New Monica Sjöö publication
Launch on January 15th, 6pm – 7:30 pm at Lucy Stein’s exhibition at Spike Island, Bristol. The event is online via zoom.
Welcome to a launch of a publication dedicated to Monica Sjöö’s art and writing, published by Legion Projects.
Legion Projects is an artist-led organisation and an open collaboration based in the UK. Legion Projects showcase artistic work and research through exhibitions, publications and events.
Legion Projects were first introduced to the work of Monica Sjöö when researching older artists for their touring exhibition Waking the Witch in 2018 -2019, which included a selection of works by Monica Sjöö.
Legion connected up with the Monica Sjöö Curatorial Collective in 2020 and suggested the idea of producing a small publication focused entirely on Monica’s work.
The event is online via zoom
Join the online gathering, hear excerpts of Sjöö’s writings, stories from some of those who knew her and learn more about her work in connection with the exhibition Lucy Stein: Wet Room.
Sign up for the Eventbrite event and you will receive a link to join online.
For more information about the launch visit:
Co-ordinators Report 2021
Another year of Covid virus restrictions but in spite of that there have been a number of exciting activities in 2021 promoting Monica Sjöö’s work.
In February British Artist, Nadia Hebson, curated an exhibition at The Mint Gallery in Stockholm, SCENE D’AMOUR, a response to the paintings of Monica Sjöö, in particular ‘God Giving Birth’.
In April two members of the collective, Sue Tate and Mariana Vodovosoff contributed to a webinar held by the gallery on the life and work of the artist.
The Mostyn Gallery in N. Wales hosted a touring exhibition in March by The Feminist Library which included several Monica’s written texts.
In May the WOMEN IN ABSTRACTION exhibition at the Pompidou centre showcased a facsimile of Towards a Revolutionary Feminist Art.
In September there was an exhibition at Halliday’s Mill, Stroud UK, curated by Patricia Brien, INVOKING Absence which included work by Monica, digital copies on loan from FAS. Patricia Brien interviewed Su Fahy on the works of Monica Sjöö.
In October there was a live streamed talk at Moderna Museet, Stockholm by curator Asrin Hadar on Monica’s painting “The Cosmos Within Her”.
In November, to coincide with COP26, we launched a Billboard Campaign. 10 sites in the city centre of Bristol displayed billboards of Monica’s painting MOTHER EARTH IN PAIN. Placards of the same work were carried on the Global March for climate change on November 6th. I was delighted to be in England for this and to meet face to face with Su and Sue.
Members of the family estate joined us, and we were all quite sure that Monica, an ardent and active environmental campaigner, was with us in spirit. This campaign was funded by a private grant from the eminent Art Historian Griselda Pollock, an early champion of Monica’s work. We deposited placards carried on the Climate Change Day of Action march and fliers with The Feminist Archive South.
Instagram and web
Su Fahy has managed our Instagram page and Mariana Vodovosoff has continued to develop and manage our web page. The Insta-projects Programme launched in February invites selected artist, poets, writers, and musicians from diverse backgrounds to contribute though residencies, readings and performance offering a rich inspiring profile to new audiences for the work of Monica Sjöö.
Mini- Residency Instagram
Komlaish Achall – Artist, curator, and writer. UK
Nadia Hebson – Artist, educator, and curator. Sweden
Patricia Brien – Artist, curator, and writer. UK
Readings, performance and Causing Conversation
For the ’Mother Earth in Pain’ Billboards Campaign – Priya Sarrukhai Chabria – poet, editor and writer did a reading from her new book, re-visioning the songs of Tangore ’Sing of Life’ and linking inspirations in Monica’s work of the poet and polymath Tagore. Angahrad Iris – Poet, flautist, and musician UK did a performance as Evie- Ray, musician, and writer UK.
