Season Exhibitions

A happy island

The exhibition A happy island – 30 years of words and pictures with the illustrator and author Marit Törnqvist opens on 29 June. The exhibition is about the power of the story, Marit’s artistry and commitment to a better world, and her unique relationship with Astrid Lindgren.

Marit Törnqvist’s artistic work is summed up in a big exhibition at Astrid Lindgren’s Näs.

In 1989, Marit Törnqvist made her debut as an illustrator on Astrid Lindgren’s A Calf for Christmas. After that, they worked intensively together for many years, not least when Marit Törnqvist created the settings for the Story Train at Junedale in Stockholm. Now – 30 years and a whole artist’s life later – there is a new book in which Marit Törnqvist illustrates Astrid Lindgren’s lullaby Night Has Come. At the same time, Marit Törnqvist’s artistic work is summed up in a big exhibition at Astrid Lindgren’s Näs.

“It feels fantastic to exhibit here. Because even though Astrid is no longer alive, she is often like a voice in my head who can give me good advice. That’s why it’s so nice to exhibit in the place where she grew up,”
says Marit Törnqvist on the phone from Amsterdam where she lives for large parts of the year.

The exhibition gives us many insights into the unique relationship – like 10-year-old Marit jumping in the hay together with the then 65-year-old Astrid Lindgren.

“That taught me that you don’t have to stop playing, you can continue even if you are 65 years old,” she says with a laugh.

Marit Törnqvist has illustrated her own and other’s stories, worked on many prestigious assignments and won a number of prizes and awards for her books. The exhibition consists of many original illustrations as well as her actual work process. Visitors can look into Marit’s workshop, see how the work on a book develops, look at ‘unsuccessful’ pictures that Marit has chosen not to use and try different illustration techniques for themselves. Here we also find things that are common to Astrid Lindgren and Marit Törnqvist: the longing back to childhood, going between light and darkness, and the commitment to a better world.

“I try to do things that affect me, that feel important in one way or another,” says Marit Törnqvist.

Her drive has led her to hold workshops with children in the jungle in Suriname as well as the slums in Teheran.

“Drawing is fantastic in that way. It’s like a bridge. It is in principle a wordless art form that works everywhere.”

In 2016, Marit Törnqvist took the initiative to give out 30,000 picture books in Arabic to newly arrived refugee children in Sweden, and now she is involved in the difficult situation for Afghan refugees.

“It’s a bit of a journey of discovery for me. It’s not like I know what I’m going to do next, but much of my work is about my belief that it helps children to talk about themselves, whether they draw or write, and based on that reflect on their own experiences.”

“By planning the exhibition together with Marit, I have met an author with enormous commitment and high ambition. It’s fun and important to talk about the breath of her work,” concludes Anneli Karlsson, Producer at Astrid Lindgren’s Näs.

The exhibition A happy island opens at Astrid Lindgren’s Näs in Vimmerby on 29 June and runs until 3 November. The exhibition is produced by Astrid Lindgren’s Näs in close cooperation with Marit Törnqvist.