Gallery 4: THE FAR NORTH

Essay, Curator Information,  Artists’ Information,  Gallery 1,  Gallery 2,  Gallery 3

Over the Sea, Under the Sky: Contemporary Danish Tapestry

Ulrikka Mokdad, Curator


Gallery 4: THE FAR NORTH

Annette Graae has lived all her life on Zealand, the largest of the Danish isles. She currently lives in the countryside and runs her tapestry workshop at home. She constructed her loom herself from a wooden frame, water pipes and thick rubber bands to make it possible to travel with it, just as nomads do. Throughout her career, several recurrent themes have characterized Annette’s work: observations of nature; mythological motifs; and the unnatural environment of the man-made city. In recent years, her motifs have first and foremost circled around water, ice, wind, light, air and the sky. As an artist, she is deeply fascinated by the powerful nature of vast lonely areas in the northern hemisphere, especially the ice cap of Greenland. In 1998, Annette decided to reset her color scheme in order to depict primarily ice and snow, and let the nuances of white play the leading role in her woven motifs and compositions. Hence, it followed that her choice of fiber materials changed; dry and matte paper yarn came to dominate the surface of her artworks. Not only did her choice of materials change, her weaving methods also changed into a more openly woven technique where the wefts do not completely cover the white warp ends. The very open tapestry structure that lets the warps peek through can be clearly observed in “Crackles,” where it imitates the snow. During her study trip to Greenland, Annette flew over the ice cap where she discovered, and was inspired by, seeing the many different shades of white that depend both on the age of the ice and the altitude of the plane.

Where Annette Graae’s work takes the spectator to the landscape of permanent ice and snow, Annelise Kofoed-Hansen’s artwork leads us further into the legends of the Inuit people. Thus, several of her tapestries’ motifs are based directly on the rich native mythology dating from the pre-Christian era.

Many tales were told about The Mother of the Sea: She was a girl who refused to get married and was therefore thrown overboard. When she was clinging to the boat, her father cut off her fingers. They turned into marine animals while the girl sank to the bottom of the sea. The Inuit believed that if hunters did not treat the animals of prey respectfully, dirt would stick to the mother’s hair and the animals would not be able to get out of her house, leaving the humans to starve. The tapestries “The Flying Umiaq I” and “The Flying Umiaq II” tell the tale of how incredibly strong women may become if they cooperate. One day, a sealer in a kayak saw an umiaq (woman boat) passing by. Eight women were rhythmically rowing when the umiaq suddenly lifted itself up from the surface of the sea and flew into the sky.

Since 2003, Annelise has stayed in Greenland for up to three months every year armed with her sketch books and pencils. When at home on Bornholm, she transforms her inspiration into spellbinding tapestries woven on her large high-warp loom. The wool weft comes from her own sheep and is hand-dyed with chemical dyes [pigments]. She regards her tapestries as woven interpretations of the Inuit culture. When she weaves, thoughts and emotions from her personal life melt into the process and are woven into the tapestry as well.

Icebergs cannot burn
but it has burned
to my retina – into my heart.
Is it me that has melted?
free of all weight
I sit down at my loom
and weave a poem
from my heart –
an iceberg. [1]

1. Quote from the poem The Assignation by Annelise Kofoed-Hansen, 2004

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