wanted to make another series of collages based on John Tenniel’s original illustrations for Alice in Wonderland. My work with the first picture repeated the same pattern as The Hunt: I had planned to build up a picture in which several figures were seen before a wooded background, but as the forest grew over time, I realized that it was the primary motif. I therefore simply built the figures right out of the picture, so that only the empty forest remained.

A good way into the construction of this collage series, I traveled back to my childhood home when my grandfather passed away. My mom asked me to go through some boxes of things that had been saved from my childhood. These boxes included a few issues of a series called Disneyland that I had read when I was little. I leafed through them, and in one issue I found a spread with Alice in Wonderland in which Alice sat on some orange logs out in the forest. Since I was already working with Alice and had just built The Hunt, in which there are some logs lying in the foreground that enhance the central perspective, these two different worlds blended together for me. I realized that I wanted to try to build a paraphrase of my reworking of Uccello’s The Hunt with the help of the pictures of logs and tress from the Disney version of Alice. Here began a long period of acquiring issues from the series on Ebay, and it took ten years before I had enough of them to get started on what would be Blue Hunt.

The time when I got the most enjoyment out of the series coincided with the incident in which I got lost in the woods.

More about this exhibition