Explore your Archive month
In addition to the above we have linked with the National Archive, in Explore your Archive month, with 64millionartists to explore Spiral Journeys. The Insta account now has 380 followers and is a lively and dialogic page.
Overall, it has been an exciting year, 4 of us have kept the collective going, Amy Budd has offered very useful advice to the family estate and Mathew of Legion Projects is readying for the launch of the long-awaited Monica Sjöö zine on January 15th. The year will start well!
/Josephine Eliot, Co-ordinator and originator
Billboard art calls for climate action
From November 1 st for two weeks while COP26 was going on in Glasgow, a striking painting by renowned Bristol-based artist Monica Sjöö, appeared on billboards around the streets of Bristol. Made back in 1996, Mother Earth in Pain: her trees cut down and her seas polluted speaks across the decades to raise awareness of the climate crisis today.
One of the organisers of this Bristol campaign, Su Fahy, said “The painting is a powerful condemnation of the damage being wreaked on mother earth at that time – the destruction of forests for the Newbury by-pass and the pollution of oils slicks off Pembrokeshire. These are issues only accelerating today – we must take action before it’s too late”.
In the words of the Monica Sjöö Collective: “She would be glad to know it’s out in the world again speaking at this critical moment in the life of the planet”.
While the billboards are up, world leaders will be meeting in Glasgow to discuss the climate crisis at the hugely important global climate change conference (COP26). The billboards call out to us to ‘Act Now!’
Monica Sjöö (1936-2005) was a Swedish artist, activist and eco-feminist who lived in Bristol most of her life producing a powerful body of work. Always a campaigner she believed in the power of art to speak directly to the heart and mind and in 1996 took this particular painting on a demonstration against Monsanto’s gene engineering in a Bristol University laboratory.
Re-creation of the march to Greenham Common
36 women walked 110 miles from Cardiff to RAF Greenham Common in protest against the Americans holding Cruise missiles on common land.
The march marked the beginning of a 19 year protest at Greenham Common. The Common became home to thousands of women acting in political resistance to the nuclear arms race.
Over 100 women will recreate this iconic march of solidarity. The 40th Anniversary celebrations 2021 will culminate in a momentous re-creation of the march, leaving Cardiff on Thursday August 26th and arriving at Greenham on Friday September 3rd for a weekend of festivities.
Celebrating the 40th Anniversary Greenham Womens’ March
The MSCC would like to highlight the 40th Anniversary of Greenham Common. Monica Sjöö was in her activism and art very much part of the original peace walk and camp at Greenham Common. During September our Instagram will display some of Monicas posters from the Feminist Archive South (FAS) reflecting her involvement.
Monica Sjöö writes about Greenham Common in her book Women and Patriarchy:
“While living in Pembrokeshire between 1980 and 1985, I became involved with radical ecopagans, with CND, with actions at Greenham Common and with the Women for Life on Earth Network….Women know that both psychic and physical energies are needed to change the world and ourselves, that we must leap beyond male – perpetuated barriers to become whole spiritual/sexual/political beings in a permanent process of becoming. Re-naming ourselves and the world means that we no longer have to separate the spiritual/ cultural and political action. The women at Greenham are a clear example of this. We must like them develop the psychic/intuitive powers and confront daily oppression in concrete and direct action”.
Monica Sjöö. New Age and Armageddon. (The Women’s Press London, 1992)
Live-streamed “sofa tour” about Monica Sjöö from Moderna Museet, Stockholm
30th September, Moderna Museet’s Facebook page
Moderna Museet invites the public to a guided digital tour on facebook. Asrin Haidari, curator talks about the artist Monica Sjöö, who is represented in the Moderna Museet. Currently Monica Sjöö’s painting Cosmos Within her Womb (1971) is on display. You can also ask the curator questions during the live stream in the comments field.
