Current Exhibitions

05 April 2024

Ganz allein by Mads Rafte Hein

Lush interiors in vivid, yet delicate colors. Intricate still lifes, rich, fanciful décor and the settings for nostalgic outdoor activities. The art of Mads Rafte Hein is filled with cheerfulness and joie de vivre, but also with melancholy and a resonating emptiness lurking beneath the surface.

Art is a lonely preoccupation – to both the artist and the viewer. It is produced by the artist who, alone in his or her atelier, expresses what is often the result of years of personal reflections and evolution. And in the end, when the viewer contemplates the work, he or she does so in what is, more or less inevitably, a vacuum. While it is possible to discuss our experience of art with others, it is almost impossible to describe visual experiences exhaustively with words, and thus, experiencing art remains a lonely endeavor. Historically, this loneliness is a part of the nature of the image. Ever since figurative art as we know it today emerged definitively during the High Renaissance of the 16th century, the image has in large part been constructed with a single viewer in mind. Perspective, the geometrical construction of the illusion of a three-dimensional space on a two-dimensional surface became the dominant way of creating images after its invention in the early 1400s - and this mode of picture-making presupposes that its viewer is a single person viewing it from a certain point in space. If the picture is seen from a different viewpoint, such as when standing next to the ideal viewer, the illusion vanishes due to distortion, and the image no longer seems three-dimensional. Thus, only a single viewer at a time can experience a perspective image the way it was meant to be experienced. Even though art has since largely moved on and found many other modes of constructing space, the perspective image remains ubiquitous; the photographic image which is so important in our daily lives due to TV and social media, obeys the laws of perspective just like traditional figurative art.

In Mads Rafte Hein’s art, the interior and the still life become expressions of the lonely nature of art. Opulent living spaces and luxurious still lifes adorn his canvases. Vibrant ceramics, intriguing ornamental objects and luscious plants fill his still lifes. But even though his subjects are like something out of the halls of Parisian high society, the occupants of these inviting spaces are nowhere to be seen. Almost all of Mads Rafte Hein’s pictures are devoid of living beings, and it is as if the fluttering contours make the empty space reverberate. Like Vilhelm Hammershøi, who famously depicted the poignancy of silence and emptiness in his classic Copenhagen interiors using a myriad of nuances of grey and rendered with short, hectic brush strokes, Mads Rafte Hein’s art shows that even in the absence of human beings, great meaningfulness is possible. Maybe it is even because of this lack of human presence that the expressiveness of objects and spaces gets to reach its full potential in Mads Rafte Hein’s art.

Like most of us, Mads Rafte Hein got to experience just how important our surroundings are to us during the COVID-19 pandemic. Forced to stay at home most of the time, he started exploring the interior as an important artistic genre. What you see and sense the most ends up constituting your visual universe. Those are the things that you know the exact appearance of and are thus able to picture in your mind’s eye. When you read a book, you picture a world made up in large part of such visually familiar things, or elements of them. And when you are presented with a new concept or phenomenon, you start off relating it to what you know before venturing into unknown terrain and incorporating new knowledge into your world. Thus, our surroundings become very important for defining who we are and what we are able to think, and this is what Mads Rafte Hein examines in his art.

An important aspect in relation to this is color. Mads Rafte Hein works as consciously with color as Hammershøi did, but instead of keeping the color variation within a very narrow range of saturation, Mads Rafte Hein lets his colors shine at full strength. Pinks, yellows, purples and greens harmonize in his works. Bright colors and pastels work together to create a vivid sense of joy and lightness in his empty interiors. As mads Rafte Hein himself says: “I think it takes a dark mind to paint with such crazy colors. At least, that is the solution to me. 5 or 6 years ago, I made the decision to change up my palette and my artistic universe. This has helped me reach a place where my demons are no longer as present. But still, they show themselves in my paintings from time to time, but this also helps me move on.”

Sometimes, his colorful universe is interrupted by a flicker of darkness: a skull, a raging panther, voodoo dolls and lost birds. Symbols that remind us of the darker sides of life and of the importance of keeping up the fight for a colorful, happy and imaginative space.

