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Sour Grapes

Merely twenty years old, the young Swedish painter Gustaf Lilliestierna has already made a name for himself in the art world. This Thursday will see the opening his solo exhibition Sour Grapes at NAU Gallery in Stockholm.

With his monumental and true to life paintings, Gustaf Lilliestierna wants to describe what it is to be a human torn between discipline and indolence. His motives are seemingly normal men and women, in worn jeans and wrinkled shirts, with empty eyes and nonplussed expressions on their faces. The backdrops are monochrome and silent, revealing nothing about who they are or what they are doing. Some of the motives are also repeated into kaleidoscopic patterns, as a reminder of the recurrent disappointments of life.

I want to express the emptiness that you can feel when life falls short of your expectations

An important theme in Gustaf’s art is the concept of cognitive dissonance, a term used to describe the feeling of discomfort that results from holding two conflicting beliefs. The concept of cognitive dissonance is famously illustrated by the traditional fable The Fox and the Grapes, where a fox tries to persuade himself that the grapes he cannot reach from the tree are sour and not worth his while. Sour Grapes is also the title of Gustaf’s solo exhibition, opening this week at NAU Gallery. More realistic examples of the cognitive dissonance that Gustaf is interested can be found in simple everyday sayings such as ”I will quit smoking tomorrow” or ”I will try to lose weight before next summer”.

– The monochrome backdrops are in a way a metaphor for the emptiness I want to express, Gustaf says. The emptiness that you can feel when life falls short of your expectations. That’s something that unites people regardless of who they are or what they do.

Sour Grapes will be on view at NAU Gallery in Stockholm between August the 22nd and September the 21th. Hear what Gustaf Lilliestierna himself has to say about his work in NAU Gallery’s video below.