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Kosta Boda Art Glass Monthly Story in July, Azur Moon.

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An anniversary exhibition in glass

Five decades, five artists. A collaboration between Solliden Palace and Orrefors Kosta Boda.

The collaboration between Solliden Palace and Orrefors Kosta Boda originates in the successful Gatekeeper exhibition featuring the glass art of Bertil Vallien in the Palace Garden in 2021. When Orrefors Kosta Boda received the inquiry about a new exhibition, it was compelling, in addition to Bertil – doyen of Swedish glass art – to also present a selection of other artists who, together, provide viewers with an attractive image of the state of contemporary Swedish glass art and Orrefors Kosta Boda in 2023.

Because the exhibition celebrates the anniversary of King Carl XVI Gustaf’s five decades as Swedish regent, it felt natural to select five artists. An anniversary exhibition in glass is on display until 1st of October in ‘Engelska Parken’ at Solliden Palace.

Three of the participants were not originally glass artists, but had backgrounds in other media and came to glass from entirely different starting points. This can be viewed this as part of an interesting international development, in which glass is taking up increasing space as an artistic material. This gratifying trend has been clearly observed at the Venice Biennale and other leading international events in recent years.

Johan Röing is a sculptor through and through, but has an unbelievably intuitive feel for the material.

Below, Ove Tomat, Love and Death (2023)


“My work has three components. It is based in part on problem-solving, to increase the format as a glass artist. The two big glass sculptures are based on working in my youth with Plato’s figures, a number of equilateral geometric shapes. I wanted to hand-blow these shapes like old-fashioned window glass in different colors, which turned out to present technical challenges.

The red sculpture is a so-called icosahedron with 20 triangles, Plato’s basic shape representing love. The black one is a dodecahedron, the symbol of death, built with 15 black pentagons. After trying out different techniques, in the end we blew a large ball that became a bowl which we heated and spun until it almost collapsed and became a large round disc. Then the shapes were cut out according to meticulous calculations. I actually studied mathematics, in fact.

The glass sculptures interplay with the two-and-a-half-meter tall fellow in wood that I sculpted with a motor saw. I knew from the beginning that he would be red. The title comes from a moment during a coffee break in Kosta, when the local vegetable merchant drove by, and I heard he was called ‘Ove Tomato’ (Ove Tomat). Suddenly a light bulb went off in my head. It’s a political statement as well, of course, like all of my work in these times of culture war, when art is being attacked from all sides.”

Johan Röing

Ellen Ehk Åkesson comes from the world of ceramics, while Markus Åkesson is a masterful painter.

Log for Alice/Straw for Alice (2023)


“For me, there is something magical about glass. With its sparkling and transparent character, it differs from other materials that I use to create. The raw, heavy feel of ceramics and bronze leads to more melancholy narratives, while right now, glass is drawing me more toward something romantic, toward happy children’s stories – like ice or crystal that you can control.

My installation consists of two sculptures. I started working with forms in an exaggerated scale already in 2010, when I made a bigger figurative commission, with engraving on a large glass facade. The work portrayed the changing seasons from the perspective of the child. It started with spring, with two-meter high anemones and continued with children holding gigantic butterflies, sitting on mushrooms, enormous snowflakes, snow lanterns and more. I wanted to invite the viewer to look from a child’s perspective – the magical feeling of viewing something as a child, enchanted.

I filled the big log, which is over a meter in diameter and which I had the good fortune of receiving as a gift, with glass mushrooms spilling out everywhere. I have always loved mushrooms and sculpted them for many years. Mushrooms are mysterious and associated with the story – a secret foundation of our ecosystem. There are polypores and various imaginary mushrooms in sheer colors, clear and blasted for different light effects.

The other part is the grass threaded with berries, hanging from a tree and swaying gently in the wind. Here, I simply wanted to capture the feeling of sun-ripened berries, the idea of a sun-ripened berry in abstract form. Once again, I wanted to inspire people to look through the eyes of a child, to lead them into a fairytale world, like Alice in Wonderland or Peter in Blueberry Land.

To some extent, both works are also about escape from reality. Fairytales arise from our need to process and to be able to tolerate reality. I wanted to create a glittering fairytale world for visitors to rest in for a moment, now when so much of the world feels so gloomy.”

Ellen Ehk Åkesson

Alchemy (2023)


“In my painting, I’ve worked with still lifes for a long time – objects from another world that I’ve decorated myself, like pots, varnished works, textile patterns. I want to create objects like this myself out of glass. They have no function; we don’t know why they are there. They come from the imagination and the subconscious.

