Like many of her female contemporaries, the artist Lilian Lindblad Domec (1922–2017) has largely slipped under the radar. But through both her life and her work she has important things to convey about the meaning and predicaments of art. Rather than trying to create herself as an artist, she was driven throughout her long life by curiosity, boundlessness and desire. She was sharp and funny, with a strong commitment to society, she rarely conformed, and she made creativity her life.
She studied at the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts between 1943 and 1949 and made a living by illustrating for the press, among others for the Swedish daily Aftonbladet, and the magazine Femina. She had several assignments for the Swedish Educational Broadcasting Company where she drew and animated clips in a number of productions. Otherwise, she remained unfaithful to all genres and continuously reassessed her many ways of expression.
From the mid 1960s onwards, she became a part of Swedish experimental film and made several short films, first through her own production company Victoriafilm and later through the legendary “Filmverkstan” (the Film Workshop) which started in 1973 with the intention of allowing new talent, who didn’t have the resources, an opportunity to film. For 27 years, Filmverkstan became Lilian’s place of work, where she met colleagues with whom she could establish a professional community. She was attracted by a medium that was less concerned about technique, that managed just fine without professional actors and remained open to new ways of exploring reality.
Lilian’s sense of adventure and proclivity for the theatre developed early. She was a fabulous teller of tales and dreams, from her own life or from the treasure trove that history has left us. She also wanted to create stories about how life ought to be. The city’s aggressiveness towards children angered her. Inside her, stories about children as the true activists, grew stronger.
For a long time, Lilian split her life between France and Sweden. I her husband’s house in Marnay she had the large family, space for antics and celebrations of music and friendship, a place for amateur theatre using Lilian’s décor and props. Drawn figures mixed with puppets and live actors, eternal myths and contemporary social commentary in a continuous interplay.
Her very own territory was in a studio flat in Vanadislunden in Stockholm where she lived for over 60 years. Lilian attracted people. Among them her energy rose. In different ways, the world came to her, joined her within her four walls. She was a keen letter writer. She followed the times through radio and magazines, newspapers, exhibitions, meetings and lectures. With it came a passionate support for the vulnerable, the persecuted and the oppressed. The organisation Kvinna till Kvinna (Woman to Woman) was started on her initiative.
Towards the end of her life, Lilian can no longer leave her little flat in Vanadislunden, situated on the second floor without an elevator. Homecare enters her life and together with her care worker Thomas a new work of life and art begins to take shape – Bolaget (the Company). Here the Hippo enters as Lilian’s spokesperson, with its huge mouth it takes a stance, delivered on postcards by Bolaget to the extended group of friends. Thomas is responsible for production and design, Lilian contributes with her hippos. But Thomas’ deepened involvement in Lilian’s activities causes concern for the homecare company. In a misguided effort to safeguard Lilian’s welfare, Thomas is forced to quit. This leads to an exhibition problematising the regulations of homecare and societal care, with Lilian’s and Thomas’ collaboration as example. After her relatives contact the company board, Thomas is allowed to return to Lilian.
Eventually, the body’s limitations become increasingly obvious. But Lilian doesn’t let go of her pen, she continues to draw everything she sees and experiences. Her humour and the eye for the absurd keeps her alive. In the last days of her life, in hospital and later a care home, she draws the amputation of her legs on a county council envelope. More and more angels flutter around on her paper. Shortly thereafter she passes away, in 2017, 95 years old.