Honorary doctor who teamed up with a deer

New honorary doctor and textile artist Annika Ekdahl works with Gobelins tapestry fabrics in a large format. Recently, she published the book Gobelängresan (The Gobelins Trip), with the subtitle Boken om att följa hjortar (The Book on Following Deer).

“My perspective is the artistic, in a personal context and in a long tradition,” says Honorary Doctor Ekdahl.

During the past five years, Annika Ekdahl has held the Barbro Wingstrand visiting professorship, focusing on woodwork and cultural crafts at the Department of Conservation. As part of her visiting professorship, she has researched Gobelins tapestry as art, cultural heritage and craftsmanship.

“I’ve explored Gobelins history through a figure frequent throughout Gobelin history: the deer. It has indeed been a fantastic travel companion, and I have had a wonderful journey in the deer’s footsteps.”

Honorary doctor Annika Ekdahl.

The deer as a symbol is a recurring theme in old Gobelins tapestries; it occurs as decoration, on shields and in mythical scenes. But the deer can also symbolise suffering, as in the case of artist Frida Kahlo, who painted her head on a deer’s body pierced by arrows, a symbol of her suffering.

In the course of her career, Annika Ekdahl has been granted many awards, including The Nordic Award in Textiles, Europe’s leading textile prize, for breathing new life into an historic textile genre. Her exhibition Annika Ekdahl – Woven Image Worlds is currently on view at Prince Eugen’s Waldemarsudde art museum.

“It’s a retrospective exhibition, with collections on loan from different places from the 1990s and onwards. The earliest work is my degree project from the Academy of Design and Crafts (HDK) here in Gothenburg, and the very latest work is a rug that I designed together with seven conservation students in Gothenburg that was woven with differently coloured geometrical patterns. The work is called post festum, after the party or ‘the after party’, and is a companion piece to one of my Gobelins tapestries.”

In her earlier works, Annika Ekdahl used watercolours and tempera in her preliminary studies, but a little over ten years ago she began to draw with the aid of a computer, sketching digitally and using photos, among other things. The works come to fruition through a combination of artistic process and craft.

“It’s an old technique, with a loom and threads in which structure and materials build up the image in body and space.”

Now Annika Ekdahl has been appointed an honorary doctor at the Faculty of Science. Professor Anneli Palmsköld was her host during the conferment ceremony.

“The honour was an enormous surprise, and I don’t really know how to behave. I’m very honoured, of course. After all the years here at the University of Gothenburg, I felt sad that the time was coming to an end – but that turned out not to be the case just yet.”