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by Trine Søndergaard

Gold is a universal symbol of wealth, the sublime or the divine. Gold provokes a feeling of desire in many of us. When I first saw the golden bonnets at a local museum, I was immediately fascinated by the material and the delicate embroidery, without knowing anything about the history behind them. The bonnets are from the mid 1800s, and were popular among the wives of Denmark’s wealthy farmers. The bonnets were a status symbol. Gold textiles had previously been reserved for royalty, the nobility and the church. Highly specialised needlewomen made the bonnets, and these experts are early examples of self-employed women who were often able to provide for their families. Linking this kind of women’s history to a specific garment is something I’ve explored in the past, just as I’ve explored our ability to read the signs of the past previously.
In my portrait series Strude and Monochrome Portraits, the models seem introvert. I’m interested in addressing a mental space of seclusion. Their gaze never meets the gaze of the viewer, and some of them turn their back on the camera. Here Guldnakke is even more radical, since none of the faces can be seen. The focus is entirely on the napes and golden bonnets. I work consciously with large formats to enhance the visual effect that occurs when the embroidery is magnified and the image creates the space for a wealth of detail, which in real life only covers a small area.
Even though gold is a metal, it can be spun into fine threads. The golden bonnets embody both hardness and softness. I emphasise the union of these oppositional qualities in the meeting between the soft skin of the girls’ napes and the metal threads of the embroidery. The girls are dressed up, but in modern clothes of their own choosing – creating a meeting across time between different female universes. Different states of mind, periods and materials coexist in the images, which create a kind of third space that is neither the past nor the present – fact nor fiction.