Ludmila Christeseva

Moving from patriarchal Belarus to Sweden, a country of gender equality seemed to provide me with an opportunity for personal development and an inspiration to explore the notion of femininity.

I began my career working for Lars Wallin, the famous Swedish haute-couture designer. Every day we made the test versions of new dresses – toiles, in order to check how design and body interact, bringing in changes when necessary. Then we would throw the toiles away until I started saving them. 

Toile is a unique material that speaks of the same processes, which takes place in each of us - transitions, transformations, and learning. Moreover, I saw a narrative potential in the discarded toiles and a metaphorical relationship to my Belarusian identity, which didn’t resonate so well with the Swedish style of femininity and had to be negotiated.

The recycling of toiles allowed me as an artist to re-consider what is traditional and familiar to all of us, female imagery: sewing, washing, stitching, ironing, and caring. To become a good wife and a loving mother, combined with domestic duties constitute an archetype, which the majority of Belarusian women inherit from their mothers.

When I consider the practices of sewing, embroidery, washing and knitting as just a few examples of our female "dowry", I ask, "What do they mean to me today?" Are these tasks entirely designed to be performed by women and which are identified with femininity, or are these domestic activities which anyone can choose? 

Toiles serve as an important artistic medium for me to share my own story, my mother’s story, her mother’s story, her sister’s story, and other women’s stories. Through the installations with toiles, I provide an opportunity to reflect on the boundaries between society and the individual, consumption culture and the body, fashion and costume, traditions and trends.

L.Christeseva participates in various art projects both in Sweden and worldwide. Her artistic research focuses on gender identity and questions relating to representation across cultures. After graduating from Vitebsk State Technological University in 2001, the faculty of Fashion and Textile design, L.Christeseva moved to Sweden, where she joined the creative team of the Swedish designer Lars Wallin. She also holds degrees from Stockholm University and The University College of Arts, Crafts and Design (Konstfack). L.Christeseva works in various media such as painting, illustration, photography, video art, public art, artist authored books and publications and art installations.