The Maria Bonnier Dahlin Foundation Grant Recipients 2023

6 dec 202321 jan 2024

Every year, the Maria Bonnier Dahlin Foundation awards grants to young artists to support their work. The 2023 grant recipients are Anna Andersson and Maja Fredin, two artists with distinctly different styles of expression. Andersson’s abstract sculptures speak to us on a level beyond words and demand slower listening. Fredin’s installations resemble the rides in a miniature Disneyland, capturing us in the split second when laughter abruptly turns dead serious. What the two artists share in their practice is an emphasis on allowing hand and mind to work together. In performance, sculpture, and installations, the artists are presented in separate comprehensive exhibitions, each encompassing both new and significant earlier works.


Different Degrees of Bending

Anna Andersson explores the potential of the sculptural medium, and the interplay between thought and action. In her work, there is a constant pursuit of something, even if she doesn’t always know exactly what that something is. It is the quest for meaning, rather than absolute truth, that drives her creativity, and she embraces uncertainty as a part of that process.

An essential aspect of Andersson’s working method is this daring to linger in a state of uncertainty, a place of freedom and creativity where new ideas and possibilities can be explored. For Andersson, uncertainty is not a weakness but a faith in the work of art and its potential to be powerful even without clear answers.

In her practice, she examines not only what we can observe but also that which is more subtle and elusive, and the tension that can arise in between. Philosophy is a source of inspiration and resonance, she refers to philosophers such as Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Hannah Arendt, and their ideas on perception: how our position in the world and our relationship to others shape our experience and understanding of life.

My body is my connection with the world, I reach out and I search.

– Anna Andersson

The artist describes the process before she creates a sculpture as a form of practical research. Creating image montages and trying out different materials, such as wood, plaster, fabric and metal, are essential to this process. The montage serves as a tool for managing impressions and setting up a kind of structure. She can use it to break up and build new content. Through experimenting and exploring various techniques and materials, she opens up for new ideas and expressions to evolve. Both methods allow her to approach artistic challenges in an immediate and unconditional way. Her work is a balancing act where it is crucial to know when to rely on intuition and when to follow rules and stick to limitations. “It’s about having faith in the image, while letting go of it, because part of the image lies in the action.”

The exhibition Different Degrees of Bending showcases the sculptures Transitor (2022). This is a continuation of a series of works from 2020, originating in a study of form, rhythm and composition. The wooden sculptures emerged in the intersection of two working methods: the abstract and the situation-specific. She developed the works by varying the same form, so that the process of making each separate sculpture generated new ways to initiate the next, as if each artwork was a transition to the subsequent one. By keeping to one and the same original form for extended periods, Andersson gives herself room to fully explore a new material or technique – a process that often leads to a novel context for the form and new conditions for its expressiveness.

Centrally in the exhibition is a series of plaster sculptures (2021–2023), also with one basic form in common, but where each sculpture differs somewhat in dimensions and surface. In that sense, the sculptures could be said to manifest different versions of the same idea: How something is taking shape, is changing, in motion. Like an ensemble, the sculptures interact, while remaining unique and individual. At Bonniers Konsthall, the sculptures take possession of the space and transform the architecture into a part of the artwork.

The artist is fascinated by “the void” and its relationship to form or substance. Andersson explains that “emptiness becomes visible when surrounded by something concrete or solid, like light is noticed when it meets a surface or contrasts with shadow”. It is the distance between us and other objects, physical or emotional, that catches her interest. Emptiness reveals a space that can hold innumerable possibilities and meanings.

Andersson’s artistic practice is deeply exploratory and intuitive. Her work guides us through the borderland between thought and action, idea and creating, and the concrete and abstract dimensions of sculpture.


Searching for my Inner Elvis in a Post Elvis Society

Maja Fredin has an idea-based practice focusing primarily on spatial installations integrating textile crafts and often performative elements. Mixing humour and deep seriousness, Fredin’s interdisciplinary approach includes photography, video, sound, sculpture and costumes. With kitsch, glitter and humour, she creates total works of art enacting absurd scenes that challenge contemporary consumerism and explore subjects such as over-consumption, addiction and dysmorphophobia.

I expand my delusions, twist and turn reality, and invite others into my interpretation of the already doomed world we are living in.

