MUNTHE ART MONDAY: DITTE EJLERSKOV
Please introduce yourself and tell us about what you do.
In 2002 I started on my art degree, and I worked a lot with video, which was what got me into the academy. My use of video has been on pause for 20 years but I got back to it with my ceiling installation at Nikolaj Kunsthal. I studied for 5 years in Malmö with a short stay at Cooper Union in New York too. I have primarily worked with painting which is still and important part of my life. It is almost like I filter everything through the painting. Recently, I realized that I in several years – maybe 15 years – have worked nonstop, and that I have let myself be hectically guided through my inputs. For a long period, I processed images, that came to me through the mainstream culture and scam emails. The images were often representative. This extensive series of work (from 2006-2018) resulted in a period where new and older canvases in my atelier were cut through, weaved back together, got condensed, hectic, flickering, confusing, abstract but often with representative elements as a base. It was almost like the representative paintings slowly destroyed themselves or became new more formal, abstract formations.
In recent years, I have painted color-gradient paintings. I got interested in silence, color-healing, meditation, and the hormone Oxytocin. I think of this period, which I’m still in, as my “cleanse”. The paintings are healing for me. Right now, my path has taken me in another direction back to the representative painting, which had destructed itself from my work practice. I now realize that it wasn’t the tool (the figurative) but my choice of themes and motifs, that imploded between my hands.
Could you explain more about how being a woman has affected your career?
I lived in Sweden for 12 years where I also started my career. I didn’t meet any difficulties due to my gender that are worth mentioning. I have worked a lot with how we portray women in the mainstream media. But it has mostly been the “male gaze” that I have looked into and not so much the female model. Earlier on, I have used the commercial, mainstream pop culture as a method for my artistic analysis of society’s perception of feminism, race, gender, and sexuality. But it has been a difficult topic – it was those paintings that almost crumbled in my hands. On my website I have grouped my paintings. This period I have named “The Intensities” as it is both intense and divisive. I have been very inspired by female artists from the modernist era who worked with textiles and weaving. In a weird way, the weaved canvases almost look like digital pieces even though they are more tactile. I have gathered a lot of experiences from this period that I’m using today.
Can you name some other female (artist) that inspires you and explain why they do so?
I have looked a lot at Agnes Martin. The silence and concentration she can bring to the canvas has taught me a lot. I also admire Anni Albers as she erased the lines between traditional handcraft, weaving and art at a time where textile art was looked down on and called “female art”. If I think of contemporary artists, I would mention Marguerite Humeau. Like my own art work, Humeau talks about history and future scenarios and she covers big distances in time and place in her search for the mysteries of the human existence. She gives new life to lost things whether it being forms of life that are extinguished or ideas that have disappeared from our minds. She fills out the gaps of knowledge with speculations and imaginable scenarios – I love that – and her goal is to create new mythologies for our present time. It’s exactly what I try to do, so that’s probably why I’m so interested in her practice. Another contemporary artist I really like is Sif Itona. Based on Greek mythology and Middle Age iconography she makes sculptures out of aerated concrete and talk about the Human impact on nature and the luring climate catastrophe.
What has been the most challenging aspect of being a female artist?
I don’t really see any problems with being a female artist. On the other hand, there are a lot of people who just assume that I will work for free. When I ask about salary or payment, I get told that men never ask for that. It has happened to me on multiple occasions. But I just pretend it’s not happening. Earlier, I would always argue with journalists who only interviewed men, galleries who only showed art made by men or posters like HILMA and PICASSO, first name = little girl and last name = professional genius. With the installation About: The Blank Pages, Eva Marie Lindahl and I started a small war against the publisher Taschen and their lack of female representation in their basic art series. With support from Ny Carlsbergfondet, Arken obtained the art piece last year. MASP in Sao Paolo and Malmö Art Museum owns the other examples. I have to say that I don’t really put much energy into these political questions. I do as Beyoncé; focus on work and hope to lead by example. One of my crypto gurus recently said: “Being underestimated is a gift. Stop trying to convince. Just execute.” It describes my current outlook pretty well. But I’m sure I will be ready to fight again. Recently, I have just focused on other stuff.
What would you like people to notice in your artwork?
My recent work is based on ”The Uffizi Wrestlers” – a Roman marble sculpture. The sculpture portrays two men fighting. I use the sculpture and it’s dynamic as a layout to process the fight that’s going on internally, the fight between the happiness hormone Oxytocin and the stress hormone Adrenaline. The fighting bodies in my paintings are women. My whole life I have been driven by the stress hormones Adrenaline and Cortisol, but in connection to the births of my children, I realized how much power these hormones have over our experiences, actions, feelings, and view of life in general.
The marathon birth of my first child got me thinking; can there be an alternative to Adrenaline? In the preparation to meet my second child the color-gradient paintings arose together with the profound wish to understand and master the Oxytocin and Endorphins. I would like to let that sink in. It hasn’t been easy to express that theme in art as birth is a bit of a taboo in society as well as in the art history. But I have done it and it wasn’t as terrifying as I thought.
Each Monday we bring you a new interview with a contemporary female artist.
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