Amanda Moström’s Polarising Art Unites the Familial and the Erotic

Pin It
itsanosofadog *It’s an arse of a dog by Amanda Moström
Amanda MoströmCourtesy of the artist and Rose Easton, London. Photo by Theo Christelis

The Swedish artist’s new exhibition at Rose Easton gallery in London pays tribute to Labradors and her grandmother’s photographs of flowers

Family and eroticism are rarely mentioned in the same breath, despite incest having a bit of a moment in pop culture last year. In her work, however, Swedish artist Amanda Moström brings these two loaded subjects together with humour and surprising tenderness. Her photographic series Don Joy sees the artist pose with family members in the style of famous, sexually-loaded photographs. In one image, Moström and her grandfather impersonate Anna Nicole Smith and J Howard Marshall, with the artist dressed in a white silk mini dress. In another similarly disquietening shot, she straddles her dad’s nude bum in homage to Tom of Finland’s iconic homoerotic pencil drawings.

“It always comes from a really playful place,” Moström tells me, when we speak ahead of her upcoming show itsanosofadog *It’s an arse of a dog with east London gallerist Rose Easton. “Some people are really appalled by them. But then some people find it quite endearing and are charmed by the idea that I’m sitting on my dad who is butt naked!”

Beyond the initial shock of the images, there is something far more sensitive at play. Through Moström’s lens, eroticism is attempted to be shown as comforting and removed from the shameful stigma that is often pinned to sexuality. “The Don Joy series, if taken at face value, can be quite sexualised and seen problematically if read to engage with incest,” says Easton, who included the series in her 2022 group exhibition Sex. “In reality, they are these playful, joyful images that have been taken within the family unit.” 

For her show at the gallery, Moström will exhibit two new bodies of work. The first displays her grandmother’s collection of floral photographs. She describes her grandmother as intensely creative and obsessive; after her death in October, the artist discovered sets of photographs depicting flowers gifted to her grandmother throughout her life. The flowers had been staged against different backdrops and catalogued with dates gifted and by whom written on the back. This act of private archiving fascinated Moström.

“To my knowledge, she had no plan of using them in any way,” she tells me. “I think she found some joy in capturing the little moments of time. That was just her own collection. She always kept me creatively motivated. I was in awe of her because she was a furious maker.”

The second body of work displays stills from a YouTube video the artist has watched repeatedly, which depicts a German Labrador disciplining her puppies. “She comes into the space and all the puppies are very excited,” the artist tells me. “From the get-go, she disciplines them until they are all completely calm. Right at the end they are all lying down like little wet puddles yawning and then she starts to engage with them in a softer way. It says a lot about the type of discipline and control you might wish to have on your own emotional wellbeing.” 

Moström connects both these series with her interest in eroticism, inspired by the writing of Audre Lorde. “Eroticism always has something to do with urgency,” she tells me. “My nan was obsessively making these images for no obvious reason or gain. She could find urgencies within making without any deadline or show. That rings true with the puppies. I see the erotic in the fact it’s such a longed-for place of discipline.”

There is a tactile eroticism in Moström’s framing devices too, informed by her expanded practice which includes sculpture. Her Don Joy photographs are set within soft, deep velvet mounts. Her grandmother’s images are shown against foil backdrops typically used for aquariums, while the puppy screenshots are framed by elaborate keyholes knitted from Alpaca wool, derived from her own sheep in Sweden.

In her work, Moström aims to unite the warmth of family together with something we are taught to see as inherently shameful and dirty. In doing so, she’s wanting to celebrate eroticism as something that is natural and human. “Amanda’s work is incredibly honest,” says Easton. “There is this playfulness which comes from quite an innocent place. She’s mining this childlike innocence. When paired with the erotic, it can create quite a visceral reaction. I think it really unearths something in people that they are a little bit afraid of, or excited to engage with.” 

itsanosofadog *It’s an arse of a dog by Amanda Moström is on show at Rose Easton in London until 10 June 2023.