– Maja Fredin

The exhibition Searching for my Inner Elvis in a Post Elvis Society builds on the artist’s thoughts and experiences of living in a society based on brutal (re)production and growth. It examines the longing for luxury and abundance, feelings that most of us can relate to even when we know that they are neither healthy nor sustainable. Fredin is inspired by thinkers such as Zygmunt Bauman, who in the book Consuming Life (2007) posits that consumer society is founded on a feeling of discontent; that we are constantly looking for flaws in our everyday existence and yearning for products that claim to make life easier.

Using symbolic imagery from pop culture, Fredin constructs an illusion of familiar ideas while challenging our perception of reality. A recurring motif is the prawn, representing white middle-class wealth. Eating prawns has been marketed as an everyday luxury. Fredin stresses that “the words everyday and luxury, which actually contradict each other, have paradoxically become an acceptable excuse for exaggerated consumption”. In her work Den Eviga Räkfrossan (The Eternal Prawn Feast) (2022), the artist invites us to an endless binge, presented as our last supper, with the intention of sparking thoughts on whether we have come to the heaven of capitalist promise, or been led astray into a veritable hell.

In the work Apokalypsens Fyra Flamingos (The Four Flamingos of the Apocalypse) (2022), the flamingo symbolises the sinner, or the unenlightened consumer, in a world in decline. Flamingos are characteristically insatiable consumers, born with grey feathers but gradually developing their spectacular pink colour by accumulating considerable amounts of red pigment from their one-sided diet of shellfish and red algae. Here, the phenomenon is used to illustrate how the Western population is defined by its over-consumption. Fredin points out, however, that the flamingo has no choice, whereas we have been persuaded that we do.

Both installations are a nod to the golden age of Dutch still-life painting in the 16th and 17th centuries, with paintings portraying aristocratic and Bourgeoisie feasts that often boasted luxuries such as fresh fruit, silver goblets and sumptuous fabrics, intended to indicate wealth and success. Fredin’s installations instead highlight greed.

The exhibition also presents the work And we can’t build our dreams, so make the world go away (2022), founded on the artist’s fascination with the concept of ”Elvis Presley”. Fredin uses Elvis, and the Americanisation of our society, to draw attention to the allure of consumer culture. The seductive image of Elvis largely epitomised the American Dream. Today, Elvis is an iconic brand, with a mighty cult built on his persona. Common in the USA are Elvis Tribute Artists, impersonators who strive to recreate what Elvis represented. The audiences at these events are ready to embrace and believe in the illusion, in a way that Fredin finds similar to the capitalist dynamic. Fredin notes that when she herself tries to imitate an Elvis impersonator, the result is merely an insipid copy. This serves as a metaphor both for how imitation has replaced the original, and how self-deception has become our reality.

Fredin’s art is characterised by impressive craftsmanship and precision. Her skill is obvious in every part, from the dyeing of fabrics and the bedazzling of an Elvis jumpsuit, to the pr oduction of endlessly growing piles of prawns in hand-painted lycra and the hundreds of hand-sewn silk feathers on flamingos.

In her explorations of contemporary challenges, she herself questions the notion that “hope is the last thing that dies in man”. Instead, she argues that humour is what ultimately endures – where her copy of an Elvis impersonator becomes a comical observer on our collective journey to a plastic inferno.


Anna Andersson was born in 1989 and holds an MA from Malmö Art Academy (2020). She has previously been featured in exhibitions at UKS (Unge Kunstneres Samfund) in Oslo, Malmö Konsthall and Bonniers Konsthall. Andersson lives and works in Malmö.

Maja Fredin was born in 1992 and has studied textile crafts for more than ten years, including at Nyckelviksskolan, Handarbetets Vänner (Friends of Handicraft) and, most recently, at Konstfack University College of Arts, Crafts and Design, where she obtained her MA in 2022. Fredin has previously exhibited at Uppsala Konstmuseum, Landmark Bergen Konsthall, the Konstfack Spring Exhibition and Kaleido Konsthantverk in Uppsala. Fredin lives and works in Stockholm.

1. Anna Andersson. Photo: David Skoog.
2. Maja Fredin. Photo: Pär Fredin.
3. Anna Andersson. Photo: Vegard Kleven.
4. Maja Fredin. Photo: Pär Fredin.