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(1940 - 2001)

Ola Billgren was born in Copenhagen in 1940. He grew up in Löderup in the southern region of Skåne. Self-taught, he nonetheless enjoyed and benefited from the constant guidance, advice and support of his parents  –  Hans and Grete Billgren  –  who were respected artists in their own right. In this privileged environment, his talent emerged precociously. By the age of 13, he was already exhibiting watercolours and ink works around Löderup.

Painting, graphic art, watercolour, photography, film and scenography, Billgren (junior)  –  who was also a writer and cultural commentator  –  worked with a plethora of mediums to better achieve his aesthetic goals. The beginning of his oeuvre was predominantly influenced by abstract expressionism until the introduction of more photorealist elements and sensibilities in the 1960s. This switch coincided with new opportunities, such as a breakthrough exhibition at Galleri Karlsson in Stockholm in 1966. The decade also saw the artist broaden his horizons and embrace le nouveau roman français and new wave cinema as artistic influences through the writings of Alain Robbe-Grillet and the films of Michelangelo Antonioni. With these new sources of inspiration came new motifs for Billgren’s own expression.

The 1960s saw Billgren embrace his theatrical leanings, not only directing a short film entitled Image (1963), but also designing sets and scenography for productions of Samuel Beckett and Marguerite Duras at Malmö City Theatre.

The following decade saw the portrait take a central place in the artist’s practice, before collages carried Billgren’s oeuvre in a more romantic direction in the 1980s. A suite of 19 romantic neo-impressionist landscapes best exemplify this progressive shift. In the 1990s, figuration and romanticism were replaced by abstraction and chromaticism, in particular an abundance of red. In 1993, he received the Swedish Visual Arts’ Fund’s Five-Year Scholarship.

Billgren’s talent was rewarded both culturally and commercially. Indeed, one his works broke the auction record for a living Swedish artist at the time. A large retrospective of his work was housed by the Rooseum in Malmö and at Moderna Museet in Stockholm in 1991. Some of Billgren’s pieces can be found in museums, whether in Scandinavia (Länsmuseet Gävleborg, Göteborgs konstmuseum, Malmö Konstmuseum, Norrköpings konstmuseum, Moderna Museet, Kalmar konstmuseum) or beyond its borders (Musée National d’art Moderne Centre Georges Pompidou).

Billgren passed away in Malmö in 2001.

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