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Invitation and Rejection

Dato: 1996-02-21
Skrevet av: Øystein Ustvedt


One of Line Wælgaard's earliest photographs presents the back of a young woman who stands turned facing a concrete wall. The neck is bent and the arms outstretched, thereby creating the contours of an averted Christ figure, as if she were ready to receive the thirty lashes. The role of victim, however, is not without ambiguity; with a mixture of invitation and rejection, the figure also signals seductive elements. The picture belongs among Wælgaard's explorative youthful works, from the time when she relinquished the dream of becoming an actress, before she was admitted to Konstfackskolan

[The College of Art and Crafts] in Stockholm and took part in discussions about post-modernism, before she read Julia Kristeva and saw Cindy Sherman's photographs. With its technical and stylistic clarity and equivocal content, the picture nevertheless has much in common with Wælgaard's later works: an expressive spontaneity through which femininity and gender roles are placed on the agenda.

As a child of her times she has no hesitation in appropriating well-known works from western art history. On the contrary, in a free and unconventional way she makes use of hallowed masterpieces as the springboard to a better understanding of herself and her own times. Without totally abandoning the lost context of meaning, familiar pictures are placed in a new set of circumstances and give rise to new allegorical meanings.

Stabat Mater from 1991 takes its point of departure in Giotto's famous frescoes in the Arena Chapel in Padua. The scene with the dead Christ surrounded by lamenting women is reproduced on a large scale, but the gathering of angels, apostles and onlookers in the original has been cut off, leaving the focus on the relationship between Christ and the grieving women. In one of the side panels there is a bridal gown and in the other a pile of white sheets against a red background. But these set symbols of feminine innocence and the self-sacrificing housewife are punctured to a certain degree by the phallus-charged connotations of the motifs. The juxtaposition gives immediacy to the gender problem complex that lies buried in Giotto's painting. The horizontal format of the central image and the green, powerful frame create visual replicas of the dead body of Christ, and just as the women form a protective frame around the naked Christ, the powerful frame provides a safeguard around Giotto's picture - and is in itself a kind of halo that is torn asunder by the critical approach of the side panels to the subject material. As a result, it is not only about femininity and stereotype feminine ideals, but also about the story of the Great Men of history.

The spectacular Amor Fati from 1993 also plays on the woman seen as a victim and martyr. The central image is a photographic paraphrase of a baroque painting of Saint Agatha. She was canonized as a result of refusing the unwanted advances of a Roman consul, a heathen who then cut off her breasts in reprisal. Wælgaard's woman holds a bloodstained cloth to her breast, but her expression is of stoical calm and emotional balance. The red stain is picked up by the close-ups of meat and roses in the side panels. Round forms and red colours. At first glance, the work may be perceived as an allegory of woman as the object of masculine desire, but the signs prove to be subversively charged. The aggressive spikes of the frames imply both the crown of thorns and a deadly weapon. Here, the conflict between seductive invitation and flat refusal is further heightened. And with this, the lines of the relationship between executioner and victim cannot be distinctly drawn. A field of uncertainty arises, a dialogue which is, in the end, carried on between the work and its viewer.

If we consider the two works in relation to each other, Stabat Mater plays on the feminine role's white and virginal ideals of chastity, while Amor Fati incorporates some of its blood-red, shadier sides. The immediate pathos of the pictures is held in check, however, by a calculating distance: Not by means of ironic devices or mocking commentary, but as the result of the cool clarity of the surface and the staged codes of the studio photograph. Although the pictures have an immediate expressive level, they do not permit an unequivocal interpretation. Their strength is found in a fundamental ambivalence, in that their effect lies in the borderland between invitation and rejection.


Tieto on ennakkoluuloa, tyyli on mukavuutta

Dato: 1994-07-29
Skrevet av: Anthony Georgieff

Line Waelgaard hyödyntää tunnettuja historial­lisia prototyyppejä ja ideoita, sijoittaa ne sinne, missä ne eivät omaksu uutta merkityssisältöä, vaan ne toimivat katalysaattoreina aiemmille merkityksille. Vastakkaisten merkitysten leimaa­mina ne luovat näennäisen absurdeja tilanteita, joissa allegoris et kuvaukset muuttuvat kuvaile­viksi allegorioiksi ja joissa kieltäminen ja puolustaminen voivat vaihtaa paikkaa. Mutta ehkä tärkeintä on, että Waelgaard samoin kuin Giotto - joka on vaikuttanut häneen suuresti ja jonka mietteliäisyyteen häntä usein verrataan Skandinaviassa - tuo pehmeän, inhimillisen - feminii­nisen - otteen semiotiikan "kylmään veteen".


Hänen työnsä eivät vain valaise esimerkein teoreettista suuntausta, joka tuntuu vaikutta­neen häneen, vaan myös sen negaatiota. Vaikka tämä onkin tyypillistä postmodernismille, tekee vaikutuksen intensiteetti, jota taiteilija sijoittaa näihin ideoihin niin että ongelmat siirty­vät taiteen piiristä suurempiin haasteisiin, nimittäin siihen, miten maailmaa pitää tulkita. Tämä on radikaali kysymyksen asettelu ja LineWaelgaard kohtaa sen radikaalein keinoin.

Katalogtext , Identitet och Position inom Nordisk samtidskonst, Åbo konstmuseum, Finland



Kunskap är fördom, stil är bekvämlighet.

Dato: 1994-07-29
Skrevet av: Anthony Georgieff

Line Waelgaard begagnar sig av kända historiska prototyper och ideer, placerar dem där de inte antar nya betydelser utan blir till katalysatorer för äldre betydelser. Genomsyrade av motsatta betydelser, skapar de skenbart absurda situa­tioner där allegoriska beskrivningar blir till beskrivande allegorier och där förnekelse och för­säkran är utbytbara. Men kanske viktigast är att Waelgaard, icke olikt Giotto - som hon är starkt påverkad av och med vars tankfullhet hon ofta jämförs i Skandinavien - för in ett mjukt, mänskligt - feminint - grepp i semiotikens "kalla vatten".

Inte blott exemplifierar hennes arbeten en teoretisk inriktning som tycks ha påverkat henne, men även dess negation. Fastän detta ingalunda är otypiskt för postmodernismen, på­verkar intensiteten som konstnären inplanterar i dessa ideer, så att problemen flyttar från konstens sfär till en större utmaning, nämligen hur man uppfattar världen. Detta är en radikal frågeställning och Line Waelgaard möter den med radikala medel.

Katalogtext , Identitet och Position inom Nordisk samtidskonst, Åbo konstmuseum, Finland



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