Inga Bagge was a sculptor and painter, and a pioneer in working artistically with new materials. Through her unreserved use of ”new” materials, she contributed to extending the arts field and thinning out the border between tradition and experiment — thus being an inspiration for her contemporaries and younger generations.
Inga Bagge was born in 1916 in Stockholm. Her father was an engineer and inventor. Her mother took care of their home and the children but died prematurely. From 1926, the family lived in Linköping. After eight years at a girls’ school, Inga Bagge studied art for Leoo Verde at the ABF (equivalent of WEA) art school. Verde meant a good deal for her development and continued studies. Her earlier link to the province of Östergötland led to a lifelong contact with the art society there: Östgöta Konstförening, in whose jury-assessed exhibition she participated regularly in 1957—1984.
From 1935, Inga Bagge lived in Stockholm. In 1940, she married John Henderson-Powell, with whom she had their daughter Ingela. In connection with her marriage and the birth of her daughter, she took a break from her art studies, not resuming them again until 1949.
In 1951—1957, Inga Bagge was a student at the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm: Kungliga Konsthögskolan. Among her classmates were Jörgen Fogelqvist, Pär Andersson and Tom Kresten. Bror Hjorth and Sven X:et Erixson were her teachers. Sculpture at that time was characterised by a strong feeling for form with insight into the grammar and construction of form, teachings stemming from Hjorth. Later she spoke about ”constructing”. She emphasised the catchwords plumb, wave and atomic particles as the invisible points of attachment from which the great universal movement departs and to which it returns in a work of art. Insights about an inner core and the stature of a work of art most certainly come from her persevering work for Hjorth. It is also that which gave Inga Bagge the stable foundation upon which her works of art rest. That both her teachers greatly appreciated their student “and liked her nervy and sensitive way of working” is clear from Margareta Hjorth’s book Närbild av Bror from 1978. In connection with Hjorth’s death in 1968, Inga Bagge created one of her most eminent textile works, the pure, serene application Hommage à Bror Hjorth.
Inga Bagge sculpted using unexpected elements as early as her time at the academy, like letting wet rags dry on the plaster and become part of the works. A gold-painted plaster sculpture of a seated woman with head bent could be given a mirror on its lap, and a skirt and hat of pink net made of soft plastic. Seriousness and comedy — a wild, moving experience. Her unmistakeable play is accurate and inviolable. Her debut exhibition took place in 1958 at Galleri Burén in Stockholm. Ulf Linde was impressed by its paradoxes and wrote that ”... her Marcel Aymes-like entourage of burlesque bodies has at the same time fine sculptural qualities. Their expressivity does not come only from the wild arrangements but also from an inner core of simple form contexts ...” Linde continued to follow her work and curated her memorial exhibition in 1998 at the Thielska Gallery in Stockholm.
Of great significance for Inga Bagge’s artistic development was also the meeting in 1963 with Marcel Duchamp’s art at Galleri Burén in Stockholm. She has talked about what a ”crazy liberation” it was. All at once, she realised that the carrying and the carried, plumb and wave, could consist of anything at all! She now literally built the sculpture Såsom jag flyger, titta en spegel of a kind of chair for building workers, chicken wire, gloves from cadet balls at the Karlberg military academy in Stockholm, Italian silk stockings, bicycle locks, colanders, plastic flowers, old evening shoes and boots in unadulterated circles and squares. Then and there, that was the end of the naked arms, legs and breasts of sculpture. ”I tried to create a bit of life that responded with a yes inside myself” she commented. She was totally free in her artistic development. The sculptures from that period, with or without clothing, belong to her truly significant works and are to be found in public places, museums and collections.
Inga Bagge’s working processes were, contrary to what one might believe, extremely demanding. She started off with her entire accumulated strength. The battle was a fact. Build up, destroy, start all over again, overwork to the death, start all over again and again and again ... until her seriousness answered yes. The battle consisted to a great degree of how her wide-open senses and strict eyes would be able to agree. Her rare relationship to things, that in her hands could reveal anything at all, was an almost mystical strength. She had a down-to-earth relationship, not unlike that of a child, to the unfathomable greatness, greater than ourselves, that can be divined on an inner plane but can also take form in action – artistically or directly in life.
Livsträdet (The Tree of Life), today exhibited at Moderna Museet in Stockholm, she saw as her most eminent work. The great application, 535 x 310 cm, ”was born” without any changes during 14 days in an intense Yoga period in her life in 1975. The work consists of various textile materials, glass buttons, beads, sequins, loose pieces of tape — and a tiny antique evening handbag! The fundamental colour is white with a composition in black, red, light blue and gold. Livsträdet is stringently constructed with an inner unity and balance through horizontals and verticals. From a junction, the atomic point, in the Golden section on the stem, the verticals bear up a tree canopy of semicircles, rectangles and triangles. Other formations fall together from the same verticals in a beautiful sinking towards the ground — only the little handbag is alone, freely situated up in the air. Somewhat offset from the middle of the picture is the centre of the tree of life. An atomic dot with an invisible point of attachment. The small that reveals the great. The tiny evening handbag — an eye of God — that continues just to be a tiny evening handbag. Livsträdet is dedicated to Jai Guru Dev, who was Inga Bagge’s master in transcendental meditation.
Inga Bagge was a complex and temperamental personality who was her own ”atomic dot”, around which companionship and friendship arose. Her lack of prestige, complex and temperamental personality drew a large circle of friends who are still inspired by her memory. Her pedagogical work at the art school Konstskolan Idun Lovén (christened after the painter and art pedagogue Idun Lovén), at Konstfack and Konsthögskolan shall not be forgotten. Towards the end of her life, she was awarded a state income guarantee.
Inga Bagge died in 1988 at Vidarkliniken in Järna. Her funeral took place in Gustaf Adolf’s Church in Stockholm. Her ashes were strewn in the Atlantic outside Teneriffe, where her daughter was living.