Loop by loop, OLEK’s art emerges in crochet that both reveals and conceals. On the global art scene, she is known as the Crochet Queen. No one before has ever used the art of crochet to interpret life’s big questions in the way that OLEK does. “Crochet becomes a metaphor for the structures of the family, society and the world. No system is stronger than its weakest thread. If there is one bad loop in the work, everything can unravel and come to nothing,” says the artist. OLEK always bases her works on the place in which the installation will be shown. On her first visit to Avesta, she became fixated on the simple peasant homestead, Stubbsveden, at Avesta Bison Park. Here, in kitchen and quarters, are the simple essentials of everyday life, along with traces of a woman’s homemaking touch. Curtains, flowers, a crocheted lampshade. When OLEK wanted to recreate the old farming cottage for Avesta Art, women from Avesta joined up in a crochet workshop that brought life and colour to the ironworks’ roasting house. The women were newly arrived from Syria and Ukraine – happy to participate in OLEK’s artistic creation, scarred by the fact that they themselves had been forced to leave their homes and countries due to war and political unrest. “What is a home?” wonders the artist and searches for answers deeper than in mere objects. Moods, feelings, memories, a few belongings of very special significance. “My art explores what is and what happens in our lives. I want to bring colour, energy and surprises that make people flinch, open their eyes and think for themselves. The installation in Avesta depicts a home in which something has happened. An attack – an explosion – has wreaked havoc in the cosy shelter.” “The Syrian women showed me photos and videos from their ravaged homes and cities. Of course they want to go back, but it is not possible now. Their reality confirms that none of us can take anything for granted. Terror, war, earthquakes or other natural disasters may force us to flee. Illness and deaths of close relatives can forever change our lives and living conditions. The challenges are universal.” Crochet brings a special dimension to OLEK’s art. The technique is old, known throughout the world and practised mainly by women. With a little hook, loops of yarn are joined with loops of yarn in a work that grows into warming blankets, sweaters and gloves, into beautiful lace, collars, fun decorations and much, much more. The decision to crochet becomes in itself a vindication of women’s daily – often overlooked – work. There is also something bold and unpredictable in transgressing the border between the traditional folk craft of crocheting and professional artistry. OLEK is the artist name for Agata Oleksiak. She was born in 1978 in Poland, studied at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan and is a long-time resident of New York. She has exhibited and conducted workshops across the globe. OLEK is actively engaged in women’s rights, freedom of expression and human equality. The installation In the Blink of an Eye is now on exhibit for the second year at Avesta Art. In 2016, OLEK and her team also completely crocheted one of the city’s houses in pink yarn. Photographs of Avesta’s pink house spread across the globe and were published in highly respected newspapers.

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