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english text Magnus Bons

Individual Forms

Among Karin Häll’s multitude of small drawings, the face is the dominating motif. But I also see trees, hands, and a variety of objects depicted on the irregular pieces of paper. A potted plant here, a drinking glass there – a collection of everyday items. At times, the characters and objects are involved in an imaginative metamorphosis. As with the figure with a banana as a hairdo, and the skirt that looks like a pleated tree trunk. Or is it the tree trunk that resembles a skirt? The shapes are often distinctly surrounded by a series of consecutive contours. As markings of sorts, encapsulating their specific areas.

The faces gaze out from the paper, as though absorbed in themselves. Contours and lines merge into figures. Figures that appear to penetrate through underlying layers, from within deep currents of consciousness. Karin Häll tests what a face can look like. She analyzes who it might be. Conjures forth the characters, as it were.

An incessant stream of images. Her drawn figures emerge from relaxed concentration. A state of reflection, where mind and hand proceed in parallel. But who, or what, dictates the drawing? Is it the pen? The paper? Or that which has already been depicted?

All of this presumably affects the image, but it is, above all, Karin Häll herself who directs the pen onwards. The pen creates lines and tonal variations between light and dark, but she is the one holding it – and the one in charge of the process.

Thus the images emerge in an interplay between materiality and memory. First a quick drawing phase, followed by a longer period of observation, reflection, alteration, disposal and selection.

I see Karin Häll’s figures as kings and queens. Rulers in their own domains, even if their kingdoms consists only of themselves. Even if the shy and naïve demeanor of the portraits reveal nothing.

Here I find myself thinking of the title of Lars Norén’s poetic suite on the artist C. F. Hill, King Me. It bears a ceremonial mundaneness that I associate with Karin Häll’s drawings; an ongoing image monologue resulting in pure-hearted and strikingly individual portraits. Indeed, there is something withdrawn and private about the characters in her drawings. An inner independence.

Karin Häll’s imagery seems in many ways aligned with the enigmatic, personal pictorial world of Louise Bourgeois, who referred to her own drawings as “thought feathers”. Something pops up and insists on being drawn, so as not to slip into oblivion. The images are conjured forth, as some sort of materialized daydreams. Blow on them, and they will surely lift off the paper.

Magnus Bons, editor at, art critic at Dagens Nyheter