Labyrinth Meditation: Human Conflict
by Catherine Nash
first published in the Int’l Association of Hand Papermakers and Paper Artists (IAPMA) Bulletin: Letters - 33, Summer 2003

labyrinth The island of Hönö off the west coast of Sweden is home to an ancient labyrinth. This particular labyrinth is made up of small stones set in a classical pattern similar to patterns found in the Mediterranean labyrinths of old. Six artists, four from Sweden and two from the U.S., came together on Hönö in 2000 and after visiting the labyrinth, were inspired to create collaborative artworks that reflect on human conflict and the sacred.

Scattered throughout Sweden are sacred places where labyrinths, standing stones and Rune Stones have stood for centuries. Petroglyphs are found carved into stone in many places in Sweden - mysterious symbols timeless in their appeal. These places have stood in silent vigil witnessing countless wars, invasions, battles and migrations come and go in an endless flux of human conflict. Yet underneath this flux, the sacred impulse which created these places endures.
Labyrinth Meditation: Human Conflict Collaborative Environmental InstallationCast paper “stones”, sprayed rag paper panels with watermarks.
~20’ diameter
Collaboration between 6 artists: Swedish artists Hans Assarsson, Ulf Ling-Vannerus, Daniella Mika, Margareta Mannervik, and American artists Catherine Nash and Robert Renfrow.
Labyrinth Meditation: Human Conflict, a sculptural installation and related artist book installation was the result of this collaboration. The labyrinth is here referenced by the cast paper “stones” laid out in a traditional pattern on the gallery floor. In the center of the labyrinth, an illuminated six sided pillar rises, reminiscent of the Rune Stones of old.

The sprayed handmade paper panels used for the central pillar were made from

discarded military felt parts and sheets: cotton cloth that was found at Karlsborg Fortress on Lake Vättern in Sweden. By milling the cloth into paper, the material was converted from a military use into an artistic use.

Each of the collaborating artists developed a personal watermark symbol felt to transcend our human history of human conflict. Together as a group, we sprayed paper pulp made of the beaten military cloth fibers to make the central pillar, using these watermarks as a focal point. In the final installation, the backlit watermarks became a personal symbol of hope rising above and transcending the photo-transferred images of human conflict found below it.

labyrinth renfro

Our six artist team also created a series of unique artist books of this handmade paper that make reference to the watermarked central pillar, it’s images and symbols. The artist book installation uses six (out of an edition of 12) unique accordion format artist books.

Wanting to include artists from around the world, a request went out for samples of earth from special places. One hundred and sixteen
samples were mailed to Hönö as artists responded by sending soils and sand from all over our planet including Africa, Australia, the Middle East, the Far East, Europe and North America. These earth samples from many different countries were arranged in individual glass containers on the floor in front of the artist book “grid”.

The collaboration continued across the Atlantic via the post as the twelve books were sent from one artist to the next, each individual adding photo-transferred images of human conflict to the pages and sending it on to the next artist. Two years later in 2002, we came together again in Sweden, installing Labyrinth Meditation: Human Conflict, the artist book work and an environmental installation in the old granary at Karlsborg Fortress. It was subsequently exhibited at Ferme Sarasin in Geneva, Switzerland.

Conflict ebbs and flows throughout human history but the ever present impulse towards unity and collaboration prevails and continues undiminished, manifesting itself in today’s new sacred places. Karlsborg Fortress was transformed from a place of conflict to a place of peace through the application of art.

  Labyrinth Meditation: Human Conflict
Collaborative Artist Book: Looking from Labyrinth to Book Installation.Pulp painting with handmade flax and linen papers, collaged images with photocopy transfer. On floor, row of over 100 samples of earth from countries around the world. Edition of 12 books.Collaboration between 6 artists: Swedish artists Hans Assarsson, Ulf Ling-Vannerus,
Daniella Mika, Margareta Mannervik,and American artists Catherine Nash and Robert Renfrow

All Rights Reserved — use of images/text by written permission of the artist only © Nash/Renfrow Productions