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Monica Sjöö Resources and Research

21 February 2024

Discover the multifaceted legacy of Monica Sjöö (1938-2005), in this round-up of the resources and research published to coincide with Modern Art Oxford’s exhibition, Monica Sjöö: The Great Cosmic Mother (18 November 2023 – 25 February 2024).

Sjöö was a remarkable figure known for her roles as an artist, activist, writer, and eco-feminist. Unyielding in her commitment to gender justice, eco-feminism, matriarchy, and social equities, Sjöö’s life work explores the intricate connections between art, spirituality, and politics.

Biography

Monica Sjöö protesting the Vietnam War in Stockholm. She wears a piece of a paper with writing pinned to her back.
Monica Sjöö protesting the Vietnam War, Stockholm, 1966. Photographs from Monica Sjöö’s personal archive, Courtesy Monica Sjöö Estate © Monica Sjöö Estate

From her birth in Härnösand, Monica Sjöö’s life was extraordinary. Having run away from home at sixteen, Sjöö went on to live between Sweden and the UK, including spending many years in Bristol. This timeline of her life and works includes not only her paintings, but also many of her works as an author.


Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp – Green Gate

Two women bend over a campfire at Green Gate in the Greenham Common Peace Camp.
Green Gate. Photo by Carolyn Francis.

One of Monica Sjöö’s many acts of activism was her time spent living at the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp.

When the government agreed to allow American nuclear weapons to be stored at RAF Greenham Common, hundreds of women arrived to protest the decision. Setting up a camp around the airbase, these women created a community built on a foundation of activism, and structured around different ‘gates’.

Two women sit outside a tent at Green Gate in Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp.
Green Gate. Photo by Carolyn Francis.
A photograph of women forming a blockade, as described in the Green Gate Podcast. A number of banners hang from trees and bushes.
Blockade, July 1983. Photo by Janet Smith.
A group of women sit among trees at Green Gate, in the Greenham Common Peace Camp. Some of them play instruments, whilst others sit on the ground listening.
Green Gate. Photo by Carolyn Francis.

Green Gate became known as a centre of ecofeminism, as well as a deeply spiritual and calm space within the wider camp. It was here that Monica Sjöö spent most of her time, and many of the women she met there tell stories of the profound influence she had on their lives.

Learn more about Green Gate and it’s influence on her in this series of five short campfire stories, recorded by Rebecca Mordan.


Meet Monica Sjöö’s “Daughter-in-love”

Monica Sjöö carries her painting 'Women For Life on Earth' as a banner whilst taking part in a protest march.

This short film, recorded at Modern Art Oxford by Angel Sharp Media Ltd features Annie Johnston. Annie was Monica Sjöö’s daughter-in-law, but Sjöö always referred to her as her daughter-in-love. In this short film, she shares some of her memories of Sjöö, interspersed with archival footage from Reclaim Salisbury Plain and other marches and protests of which Sjöö was part.


Curators in Conversation

Monica Sjöö sits in her studio, surrounded by her paintings and large protest placards protesting the Vietnam War.
Monica Sjöö in her studio in Stockholm, 1966 Photographs from Monica Sjöö’s private archive © The Estate of Monica Sjöö

At the Preview for the exhibition, curators Amy Budd and Jo Widoff spoke together about the process of creating the exhibition, their time exploring the Monica Sjöö Estate’s archive, and the letters and essays that gave them insight into her life and practice.

This recording (and accompanying transcript), was recorded live on Friday 17 November 2023.

The exhibition notes are also available to read online.


Monica Sjöö’s Enduring Influence

Monica Sjöö stands in front of two of her paintings at an exhibition in Stockholm.
Monica Sjöö at the exhibition Kvinnoliv [Womenfolk], Kulturhuset, Stockholm, 1975. Photograph from Monica Sjöö’s personal archive, Courtesy Monica Sjöö Estate © Monica Sjöö Estate

Modern Art Oxford’s Young Creatives, aged 16-18, shared their responses to some of Sjöö’s paintings. Discussing the ongoing relevance of her political struggles, and the resonance of the paintings with their own experience of the world, these short reflections highlight Sjöö’s enduring appeal.


Further Reading

A grainy photograph of artist Monica Sjöö with her arms around another woman in front of some big stones in a field.
Personal photographs of Monica visiting Avebury in Wiltshire. Courtesy Monica Sjöö Estate and Alison Jacques, London

If the research and resources above have interested you, why not check out our reading list, with texts recommended by our curator to deepen your understanding of the world in which Monica lived, and the context in which she created her ground-breaking artworks.


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Monica Sjöö: The Great Cosmic Mother is curated by Jo Widoff, Moderna Museet, and Amy Budd, Modern Art Oxford, in collaboration with Moderna Museet, Stockholm and Moderna Museet Malmö, Sweden where it is showing from 13 May – 18 October 2023 and 23 March – 8 September 2024 respectively.

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