My light sculptures, the ‘Jimmys’, were inspired by the children at Frosta school in Hörby, a small town in the south of Sweden, surrounded by woods and exciting nature spots. When the school commissioned me to turn the schoolyard into a nicer place, their then outdoor environment consisted of a vast asphalt-covered area.
My suggestion was to build up nine steep hills which would rise out of this asphalt field like the wooded dry-stone walls in the surrounding fields. The hills were put together from the asphalt that had been ripped up, plus rocks and soil that was brought in. We planted young trees together with perennial plants. Narrow steps were constructed leading across each hill, and low seats made from logs were placed on top of each one. Every hill represented a separate grade. But was this enough? Wasn’t something missing, something that children can feel for and long for? Something that greets you during dark mornings in winter and autumn, something to say bye-bye to in the afternoon when you go home? An imaginary friend, a friend to identify with and cuddle. I wanted to create soft, rounded forms with a warm glow.
I had seen such rounded forms once, only they were at least ten times as big and much more numerous. Among them I had felt like a tiny ant. I saw them in the distance first, walking as an even smaller ant on the biggest monolith in the world. At that time it was called Ayers Rock; now it has again got its old aboriginal name, Uluru. Sitting 300 metres up in the air, on the edge of the relatively flat top of Ayers Rock, I watched the sunrise. Everything threw gigantic shadows, and thanks to the shadows I discovered the Olgas in the distance. A short drive and soon we walked among huge orange rocks, polished and rounded as if by the sea. Not many tourists find their way here. The Olgas, or Kata Tjuta as they are now called, are not as spectacular, not as huge, not just one monolith but many rocks – but they are absolutely fantastic. Yes, it was little baby Olgas that I wished to give the children in Hörby.
I made models, showed photos, explained. None of the grown-ups working in the school liked the idea. Nobody asked the children. The staff knew what the children needed. The hills were there, weren’t they? Rising from the smooth black surface they were shaped like mountains, but it wasn’t merely the feeling of mountains that I wanted to capture. I couldn’t let go of the thought of the glowing rounded forms and I kept working on them without a formal commission.
The first group was produced in 1995. The figures were called ‘Jimmys’ – as if belonging to the species Jimmy or as if they are Jimmy’s, belonging to Jimmy. The first ones were placed in Pildammsparken, a park in Malmö, and today the ‘Jimmys’ are represented in twenty places around the world. They look like rocks, close to the ground, at the same time as you can visualise them as different kinds of animals, as a flock of four individuals with different characteristics.