Duration: 20 min
Live-streamed at 12 noon (11:00 UK time) on the Moderna Museet Facebook. Access the live-streamed sofa tours on Moderna Museet’s Facebook page: www.facebook.com/modernamuseet
Invoking Absence – Water, mineral and deity
Hallidays Mill, Chalford, Stroud
3-26th September 2021
This multi-media exhibition curated by Patricia Brien considers the entanglements of geological timescales and mineral layers, landscapes, waters and the invisible beings of place within a cycle of deep and neoteric time.
It refers to contemporary animist narratives which acknowledge and learn from the complex interrelationality of ‘indigenous thinking’ to re-interpret and expand upon ancient and contemporary Western pagan ‘thinking’.
The exhibition considers the genius loci and the matterings of place as agents, the absent-present beings whose narratives remain in steadfast flux. Obfuscated by time and linear narratives of colonial-capitalist progress, the entities and agents of place – water, mineral and deity – hold simultaneously past, present and future worldings.
The exhibition also displays a selection of monoprint posters from Monica Sjöö (1938 – 2005), that documents her involvement and recurring themes of the cosmic mother in numerous ecofeminist, radical spiritual collectives and art exhibitions which have been a source of knowledge in contemporary ecofeminist & goddess thinking.
Artists: Chantal Powell, Morag Colquhoun, Anna Simson, Fiona Finnegan, Monica Sjöö, Mair Hughes, Patricia Brien (curator). Poet: JLM Morton
The Mobile Feminist Library:
In words, In Action, In Connection
MOSTYN, Contemporary gallery & visual arts centre, Wales
3 July – 19 September 2021
The exhibition In Words, In Action, In Connection, is a display of publications and printed materials that explores historical and contemporary intersectional feminist activism in Wales.
Brought together by artists Minna Haukka and Kristin Luke, whose collaborative practice stems from their ongoing project, the Mobile Feminist Library, a travelling collection of printed materials that responds to its locality, this display will take the form of an experimental reading room.
Haukka and Luke will collaborate with artists, activists, collectives and publishers to develop a collection which is relevant to Wales. The materials will be locally relevant to Wales, whilst acknowledging that these movements extend beyond geographical borders. The display will examine ways in which publishing and printed materials intersect with and strengthen activist movements, and will use counter-patriarchal methods of archiving and knowledge sharing. The space will act not only as a library, but as a place for gathering and communal learning.
‘Radical Imaginaries’ by artist Komlaish Achall
Mini residency at MSCC:s Instagram – The power of nature
Komlaish Achall’s mini residency will respond to Monica Sjoo Ecofeminist Art. Komlaish will create four pieces during the month of August – ‘Radical Imaginaries’ examining the connections to the great cosmic mother, women, and nature, highlighting the juxtaposition between pure, spiritual & strong and independent woman.
Link to the MSCC Instagram: www.instagram.com/monica_sjoo/
Komlaish Achall is an artist who explores the ambiguous, non-interpreted, triangle between being born a British Asian, being female and self. Using a variety of materials, photographic images, installations, paintings and symbolic objects the work explores her personal perspective and journey through these mediums. The artwork seeks to capture multifaceted issues that clash and merge into an intricate undefined mixture, without fixed boundaries.’
Women in Abstraction
Centre Pompidou, Paris
19 May – 23 Aug 2021
Monica Sjöö is represented in the exhibition with a facsimile of her manifesto “Towards a Revolutionary Feminist Art” (1971).
“Women in Abstraction” provides an opportunity to discover artists who represent discoveries both for the specialist and for the general public. It showcases the work of many of these women who suffer from a lack of visibility and recognition beyond the frontiers of their countries. /—/
“Women in Abstraction” integrates the history of feminism in the 1970s with the battles waged by artists and great theoreticians, and questions the legitimacy of the concept of “woman artist”, taking into account the positions of the artists themselves, with their complexities and their paradoxes.
Scène d’Amour at Mint Gallery, Stockholm
Scène d’Amour is extended until May 29!
