While travelling on Stockholm’s red Tunnelbana between Tekniska Högskolan and T-Centralen, you may have noticed the figures and texts blasted into the concrete at one of the stops.
Carved into the interior walls of the platform at Östermalmstorg are the names of some of the great women and pioneers of feminism from history: Simone de Beuvoir, the French writer, political activist, existentialist philosopher and author of the analysis of women’s oppression ‘The Second Sex’, Hypatia, one of the earliest mothers of mathematics who also taught philosophy and astronomy in Alexandria AD350, Sapfo (Sappho), the 5th Century BC lyrical poet from Lesbos, whose work was centered on passion and love for both sexes, and Virginia Woolf, the English writer and one of the foremost modernists of the twentieth century, who penned the famous dictum, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”
Designed and created by Swedish artist and sculptor Siri Derkert in 1965, these images symbolize women’s rights, world peace and the green movement.
She studied art at the Royal Swedish Academy of Arts, then moved to Paris in 1913 and was heavily influenced by the Avant-garde and Cubist movements. When she returned to Sweden she brought with her modernist views ideas in art and a passion for women’s rights.
After WWII she won several competitions to produce public art and using a new technique of drawing in wet concrete she began to use her art to change society, by putting her views and concerns on the walls. In the 1960’s she designed a large, woven tapestry for the City Hall of Hoganas, the station at Östermalmstorg and was chosen to represent Sweden in the newly opened Nordic Pavilion at the Venice Biennale Arts Exposition.
It may be nearly 50 years since Derkert created her public art, and although much has changed in the world in that time, the issues of the environment, peace and feminism are still as relevant today as they were for her generation.