“I am attracted to shapes, but most of all to the space that exists between the shapes” Kirstine Roepstorff
The time has come to try to understand Kirstine Roepstorff’s explosive and intricate but emotionally charged collages now that she’s been selected to represent Denmark in the 2017 Venice Biennale. While there is a marked shift in style from the early photomontage style works as shown in Hidden Truth and You Are Being Lied To (2002) to the recent pure collage type, the underlying desire to express the social and geo-political issues of contemporary society have not changed.
“Jack knows he does not know, but he does not know that Jill does not know she does not know he knows he does not know.” – from “Knots” by R.D. Laing
Both Hidden Truth (2002) and You Are Being Lied To (2002) deal with the same issue; the reality portrayed in the media, and the reality of the situation, or the truth, which has been ‘hidden’ from us along with a host of problems, sustainability, realistic expectations, dream-house, dream-car, dream-vacation etc..
“Form is just a representative, really, of formlessness, and for the process for creativity… it all comes from a sort of sensibility that is shapeless.” – Kirstine Roepstorff
All Possible Experiences (2006) and her subsequent works display a marked shift in style, forgoing the previous photo-montages for a more flattened abstract with simple crafts materials which make it even more childish and frivolous than before. In addition, there are some symbols, iconography which recurs over and over again in other works like the star symbol which became a sun in the neon lit Gravity’s Rainbow (2007).
As opposed to feminism, which strove to empower women, to make them on equal footing with men through sheer will power, loudness and anger, her works can be considered ‘post-feminist’; a reflection of the current state of affairs from a feminine viewpoint, not with a willful purpose of imposition, but with an awareness of equity, as she depicts these with humor and poetrics.
This post-feminist ideology carries right down through to the use of recycled household decorative materials; the glitter and foil, used fabrics, magazine cuttings previously considered ‘weak’ and ‘unprofessional’ are now re-constituted with a new meaning and that meaning is that the space around the things are more important than the things themselves. This coincides with the notion of the void, depicted in A Collection Of Once (2006) and Chessing With Loss (2006) with the ‘presence of absence’, a yearning for what was before which she describes as a determining factor in one’s individual identity.
Another motif is the trickling, staccato of rectangular shapes signifying a fading, melting reality, being overtaken by the media induced hyperreal society, which can be seen in It’s Not the Eye of the Needle That Changed–The Time (2007), The Six Realms (2007), Eight Hanging (2007) and The Reflected Self (2007).
In It’s Not the Eye of the Needle That Changed–The Time (2007) the background newspaper has parts in the bottom which repeats itself, like a glitch in the system, but in The Six Realms (2007) these shapes are raining down on these party goers, like sparks or fireworks raining down on a celebratory occasion, but there is a dark under current, as these good times fade into memory and abstraction under the inherent ephemerality of times.
The role of the fairytale, which seems to coincide with the wunderkammer (treasure chest) theme, has a special place within European folklore; a space to dream of fantastical creatures, dwarfs, elves, fairies, and shimering knights mounted on horses to save princesses from the ever-present witches and other evil characters. Perhaps people need the illusion to let the imagination wander for a while, and is evident in several of Roepstorff’s work around the mid to late-2000’s.
In Eight Hanging (2007) there are 8 ‘papaya’ looking blobs which incidently also look like the bearded man’s legs from the knee to the shin, which might be a playful way of playing with the man’s leg by abstracting its form in the angle of the photograph and hanging it all over the place while he is also hanging from the arms of the police. All the other little images along the hyperrealized bottom pertain to the social and geo-political issues that the bearded man is protesting about.
I have wondered if Roepstorff liked circuses, with all the stars and exploding elements within so many of her works, and low and behold, there are trapeze artists in Forms of the Below (2009), but as always, this celebratory theme is not carried through, for they all grey and in fact the whole picture is in shades of grey except for the yellow bits which might represent spotlights. This dark under-current might reflect how outside of the glittering lights of the show, the lives of these performers are grey and devoid of life.
The exhibition in 2012 entitled ‘Structures’ examines quite comprehensively the relational, religious, political and customary structures that have existed throughout human history and in many cases depicted how these structures are or have changed. In Lifting The Structures Of The In-Between (2012) a little girl’s hand is seen above the Florence Duomo about to ‘cap it off’ with something, which would have been a heresy to draw during the Renaissance, as the Catholic church was seen as an above-all and all-saving institution.
Similarly the traditional social structures of middle eastern people, which has survived through so many millennia unscathed, are now ‘cracking’, but what is causing these cracks are not shown, except for some orange ‘roots’ of something.
East Asian Art
Recent works have shown a propensity towards East Asian art, incorporating Japanese lanterns whimsically as an icon in both Enlighten Structures (2012) and Glow Ambiences Flow (2012), while the image of trees on a hillside in Gazing At Space Within II (2012) is reminiscent of a Chinese landscape painting.
In Glow Ambiences Flow (2012) the hanging lanterns in Japan which doubles as a form of signage, has become so ubiquitous that people are now seem to be hanging from them, from the structures that hold them up; these structural pieces look like a glider, some aviational invention like the Wright brothers first aeroplane, or perhaps they are just TV antennas on building tops, looking like a wing from the angle of view. Is this structure an invention or a trap? Is the person gliding or is he hanging trapped by the wing like structure? The answer as always is ambiguous.
In Ascending To Calmness (2012) immediately reminded me of Marcel Duchamp’s, you guessed it, Nude Descending A Staircase No.2, but in this case its a clothed man and he’s going up. No longer concerned with the form of a woman in motion, here the man is not even the subject; rather its the disappearing stone staircase that’s the subject matter.