British artist Nadia Hebson (currently teaching and living in Sweden) is staging a multimedia exhibition in dialogue with the legacy of Monica Sjöö at the Mint Gallery in Stockholm. Across three gallery spaces she interweaves paintings, writings and a poster by Sjöö with her own art works – collaged elements of wall prints, fabric, relief sculpture and painting – effectively creating an all embracing installation. Key works by Sjöö have been loaned from the Anna Nordlander Museum. God Giving Birth (an icon of feminist art history) triggered Hebson’s initial connection with Sjöö as she has recently given birth to twins. A life sized digital print – a self portrait, naked and very pregnant – speaks directly to the older painting, underpinned by the word ‘Joy’ in 2 and 3D form. Aspects of the Great Mother and, displayed in a vitrine, copies of Sjöö’s manifesto Towards a Revolutionary Feminist Art (1971) and Why I am an Anarcho Feminist, remind us of her political, feminist activism, matriarchal scholarship and engagement with the Goddess Movement. Hebson has been drawn to this expanded practice in the context of her long term exploration of cross generational resonances with women artists of a previous time. The aim: to establish the ‘lineages we need in place as women artists to make work’.
Hebson sees the exhibition not as a conclusion, a finished statement, but as initiating a dialogue around Sjöö’s legacy with the exhibition evolving over its duration. Online conversations and panels, with art historians, curators, friends and artists, will develop the conversation (Sue Tate and Mariana Vodovosoff, members of the MSCC, will be taking part) and Hebson will be adding further works and writings to the show.
Event: Thinking about Monica: Monica Sjöö, an introduction
Saturday 24th of April 2021. 14:00 UTC
Welcome to an afternoon of presentations, a screening and discussion. One of three discoursive events organised by Nadia Hebson, in parallel to the exhibition Scène d’Amour, which will explore the life and work of Monica Sjöö and the ongoing projects of artistic recuperation undertaken by artists, curators and art historians working today. Link to Vimeo and the recording of the event here.
Monica Sjöö – Herstory
Sjöö was an artist that moved against earlier abstract and modernist expressions, and a painter and writer that has inspired and influenced artists and activists since the 1960’s.
Monica Sjöö was born in Härnösand, Sweden in 1938 but moved to Bristol, England in 1959. She lived there until she passed in 2005. Her art depicts women’s bodies, goddesses and nature. Sjöö channelled her critique of our patriarch society through the goddess/the Mother and argued that we needed a closer relationship with Mother Earth in order to create an equal society and a better tomorrow.
“God giving birth is Monica Sjöö’s most famous painting and it shows how human life literally is born in cosmos. Sjöö regarded the painting as a sacral piece and said it wasn’t made as a protest. Still, you can’t overlook the fact that the painting challenges the perception of God as a man and father figure. The painting was consequently subject for critique, got ridiculed and censored. Today “God giving birth” is regarded as a key work by Monica Sjöö and has been a part of MAN’s – Anna Nordlander Museums collection since 1994.
Text from Herstory 2014, a retrospective exhibition at MAN – Anna Nordlander Museum, Skellefteå, Sweden.
We’re pleased to welcome our Swedish Collective member and partners to run a takeover mini-residency for March 2021. #WomensHistoryMonth
First Co-ordinators Report 2020
The initial meeting of the group was January 19th, 2020, the only face to face meeting we have had since soon afterwards Covid 19 altered everything. New people joined the group over the next few months and we became a member of the Visual Culture Research Group [VCRG] of the University of the West of England, thus securing an institutional base.
In April Toivo Finn, Monica’s son and inheritor of her work, died in Portugal and we subsequently developed a relationship with his children in Bristol, the new owners of the work, making an informal agreement to represent and advise them.
