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Over the Sea, Under the Sky: Contemporary Danish Tapestry

Ulrikka Mokdad, Curator



Before she starts working at her high-warp loom, Jenny Hansen dyes all her yarns herself in order to get just the right nuances. Her tapestries are stunning, not just because of their impressive size, but also due to their rich colors. Everything, from her skillful execution to the graphic precision of her motifs, gives the spectator the impression of a thorough apprenticeship. But, in fact, Jenny Hansen is self-taught. Her early works are more or less abstract. They seem to have an affinity with spontaneous methods in modernist painting but they still add the impression of perfect originality by being completely dependent on the textile medium. In 1995, a change happened in Jenny’s way of preparing her cartoons for tapestry. She discovered that the computer could be used to manipulate and color her sketches and details of photographs, thereby offering her an unlimited source of new possibilities. Applying the world of digital design tools to her working process is not so much a shortcut for her, as a means of achieving greater clarity. In recent years, her colorful and decorative tapestries, with motifs of tree silhouettes and plant leaves, have come to embellish many private and public buildings all over the country.

Marianne Poulsen’s tapestry “Landscape of the Sun” was inspired by the ancient history of the Odsherred region in northern Zealand where she has lived for 35 years. The Sun Chariot, one of the most spectacular archaeological finds ever discovered in Denmark, was found in Odsherred in 1902. The Sun Chariot, which dates back to the Early Bronze Age, illustrates the idea that the sun was drawn on its eternal journey by a divine horse. A gilt sun image and a horse have been placed on wheels to symbolize the motion of the sun. In Marianne’s tapestry, symbolic reminiscences of a fish, a horse and a snake can be seen. The people who inhabited what is now Denmark believed that in the early morning the fish would lead the sun to a ship that would carry the sun until noon. At noon, the horse would take the sun to the afternoon ship and in the evening, the snake would lead the sun to the underworld beneath the ground. Night ships carried the sun through the underworld until the break of day when the fish would meet the sun again.

In Hanne Skyum’s work, however foggy and distant it may look at first glance, the spectator always finds recognizable forms and motifs. Her inspiration comes from nature, especially the forest with its tall trees and quiet fresh water ponds. Between the branches of old, mossy willows the artist discovers eye-catching forms that she can transfer into motifs for woven images. The silhouettes of trees against the sky provide her with images for her art. Flocks of flying birds have always fascinated her, not only the sight of the birds, but also the feeling of flying and the flights that imagination can take. Many of her tapestries reflect the almost magical atmosphere of twilight or dawn in the woods, when no humans and human influence disturb the wildlife. Hanne’s palette of colors are generally warm earth tones combined with ascetic nuances of light grey, green and blue.

Besides producing large-size tapestries for ecclesiastical use, exhibitions and commissions, Hanne also expresses herself in woodcuts and reliefs in wood. Her tapestries decorate churches and hospitals, and she has received several grants for her artistic work, which has been exhibited nationally and abroad since 1989.

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