January 24–May 3, 2015
The art of Charlotte Gyllenhammar (b. 1963) moves us with compelling force. Her work has a vibrating tension that seems almost apocalyptic, but also raises questions about the interrelatedness of events, history, power and memory, and opens up possibilities to analyze and draw conclusions. With several major public works, Gyllenhammar established herself as one of Sweden’s most influential sculptors. Early in her career she was a painter, but since then she has increasingly moved into the expanded field of techniques such as photography, film and spatial installations.
The exhibition included around twenty works from 1996 and onward with a focus on sculpture, photography and films from recent years. While the exhibition was not a retrospective, the selection of works provided a broad overview over Gyllenhammar’s oeuvre. Furthermore, Charlotte Gyllenhammar’s latest video work Night (2015) premiered at the Gothenburg Film Festival.
Gyllenhammar often uses repetition as an artistic strategy. In her most recent work, she has returned to the woman hanging upside down – a motif that has accompanied her over the years. The way Gyllenhammar depicts the woman – partly hidden and surrounded by her billowing frilly skirt – is conscientious in regard to the integrity of the motif, and the importance of the perspective. The repetitions indicate that each minute shift of the figure’s form and the viewer’s position is meaningful. In the video work Disobedience (1997) and the photographic series Human Load (2014), the woman hangs with her head towards the camera lens, while the lower half of her body is hidden from view. In the sculptures Night Descend (2014) and Night Ascend (2014), Gyllenhammar rendered the motif in 3D for the first time. The woman’s figure stands out in the room like a physical exclamation mark, like an upside down chalice, or rises up as if from quicksand made of her own skirts, like a visitor from the underworld. The covering of black-pigment gives the surface of the sculptures a form of organic blackness that is reminiscent of charcoal or petrified lava.
When Gyllenhammar depicts children, they often seem to be abandoned and exposed to a harsh reality which they are not ready to handle. There is often an uncanny sense of imminent danger in the seemingly commonplace and tender aspects of Gyllenhammar’s child figures. In The Spectators (2003) the children who have been confronted with a kidnapping drama are equipped with heavy-duty protective clothing, including tightened hoods. Their clothing can be interpreted as an expression of well-meaning care, a desire to equip the children with the protection they need. But at the same time, the intended protection limits the child’s movement and visual field. Both simple and complex, empathic and confronting, Gyllenhammar’s work poses questions about how memory works, about protection that can turn into suffocation and yearning to go out into the world, but also into danger.
The exhibition was produced by the Gothenburg Museum of Art and was accompanied by a richly illustrated catalogue and essays by Johannes Nordholm, psychologist and art educator, Annika Wik, a researcher with a PhD in the history and theory of film, and curator Anna Hyltze. Read more about the catalogue here.
Caption: Charlotte Gyllenhammar, Night Ascend, 2014 © Charlotte Gyllenhammar/BUS 2016