We chose a name, Monica Sjoo Curatorial Collective, and purchased a domain name in preparation for a web site we also set up an Instagram account. In July all the work was brought to the UK by Toivo’s son and securely stored in Bristol. In August we applied to VCRG for and got a grant for 900 pounds to develop a webinar as part of the Being Human Festival of the Humanities. We chose a Logo. Over the year we developed cooperative relationships with MAN – The Anna Nordlander Museum in Skellefteå and with Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Sweden. We established a close relationship with the Feminist Archive South and also made other useful future contacts.
On November 22nd we broadcast our Webinar to an international audience of 146 and also ran an Instagram Gallery ,these were our first public disseminations of Monica’s work. See the webinar: The Life and Politics of Monica Sjöö
In all we had 17 zoom meetings in 11 months and established the presence of the MSCC.
/Josephine Eliot, Co-ordinator and originator
In the summer of 2019 I met Toivo Finn, a forest farmer with long grey hair and a gentle face at a party in rural central Portugal. Through conversation about Bristol where we both had lived, it emerged that Toivo’s mother was the Swedish Artist and Activist, Monica Sjöö, whom I had known in the 70’s and 80 women’s movement in Bristol.
The discovery that day that Toivo, who lived in a remote heavily forested valley, at the end of a terrible rutted track in a ramshackle eco wooden house he had built himself, was storing some 60 or so of his mother’s huge paintings, Monica painted BIG canvases/boards, and boxes and boxes of sketches ,drawings, water colours, smaller canvases, book covers and writings, banners and cyclostyled political posters was astonishing.
Monica had died in 2005 in Bristol and eventually he and his then partner Annie had driven all her work in their big truck to Portugal. Toivo bewailed the fact that his mother had never had the recognition her work deserved and merits, he was a dear vague unworldly man, made shoes and leather belts and purses, could build a compost loo, roof a ruin, clear a forest but get his mothers work into the world was just a dream for him. I too felt it was shameful that Monica’s work was not better known and a terrible loss that it was hidden away in the forest so I suggested to Toivo that I would try and organise an exhibition in the UK. It was then that the idea of getting a group of Monica’s admirers and supporters together was born.
Having been at one time the Treasurer and a Trustee of the Feminist Archive, and indeed negotiated with Monica over housing some of her work in the 90’s, I knew to approach Hannah Lowrey Librarian of the Special Collections, Bristol University Library, which now houses the Feminist Archive South . Hannah linked me in with people who had been using Monica’s papers and internet searches of people who had curated exhibitions which included Monica’s work led to more contacts . Amazingly quickly a fantastic group assembled and met for the first and ONLY time in January 2020, later to be joined by a Swedish contact in Stockholm and a two other academics.
Lots of ideas were discussed and shared as to our purpose and how we should achieve it – exhibitions, events, films, discussions, debates active connections with the present times, so many themes and possibilities. All very exciting and I went home to Portugal to report back to Toivo, newly worried as to the storage and security of the collection and how it would get to UK which was where Toivo wished it to be. It was his adult children’s inheritance, he had nothing else, and they lived in Bristol. I made a number of visits to Toivo’s forest fastness, early in 2020, long days going through the pictures, all propped up and swathed in Indian bedspreads and old blankets. Huge 10 by 8 canvases, and boxes of fascinating material.
And then Toivo had a heart attack and died. And Covid struck. He had visited his children in Bristol in early March, to see his first grandchild, and died shortly after his return just as the pandemic was named and lockdowns began. Fortunately, he had told his adult children Jez and Jade, and Annie their mother, about me and the collective and how he was working with us. The family continues to support us and we informally represent them.
Meeting on zoom over the last year we have achieved a lot. The paintings and archive material are all now in storage in the UK thanks to Tez and plans are afoot to have them all archived and deposited in FAS. In November 2020 we had a successful webinar, part of the Being Human Festival of the Humanities. This also led to us reconsidering and critiquing our own practice in relation to White Feminism which has been important and is on-going. We will continue to work to make Toivo’s dream come true.
/Jo Eliot, Co-ordinator and originator