Monica Sjöö: The Great Cosmic Mother Exhibition

words Alexa Wang

Monica Sjöö: The Great Cosmic Mother
Monica Sjöö, Meeting the Ancestors at Avebury, 1993. Courtesy: Monica Sjöö Estate and Alison Jacques, London © Monica Sjöö Estate

Somehow, as this generation, we inherited a transactional world. The mainstream has become warped and twisted beyond recognition and the ‘greed is good’ doctrine split it apart. Bereft of our religion we were forced to worship markets and consumer goods but then there’s this feeling. Something is not quite right with the world. There is something unsettling about being ripped away from your own history.

I only came across the work of Monica Sjöö on receiving the press release for this show. I was captivated by the world she creates in her artwork. This feels like an antidote to the consumerist machine we are all struggling to inhabit.

Monica Sjöö modern art oxford
Monica Sjöö, God Giving Birth, 1968. Courtesy: Museum Anna Nordlander © Monica Sjöö Estate

“Her gift to us is measureless as is her integrity and implacable dedication to the
tending of earth and the psychic health of awakening human beings.” Alice Walker

This is a world where we are reintroduced to the old gods, reunited with our place within nature. Sjöö was a feminist. She advocated throughout her life for gender justice, eco-feminism, matriarchy and social equity. But she also saw that the one-dimensional macho posturing of our patriarchal world was doing us all harm.

Monica Sjöö: The Great Cosmic Mother show
Monica Sjöö, House-Wives, 1975. Courtesy: Monica Sjöö Estate and Alison Jacques, London © Monica Sjöö Estate

“We have still not recovered, in the West, from that act of primary alienation from the source of our earthly lives. No matter how sophisticated our technologies or how “secular” our lifestyles, we in the West, because our culture is so historically saturated with biblical imagery and worldview, still tend to be ruled by archetypal models of a male pastoral god whose power comes not from giving birth, or enhancing life, but from dominating and breeding cattle herds as a sign of egoistic individual wealth. And dominating women as unclean but profitable cows, as well.”
― Monica Sjöö, The Great Cosmic Mother: Rediscovering the Religion of the Earth

Much of her work was shocking to many at the time and seen as blasphemous by some. I think that’s because she was trampling over the strictly controlled structure of the time. To me, her work seems liberating, forward thinking and deeply spiritual. These are not ideas designed to break up and destroy our modern world but ones that can help to heal that which is already broken.

The show runs at Modern Art Oxford from 18 November 2023 – 25 February 2024

Monica Sjöö The Great Cosmic Mother exhibition
Monica Sjöö with The Spirit of the Stone in the garden of Durdham Park, 1979 © The Estate of Monica Sjöö


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