Agneta’s work is, by definition, abstract and is built entirely from imagination and engagement with the technical process. Each painting evolves on the canvas: no working drawings exist.
The viewer is immersed in the luxurious ebb and flow of paint and the mysterious forms which might be suggestive of radiological images, landscapes, light-play, water flow or movement. Many personal associations may be provoked. The scope of individual response to the paintings reflects an indefinable quality that is essential to the work’s ultimate success.
The paintings result from the exploration and discovery inherent in a technique honed over the last 20 years.
Working with fast-drying acrylic and water, Agneta uses a sponge to apply layer upon layer of shapes and gestures with solid pigment and transparent washes, while continually washing and rubbing sections away until the final complex image is built. Agneta may work for days on a small isolated section of the painting. It is an obsessive and fastidious process and the work travels a complex journey of twists and turns before she finds the ‘solution’ which is the paintings final incarnation.
Sparing use of colour focuses attention on a sense of movement in the forms framed by a still surround. In these works an inky blue creates a cool, dark and sensual space.
It seems paradoxical that the work, while time consuming and re-worked over weeks and months, should appear at first glance simple and immediate.
The strong fluid and organic core stilled by the gentle ground contributes to vague figurative and emotional qualities.
As stated by Dr Chrisopher Heathcote 2017, Art historian and Critic:
Art for Agneta Ekholm is a solitary transport. She is an artist who turns inward, honing paintings that act directly on the thoughts and emotions of a sensitive viewer; as if Ekholm aspires to offer an antidote to modern life. In this maddening world that is so crammed with bustle and stress and agitation, to gaze upon her compositions is to be instilled with serenity. Working quietly and confidently on what are her own creative terms, her contemplative paintings have depth, a tranquil depth…
Like all strong creators Agneta Ekholm has with maturity sharpened a “signature style”. This is the technical term for what we often savour in talented creators; like the way a novelist chooses and sets out words, or an accomplished soloist plays the music, or an artist applies paint using their own “voice”, an essentially personal idiom which can not be copied. With Ekholm this signature style involves her layering of thinned coats and creamy films of semi-transparent pigment. She applies the paint with a fluent ease using brushes and sponges, and has such a practiced hand when working that she never resorts to masking tape to get those crisp edges. It’s a matter of sureness, a sort of visceral control of the paint, which is why no one else can do these things. Besides, her studio tools are uniquely hers (Ekholm has some made to her own specifications by an overseas specialist manufacturer)…
The artist, Henri Matisse famously said that he aspired to make paintings that were the mental equivalent of sitting in a good armchair at the end of a hectic day and getting life back in balance. A few very fine Australian artists I could name are making such work today. Agneta Ekholm is certainly among them.
As stated by Andrew Gaynor, Independent Curator and Arts Writer:
Her (Agneta’s) training encompasses the rigour of the Finnish art school system (which had core electives in stretcher building and the making of watercolours) before further research as a student in Melbourne. What this alludes to is that materiality and structure in a painting are as crucial for Ekholm as is the final resolution. And here, it should be pointe out that even though her paintings have their roots in post-war modernism, they are more accurately informed by the tenets of Formalism. ‘In the classic modernist trajectory abstract work was meant to work through to a final essence or truth and expire.’1 This is the nihilist contradiction that lurks within the argument for if the end is reached, what is left but mere replication? Formalism, by comparison, analyses and compares form and style – the way objects are made and their purely visual aspects. It emphasises compositional elements such as Pierre Soulages, Morris Louis or Helen Frankenthaler but we also find the emphatic presence of Ekholm herself, her mastery of tone, her distinctive application of paint, her celebration of colour and her innate understanding of form.
- Catherine Lumby, ‘Abstraction from the 60s to the 80s and back again’, West magazine, vol. 3, no. 2, 1991, p.8