Gold is present throughout. This is an alchemical reference. I’ve always been interested in the alchemical, in the esoteric – something created out of something else. Maybe it’s a kind of fantasy about what might be hiding within a castle. This was an aspect that was present in the background.

The sculptures on the podium are the kinds of objects you might otherwise find indoors, that landed mistakenly in the park, illogically, without purpose. Maybe they can find a meaning?

To unite the pink with the gold, the sculptures are all blown using the overlay technique, with hand-cut tracks that we have gilded with 24 karat gold. These are complicated pieces that require a lot of time in the studio, with collaboration among the blowers, cutters, and painters. Pieces like this are impossible to make yourself. They require master blowers, master cutters and master painters, and that was part of my concept.”

Markus Åkesson

Åsa Jungnelius is a trained glassblower, but as an artist, she has made waves with her exciting objects in glass and other materials. All share a passion for glass and dedication to its utility and construction.

Venus’ Shadow, Him, Mickey Mouse and The Baby (2022 – 2023)


“I am presenting a group of freestanding sculptures which, together, form a kind of ‘gallery of people’ in which Venus’ shadow emerges, a drama with an uncertain outcome. I am interested in monumental expressions and the socially and structurally constructed spaces in which they occur. Through the objects and material as representations that convey the value of identity and a space to project physicality, I am exploring the relationship between matter and humanity and the sliding scale of positioning that is continuously renegotiated and re-created throughout history.

The reflective objects contribute with their presence and absence simultaneously. The sculptures reflect the space around me, with its surrounding park setting, the visitors, garden and the royal family.

The mirror as a symbol and an actual function is repeated through art history. Stories about how Narcissus fell in love with his own reflection are juxtaposed against how every phase of life is connected – blossoming, decay, death, resurrection.

The group is approximately human sized. The various sculptures are based on different techniques, and competitively blowing the biggest ball, sausage and other shapes. It’s about reaching the point when the glass becomes uncontrollable. Then we build the glass bodies together with metal. The result is very metallic, silvery, chrome plated. A sense of ambivalence arises that I find interesting in the cold material that is simultaneously very seductive and three-dimensional.”

Åsa Jungnelius

All share a passion for glass and dedication to its utility and construction. Together with Bertil Vallien, who signifies deep tradition and expertise in glass, they represent an incredible range.

Gatekeeper Blue (2023)


“The sculpture is a further expansion on the installation I showed in the park two years ago. It is a tall, laser-cut iron figure with a small head that holds a two-meter-long blue solid glass staff in front of itself with arms outstretched – Klein blue, but a little varied, with Prussian blue as well. I think it presents a powerful, static impression.

The staff is a symbol that I’ve always returned to, as a symbol of strength. Here it is pale, pale blue, like a drill bit in space. 

It’s hard to work in a large scale with glass. We are competing with a lush, beautiful park with trees from all over the world. So you have to make a bit of a statement. I work often with a combination of iron and glass. A contrast forms: something fragile and glittering beside something compact, impenetrable. Iron represents a strong person. Glass, with its exclusivity, conveys an element of magic and captures light unlike any other material can.

You can see the figure as a visitor from an unknown place in the universe, a part of the universe. It should feel like a person is standing there. I hope people can relate to it as a friend, someone you are meeting. Is it a friendly figure? Yes, it radiates power, strong but not threatening, protective, like a guardian.”

Bertil Vallien


"I think pure magic occurs when the glass meets the greenery of the park, it shimmers in the light and we see both the glass and the vegetation in a new way. It becomes fairytale-like and almost a little mysterious. It is a troubled time we live in. Here I hope that the visitors will find a moment of peace, but also draw strength. The exhibition should give new impressions and enriching experiences.”

H.M. Konung Carl XVI Gustaf

An appealing challenge to holding an exhibition at Solliden Palace is that glass is not by its nature monumental. The artists have therefore chosen to combine glass with other materials in various ways. It is important to emphasize that the glass art pieces shown are not made solely by the individual artists, but by the entire glassworks, with blowers, cutters and painters who are all masters of their craft. The exhibition presents not only Orrefors Kosta Boda’s glass art, but also the present state of craftsmanship and tradition.

“We would like to thank Solliden Palace and the King for this unique opportunity to provide an overall picture of contemporary Swedish glass art.” 

Maria Lomholt, Head of Art Glass Orrefors Kosta Boda