06 April 2024

Human by Steinunn Thórarinsdóttir

Augustenborg_Project, Galleri Christoffer Egelund and The Embassy of Iceland proudly present HUMAN by the Icelandic sculptor Steinunn Thórarinsdóttir. Steinunn Thórarinnsdóttirs life-size sculptures representing anonymous human figures elicit an immediate feeling of recognition in us. They represent a general humanity – they are all of us and none of us at the same time. The exhibition is the artist’s first exhibition in Southern Jutland and can be experienced at Augustenborg_Project, Palævej 9A in Augustenborg from the 6th of April 2024 until the 31st of October 2025. Join us at the exhibition opening on April 6th 2024 at 16.00 and meet the artist and the Icelandic ambassador, Árni Þór Sigurðsson.

When you encounter one of Steinunn Thórarinsdóttir’s sculptures, you can’t help but be a little startled. Posed as if interacting naturally with their environment, her life-size human figures are very easily mistaken for real humans at first glance. Only when looking more closely do you realize what they really are: androgynous human figures without individualized features, which, due to their naturalistic modeling and effortless posing, make them seem to be relating to space in much the same way we humans do. They may be lounging on a bench or on the ground, or standing around casually, waving at passersby. Only their rough texture inspired by the volcanic landscapes of Iceland and their stillness betray the fact that they are actually works of art.

When you come across an object which seems at first to be something deeply familiar, like a human being, but which, upon further inspection, turns out to deviate from the familiar in unexpected ways, it often evokes a disturbing feeling that what should be utterly natural is in fact unnatural. This feeling is often referred to as the feeling of the uncanny, a term coined in large part by Sigmund Freud in his 1919 essay of the same name.

A classic example of an object likely to evoke the feeling of the uncanny is the wax doll made in the exact likeness of a particular individual, like the ones you can experience at Madame Tussaud’s. At first glance, such a doll might look like a real human being, but upon further inspection, its eerie stillness betrays its status as an inanimate object.

It is little wonder that Steinunn Thórarinsdóttir’s sculptures can evoke the feeling of the uncanny. Made by taking a cast of a real person, in most cases her son, which is reworked and further transformed in later stages, sometimes being combined with volcanic rocks from Iceland, they retain a trace of the human which makes us able to deeply relate to them. Their anonymous features and androgynous look make them a symbol of a generalized humanity – they could be any of us, and so, they are all of us. And they are not without humor; you can find them in playful poses, like lying flat against a vertical wall, or cut and mirrored in whimsical ways. Whether you are disturbed by their uncanniness, or whether you feel compelled to sit beside them, touch them or take a selfie with them, Steinunn Thórarinsdóttir’s sculptures speak to us on a very basic level and make us reflect on exactly what it is that makes us see something as HUMAN – a question which has quickly become very pressing and important in a world marked by the rapid rise of artificial intelligence. Furthermore, exhibited at Augustenborg_Project, Steinunn’s sculptures and their ability to make us question what we see as human and why gain yet another dimension of meaning. The building that now houses Augustenborg_Project was, until 2015, a psychiatric hospital. Throughout history, psychiatric hospitals and other mental institutions have been prime places for the dehumanization of individuals. Here, people have long been reduced to patients, to numbers and to the status of a successful or failed treatment. When we meet a sculpture by Steinunn Thórarinsdóttir that makes us question our definition of what is human in these exact rooms, we cannot help but think of the many individuals who, where we stand, have been forcefully given a status in between the human and the non-human.

Steinunn Thórarinsdóttir (b. 1955) is one of Iceland’s most famous artists. She holds a BA Honors degree in Fine Art from the University of Portsmouth and studied sculpture at Portsmouth College of Art and Design and Accademia di Belle Arti in Bologna, Italy. She has received the honors of The Order of the Falcon and an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Hull in England for her achievements. Her works have been exhibited at museums, galleries and in public space around the world, including in Copenhagen, Reykjavik, New York, London and Toronto.

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