Ulrica Hydman Vallien – A Paradise Attack

Ulrica Hydman Vallien, a popular and colourful figure, is perhaps best known as a glass designer. She was, however, an all-round artist who drew and painted constantly. The exhibition A Paradise Attack demonstrates how – for her – life and art were one, and how the energy and the joy also concealed darkness.

Exhibition curator Staffan Bengtsson has followed Ulrica Hydman Vallien’s artistic career for three decades.

Ulrica Hydman Vallien was a unique and uniquely productive designer and artist. Ceramics, glass, textiles, aeroplanes, Easter eggs and furniture – there was nothing she didn’t paint or draw on! She made Swedish glass art popular and she enjoyed an international reputation.

She worked with both mass production and unique works of art. Kosta Boda estimated that the value of her production for the glassworks is at least SEK 3 billion. She was proud to be able to create job opportunities and was saddened when the glassworks in Orrefors and her own Åfors were forced to close in 2003 due to poor profitability.

Ulrica Hydman was born in Stockholm in 1938, the eldest of five siblings three of whom attended Konstfack, the University College of Arts, Craft and Design in Stockholm. Ulrica studied there in 1958–1962 at the Department of Ceramics and Glass under, among others, Stig Lindberg.

At Konstfack she met Bertil Vallien whom she married in 1963. Together they made research journeys to the United States and Mexico where they worked with ceramics. Mexican folk art was one of her many sources of inspiration. Matisse and Léger, David Hockney and Frida Kahlo were also significant for her.

A skilled drawer, she participated in every edition of Nationalmuseum’s annual exhibition Unga tecknare (Young Drawers) from 1964 to 1972 and was proclaimed the best drawer in Sweden in 1972. “In my opinion it is in her drawings that she gives her imagination free reign, even more so than in her narrative paintings,” Staffan Bengtsson writes in the catalogue.

Her debut exhibition in 1965 featured ceramics. At the beginning of the 1970s, she and her husband moved to Åfors, where they worked at the glassworks and which is when she began to experiment with glass. The same imagination and playfulness that infused her ceramics was transferred to numerous glass series, including Caramba and Open Mind.

Her idiom is highly personal and easily recognisable – there is no mistaking her tulips or snakes. She was one of fifty international artists invited by British Airways to decorate their fleet of aircraft. Aircraft tails, crockery and stationary – they all received the unmistakable Ulrica touch!

In the exhibition at Liljevalchs, which is not chronological but thematic, more than 500 works are displayed, including glass, ceramics, paintings, drawings and objects. Some galleries present only drawings, others ceramics and in another gallery there is a reconstruction from her final exhibition at Vida museum, on the island of Öland in the summer and autumn of 2018, featuring a pared-down painting. The Liljevalchs exhibition was planned by Ulrica Hydman Vallien and Staffan Bengtsson, before she suddenly and unexpectedly passed away in March 2018, three days before her 80th birthday.