Tobias Birgersson + Andrew Hayes
June 6 – July 8, 2023


In 2019, Swedish artist Tobias Birgersson and North Carolina artist Andrew Hayes started a conversation, making plans to work together in Sweden. As the pandemic sealed the world’s borders, Tobias and Andrew instead found ways to work remotely, ultimately forming a relationship that illuminated their artistic practices and reactions to a drastically changing world. In early 2022, Andrew traveled to Stockholm to meet Tobias in person for the first time. After touring Stockholm’s museums and artist studios, the two artists convened at Metal Art Sweden in Dals Langed, a remote forested town, to work on the studio component of their collaboration. Following this in-person residency, Tobias and Andrew have continued to pass ideas back and forth while working in their respective studios.



THE SWEDISH CONNECTION includes drawings, sculptural shelves, and a large steel and paper sculpture – evidence of a multi-year, collaborative conversation that is sure to continue in the years to come.

The friendship between Tobias and Andrew, two artists who had never met, began through comments back and forth on social media. In 2019, Tobias acquired funding through the Swedish government and HDK University to bring Andrew and his family to Metal Art Sweden in Dals Langed for a month-long residency scheduled for October 2020. Due to the pandemic, this residency became a prolonged virtual exchange between Andrew and Tobias which culminated in Andrew finally traveling to Sweden for two weeks in the spring of 2022.

Before the visit, Tobias provided Andrew with a list of Swedish literature spanning genres and themes to immerse him in the culture. The three books were Frans G. Bengston’s Röde Orm, where Viking tales meet historical fiction; Harry Martinson’s Aniara, a bleak and beautiful epic space poem; and John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Låt Den Rätte Komma In, a dark and intriguing vampire tale set in Stockholm’s recent past.

All three books are displayed in shelves or containers that Tobias and Andrew made collaboratively over a year of passing ideas back and forth both in-person and virtually. The sketches are initial concepts that Tobias showed Andrew upon his arrival at the studio in Sweden.

Andrew, a former Penland Resident Artist, Core Fellow, and instructor, believes Penland is a place built on collaboration and the exploration and celebration of craft. He says both artists are thankful and deeply appreciate the opportunity to exhibit their collaborative journey at the Penland Gallery.

The artists also want to thank the following Swedish organizations for their support:

IASPIS-Swedish Arts Grants committee
University of Gothenburg
Campus Steneby-Metalart
Gallery LOD
Leksands Folkhögskola
Mötesplats Steneby

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