PRESENT PERFECT PORTRAITS
15 May – 21 June 2008
Kyung-hwa Choi-ahoi, Maryam Jafri, Talia Keinan, Hans Hamid Rasmussen,
Trine Søndergaard, Mette Thiessen.
Curated by Gitte Broeng
The title of the show refers to the grammatical tense ”the present perfect” used to describe actions which happened in the past but have an effect in the present. Present Perfect Portraits include portraits by 6 contemporary artists in various media such as works on paper, installation, photography, video as well as embroidery.
Many portraits today seem to reflect both present and past, not necessarily because they quote well-known historical works or go into direct dialogue with past epochs, but also on a thematic level where coinciding times and stories apparently work as a kind of generic principle. Accordingly, it seems that the genre is often being used to interpret events/persons in the past that are related to and still somehow affect the present.
On the small Danish island Fanø, Copenhagen-based artist Trine Søndergaard has photographed inhabitants wearing their traditional costumes for a festival once a year, which totally confuse standard concepts as different times and cultural codes are being mixed up.
South-Korean artist Kyung-hwa Choi-ahoi, based in Hamburg, shows excerpts from her portrait project “Encyclopedia Persona” made in sketch books, among them one on the ceramist Jan Kollwitz, great-grandson of the legendary German artist Käthe Kollwitz. The Danish artist Mette Thiessen living in Hamburg focuses in her drawings/collages on the time before the wall went down, using as her inspiration illustrations from old school books and photos showing famous and notorious elite athletes from the former DDR and communist Eastern Europe.
An imaginary world that seems to draw on memory would be a way to describe the works on paper by Israeli artist Talian Keinan, where people and animals are being portrayed in enigmatic tableaux telling stories interrupted in what appears to be a moment frozen in time.
The video “Father & Son” by Pakistani artist Maryam Jafri, who lives and works in Copenhagen and New York, is a dialogue for one person filmed in a single take. A man talks to his son or alternately, a younger self. Shifting between two characters and between speech and memory. Father-son relationship is also a topic in Norwegian- Algerian artist Hans Hamid Rasmussen’s embroidered portrait, that emphasizes the cyclic dimension of the relationship, and how the roles change with time.
The portrait holds a unique place in art history. No other pictorial genre has served religious and political purposes quite as successfully. With the invention of photography in the 19th century the traditional representational functions of the genre were passed on to the new photographic media. Yet, portraits are common in contemporary art, but interestingly enough the retrospective approach to the present, unfolded in many portraits, suggests a more or less intentional awareness of time and history could be one of the characteristics of the genre today.