Lola A. Åkerström takes you behind Lakritsfestivalen – The Liquorice Festival – and introduces you to sculptor Alannah Robins building a masterpiece out of liquorice.
“It started as an idea when I ran my chocolate shop,” shares Tuija Räsänen who runs boutique confectionery store Choklad & Lakrits. “I really wanted to complement the chocolate with something and I came to think of liquorice, a product that doesn’t melt in the hot summer months.” Her love for liquorice developed during her childhood and to show this, she started selling liquorice in her chocolate store. She planned a small tasting event that would in turn into the first liquorice festival in Sweden – Lakritsfestivalen. She is the organizer and founder of the festival.
Liquorice (also spelled “licorice”) is a confection flavored with the extract of the roots of the liquorice plant. It is usually made into black chewy ropes or tubes and in Sweden, are often black, salty, and contain ammonium chloride. Liquorice candy usually includes the root extracts, sugar and a binding agent like starch, flour, gum arabic, or gelatin, beewax for its shine, and molasses for its black coloring.
The first festival was held in 2009 and since then, it has become a popular annual event now in its seventh year with bigger plans than ever. According to Räsänen, the festival is much more than a marketplace for selling liquorice. Visitors get to try new liquorice favorites and participate in a variety of tastings, contests and entertainment.
Since its beginnings, fine art has been a significant part of it. “Liquorice is a great material to work with due to its iconic color, shape and heritage;” shares Räsänen. And this year, Stockholm-based Irish artist Alannah Robins will be creating a spectacular sculpture for the festival. She will be building a scaled up version of her tiny sculpture “Reflex” in liquorice to be unveiled at Lakritsfestivalen.
Alannah Robins’ sculpture is a part of Galleri Duerr’s exhibition ”Playfulness and the Lack Thereof” together with American artists Matt Miley and David Eisenhauer, and Swedish artists Lina L. Baker (with a bachelor of photography from Scotland) and Patrik Lundell who has just returned to Stockholm after two years in Florence.
“We are really happy that Alannah is creating something so spectacular for the festival, it is really going to be a conversation piece,” adds Räsänen. “To have her and the representing gallery, Gallery Duerr, there to talk about the process is going to be really fun and interesting.”
So I reached out directly to the artist herself to learn about her creative process, how the idea for creating a life-sized liquorce sculpture was born, as well as her Kickstarter project behind it.
How did this idea come about? Can you share more about your creative process?
Lotte and Deborah from Galleri Duerr commissioned me to make a piece of sculpture out of liquorice for the festival. I’ve never worked in liquorice before, but I thought it sounded like a fun idea. I work fairly intuitively, often gathering images from everyday sources, and putting them together in new and unexpected ways. This invites the viewer into a new relationship with these objects or images.
I decided to work on a scaling up a version of my tiny bronze sculpture ‘Reflex‘. This combines a doll’s legs with the cast of a chanterelle mushroom. It’s a very playful piece, so I thought it could work well on this occasion. It also gives me scope to work as big or small as I can dependent on how much liquorice comes in. I can, for example, extend the skirt to incorporate other elements if I get loads.
Why liquorice? Are you a huge fan or have you been involved with the festival before in the past?
I like liquorice, the colour and the texture, as well as the taste. It was really a response to an opportunity, to reach a new audience.
What are your goals with this piece? Will it be unveiled and displayed at the festival? Be part of a travelling exhibition?
I will be working on the piece during the festival, possibly extending the skirt, so yes it will be there on display. I am currently working on it in my studio at Detroit Stockholm on Roslagsgatan. People are welcome to come and watch it being made. We have two gallery rooms here and I’m working on it simultaneously with another exhibition here ‘Still Falling- Papa India’, which concerns an aircrash in which my grandfather died. It’s amazing working on two projects at the same time, so different to each other.
An important part of being in a collective space with other artists is the cross fertilisation of ideas. On this occasion I’m getting lots of ideas and inspiration from my own juxtaposition of the two projects. I’m not sure about the future of this sculpture. I think maybe Lotte and Deborah would like to exhibit it again.
More on Alannah Robins
Robins is a graduate of the National College of Art and Design, Dublin. She was a founder member of the Atlantic Artists’ Association which ran a collective studio and gallery space on the West coast of Ireland for nine years. Alannah has won several commissions and awards for her artwork in Ireland and Sweden, including a public commission for the Waterford Institute of Technology, Tyresö Kulturstipendium and Helge Axeson Johnson stipend.
In recent years she has exhibited in the Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin, London’s Dialogue Cultural Space and here in Sweden in Tegen2, Detroit Stockholm, Tyresö Konsthall and Kiruna Stadshus. She collaborates regularly with other artists and musicians and is the driving force behind Opera Factory Sessions, a Stockholm based group of musicians and artists who work with an intensively collaborative process. Alannah is a member of Detroit Stockholm’s Collective Studio, Tyresö Konstnärer, Visual Artists Ireland, Catalyst Arts Belfast, and Fylkingen.
More on Lakritsfestivalen
The festival will be held this year at Annexet, Ericsson Globe Arena from March 21-22 alongside an ice-cream festival. Visit the official site below for more information.