No answers but lots of questions

In their collaboration for almost two decades Aguirre and Jonnson have developed several projects: Grasshopper, The Watersongs, UMCS (Undeveloped Mobile Communication Survivors) and not to mention Art:OS. Each project designed as an open system in which small groups of works, series and individual pieces has a different weight within the choice of materials and the layers of thoughts which in the end produces its own dynamic. Other approaches may initiate – and set off, create more ideas, like the grasshoppers which is more a mental state then a project that rubs off into different spin-offs like the later environmental works, Dissolving Self, Short Stories, Where are we going and Best Before – open studio to mention a few.

The variety of shapes, materials and content is proving to be both playful as cryptic reactions to everyday realities, which dominate our human perception and acts in the field of tension between nature and technology. An equally central state for both poles is the term energy, present as a prerequisite condition for living beings. Energy reveals itself a lot in processes of communication. In the Western world unilaterally reduced to its technological components, machine communication, but thanks to the explosive spread, they’ve already begun to change our perception of reality.

They use incalculable side effects, with wit and humor to raise awareness and to evoke cryptic questions about the limits of human life. Aguirre & Jonnson put into their work new connections between things, irritate our usual way of seeing, thwarting our usual logical thinking.

They use traditional forms of expression as well as modern media, combining photography (Jonnson) and sculpture (Aguirre) to painting and screen-printing, with sound, video and computer graphics. They translate critical content with great craftsmanship in bold dynamics; choice of material is always directly related to the substantive content. The cooperation is based on principles of dialogue, not necessary simultaneousness, but more to respond and act in reference to the actions carried out by the other.

Dr. Susannah Cremer-Bermbach  / art critic



On the way – in motion

The shoes and feet are going somewhere. Even though they are resting, it’s only for now. Who is this person? Where is she going? And in what context? Behind the artist duo Aguirre & Jonsson’s work lie deeper existential questions. A series of photos depicting people’s lower legs and shoes. They’re walking, sitting or just standing, in quite a few places somewhere in Europe. Everywhere in this life, people are on their way somewhere. A theatre director named Göran Sarring once held a lecture in our city Art Gallery, Passagen, where he often came back to a few fundamental questions that he always asked actors who were rehearsing for a play. These questions were:  Who Am I?  Where am I?  Why am I here?

These are questions that we human beings always have reason to ask ourselves, both in everyday life and ahead of major decisions. There were also two supplementary questions: What do I want? What resources do I have? It’s quite easy to imagine that the two artists Lars Jonnson and Giovanna Aguirre work with the same list of fundamental questions.

In short scenes on the street, we see photos of different shoes of various people. Each image is actually a diptych in the series “Where are you going?” We also see a kind of position marker in the form of numbers, more or less as one shows latitude and longitude. In addition to this, there is a barely visible grasshopper, almost like an archetypal signature.

As is often the case in artistic contexts, personal experience lies behind why it’s a grasshopper. One just hopped into the studio in Frankfurt one day and sat down on a large sheet of paper. It was a huge green grasshopper who just sat there for at least a quarter of an hour. Then it suddenly took an enormous leap back out, through the same little window that it’d came in through. An event – what did it mean? One can philosophize for ages about symbolic undertones. A messenger? A premonition? A sign? A logo? Yes, it became the addressed signum for the subsequent work of the artist duo.

The grasshopper was also on its way somewhere – just like the people in the pictures. Shoes and feet of various models, standing or moving in different angles. One day, it just so happened that two young girls were standing in front of the pictures in our Gallery, Passagen, trying to put their feet and shoes into exactly the same positions as those in one of the pictures on the wall. What did that mean? They were mimicking, trying to see if they could get into the same position, inspired and amused by the effort of imitating some of the strange and unusual poses of the artwork. All the time they were laughing and giggling. It was fun, it was art motivating young people wanting just to let the body see how it felt. Something like this is good; very good indeed! This is how it feels.

Christer Fellman / art critic 



Young, inspiring, bewildering, captivating

these are some of the words that come to mind when one looks at the works of Aguirre and Jonnson: characteristically enough, their emblem is the grasshopper. Grasshoppers appear on nearly every canvas. But what does the grasshopper stand for? In Chinese tradition the appearance of grasshoppers in dreams means luck in general or a symbol of enlightenment and spiritual freedom. For Aguirre & Jonnson the grasshopper symbolizes the process of thinking and spontaneity, impulsive curiosity and inquisitiveness.

Both artists have a strongly cosmopolitan background. Giovanna Aguirre was born in La Paz, Bolivia. She studied architecture and fine arts in Bogota, Colombia, where she later received a university teaching appointment. A stint at the Academy of Arts in Düsseldorf, Germany, complemented her studies. Jonnson was born in Orebro, Sweden, studied in Stockholm and Italy. Later on, he visited the Academy for Applied Arts in Vienna, where he studied with Prof.  Ernst Caramelle. In 1991 he went to the Academy of Arts in Düsseldorf, where he met Giovanna Aguirre. Both completed their studies as master scholars: Aguirre with Prof. Günter Uecker, (sculpture) and Lars Jonnson with Nam June Paik and Professor Nan Hoover (video/performance).

At the moment they work together on international projects, using multimedia-based techniques and combining different materials. Thus, there is a continuous subtle interplay between their paintings, and installations. Aguirre & Jonnson sustain the idea of the artist and the process of thinking in their work: The emblems invented by the artists underline the sense of spiritual connections between the symbols, pictures and objects. Words, stenciled onto the colorful canvases, underline these aspects. Their enviably playful touch produces ethereal, transparent, layered canvases. Numerous layers of paint create a sense of depth from which figurative elements appear, seeming to move through the pictorial space or hovering in it. Like pop ups on a computer screen, they open up windows, guide the observer to new vantage points.

The various pictorial levels inter penetrate and change their meanings according to their contexts. Thus, the edge of the circus rink on which the harlequins are sitting, changes into a deep pool, and in keeping with this association with water, the other elements are transparent and fluid. The surface meaning is transformed by the power of imagination into something entirely different: the turquoise water changes into a pool, then into a circus rink – with its associations of childhood magic and color.

Aguirre & Jonnson’s pictures are characterized by their narrative, symbolic depth. Their colors are like bright musical notes. Colors like yellow, orange and red are made to glow and radiate by means of contrast. In one picture an apparently abstract, transparent green layer of paint reminds one of a summer shower. In yet another, a cool shade of violet suggests glittering ice. Aguirre & Jonnson’s artistic thought is sometimes philosophical, sometimes playfully inquisitive, sometimes even a little bit bizarre, because artists endeavor to find other ways to appreciate the world and try to solve problems in an unusual way.

Like all great art, the works of Aguirre & Jonnson can be viewed as tremendous pictorial brainstorms. All aspects of their art are distinguished by a supreme vitality, allowing the observer´s attention to dart from the lightness of various pictorial elements to the philosophical complexity of the composition as a whole. The overwhelming impression is one of lightness, harmony and joy.

Anke Schmich / art historian