The first time you investigate the works of the tree artists, you are puzzled. They had embarked on a subject heavily loaded with a long tradition. At first glance, you detect little in common in the three artists´ work, apart from their depiction of elements taken from the nature, even if these were of different character. The medias, the artistic approaches and attitudes of the tree artists vary, but on further investigation, similarities appear, though in ways you do not picture when first encountering the works. On of the artists described it as a “prismatic collaboration” meaning that in their works nature is retraced as through a prism, resulting in different imagery. Although their inspiration derives from the same source, you realised that they have no interest in or fascination for nature in itself. Nature is not the influence behind their artistic expressions. Instead, they have an interest in the aesthetic possibilities brought to bear through the physical world whether it is clouds, garden or an exotic island. Their works do not evoke the spiritual and emotional attachment to nature found in the romantic tradition. They use nature as a means. By engaging with the natural world, they obtain the effects and the challenges they seek. They observe and study nature, but only in order to investigate the modern perception of the outdoors, and the diverse manner in which we “see” today. They share a joint affiliation to photography, and the notion of the gaze is brought into play in the works of all three artists. They manipulate our visual sense and explore the relationship between the real and the artificial. Their reproductions of nature alter the way the viewers apprehend reality. Consequently, what these three artists share is a particular technique of observing the outdoors by approaching their motifs in an exploratory way. They encourage the viewer to reflect upon their understanding and perception of the physical world around them, and they offer moments of perception that break with the traditional way of representing the outdoors.
In Vibeke Bärbel Slyngstad`s (b. 1968) paintings there is a strong filmatic sense. Film demands a more active role of its audience than painting, and in Slyngstad`s installations the normal way of perceiving the painted image is altered. Coming from a background in the cinematic, she is interested by the possibilities brought to bear the technique of film and the negative. This explains the manner in which she installs her works on the wall evoking the idea of the unexposed negative. The small sized works and their linear placing on the wall engage the viewer when contemplating the works, since they suggest both intimacy and detachment in the cool depiction of the motifs. Slyngstad works in series, and in this project she reflects upon the way we experience the natural world. A characteristic of all her painting is the way in which things are viewed. She believes the world is experienced as through a photograph, and the images from National Geographic, travel magazines and tourist information are the base of her new work. She has never experienced the landscapes herself and questions whether it is possible to relate to scenery one has never seen or felt. She analyses and studies the found photographic material and reproduces them in a naturalistic manner generating a particular experience in the viewer. There is something unexpected occurring in these painting. There are scenes where nothing happens, and yet the works are loaded with special atmosphere. What at first glance appears as a reproduction of nature is rendered unfamiliar and strange on closer inspection. Slyngstad is interested in the relationship between the real and the artificial, and her works open the viewer’s eyes to the reality and a dream world in equal measures. She does not describe romantic moment in nature. She withdraws herself from her work; her approach is simply to record nature’s different landscapes. She does not tell a story in the works, instead she has an interest in the process of observing and determining a landscape’s identity. She engages with the structural and formal aspects of the outdoors, and her works evoke the notion of surveillance, allowing the viewer to enter into the work and fill in the narrative themselves.
In the works of Jenny Rydhagen (b. 1965) the familiar is rendered unfamiliar. In her new series “Outdoors”, the balcony and the garden are the basis for a line of work that plays with the viewer`s perception. Her work demonstrates a different approach to the physical world, when she explores the relationship between the outside and the inside. She works with the medium of photography, and in her photographs she investigates how ambiguous the human gaze can be. She employs the intimate grounds of the garden, a private and cultivated part of nature, as a mean to achieve her artistic objective. Major parts of the works are staged. When she places indoor objects in the garden or on the balcony, Rydhagen creates a meeting point between nature and culture. For the artist, the garden becomes a border area against nature, an intermediary state where nature can represent both the outdoors and the indoors. In several of her works, she creates an inside feeling in the outdoors that alters the viewer’s normal perception of what the garden represents. It ceases to represent the physical world, instead it becomes an extension of the home. She plays with the viewer’s gaze, what at first sight attracts the eye is seldom the main focus of the image. On closer inspection, disturbing elements come to the viewer’s mind. This is a sought for effect. The foreground is what attracts the sight to begin with, however, the ark and threatening horizon slowly takes over the gaze creating an ambivalent feeling in the beholder. What at first glance is homely and warm becomes alienated introducing an uncanny into the work. By controlling and confusing the beholder’s gaze, Jenny Rydhagen seeks to raise the viewer’s consciousness about the doubleness of looking, and consequently, one becomes more aware of one’s own gaze. She gives the audience a great deal to discover and reflect on, everything is not what it appears to be at first sight.
Ingeborg Stana (b. 1968) stands out from the two artists in SIGHT. Working with painting, she is by far the most difficult of the three to categorize. She paints images of clouds and skies, a project she embarked on in 1999, which is still her main focus. Although the subject never varies, the paintings show diversity. They differ from describing harmonic cloud formations in blue and white to portraying a more dramatic and temperamental sky. The works are unexpected. Pictures of the sky are not what one expects when entering a contemporary exhibit today, however, these paintings are far from what they appear at first glance. Ingeborg Stana hardly leaves any traces of the artistic process on the canvas, and consequently, the works obtain a photographic authority. She builds up her works through layers where the sky can represent one and the clouds another layer. This technique brings to mind modern technology and computer manipulation. She investigates the relationship between painting and photography, demonstrating what a painting can never contain, but more interesting, what the camera is unable to record. Today, we often experience the physical world through the medium of photography, but in Stana`s paintings there are dimensions impossible to reproduce in a photography. In this way, she introduces a fascinating pluralism in her paintings. The sky is in a continual state of flux. It accumulates into formations before dissipating across the sky. In her large scale paintings, Stana manages to describe different conditions, witch is impossible to catch in photograph. She reproduces the ever changing character of the sky in an extraordinary way, enabling the viewer to experience the ephemeral elements of the physical world. She captures the fleeting aspects of the natural world, but not in the order to generate a spiritual experience in the beholder usual in the romantic tradition. She has chosen her subject due to its precarious qualities and to the challenges it encompasses for her as an artist. She is more interested in the conceptual character of the sky, and her work introduces the idea of the painting image’s relationship to nature, not as reproduced nature, but as a condition. Ingeborg Stana chooses the sky for its formal and structural aspects, and challenges the viewer’s intellect as well as the eye.