click to enlarge
1990 – 1991 Post M.F.A. Studies, Royal College of Art, London – Sculpture
1983 – 89 M.F.A. The Royal University College of Fine Arts, Stockholm, Sweden – Painting
1982 – 83 B.F.A. Gothenburg Art College, Gothenburg, Sweden.
Charlotte Gyllenhammar’s artistry is among the most idiosyncratic and expressive within contemporary Swedish art. Many of her works represent states of mind or highly emotionally charged situations that often provoke in the viewer a reaction of creeping anxiety and fascination.
Ever since the early 1990s, she has shown impressive consistency in exploring issues central to the question of identity and the conditions governing artistic creativity. Her art keeps returning to themes such as falling, the borders between outer and inner space, the limits of the private sphere, lack of freedom, memories and threatening images. She also frequently touches on concepts such as beauty and femininity.
Her art is imbued with a recurring surrealistic aspect – an aspect that nevertheless remains extremely subtle. Her imagery is not surrealist in the traditional sense, but rather uses a sense of disorientation to introduce or suggest alternative states. The full impact of these is felt if you allow the work to take possession.
Although originally trained as a painter, Gyllenhammar has increasingly moved in the direction of film and three-dimensional installations. Her painting has escaped its frame and taken over the entire room. She made her debut with Bursting in 1991 – a work that attracted widespread attention and that could be considered a violent attack directed against a woman. The work is further developed in the current exhibition – but this time it is public space that comes under attack.
In 1993 she suspended a 120 years-old oak tree upside down above Stockholm’s Drottninggatan. She called the piece Die for You. The upside-down body recurs in several of her pieces. One such work is Fall (1999) in which a woman is suspended upside down. The skirt, billowing around her, suggests a flower or a vagina. In Vertigo (2002), a permanent installation at Wanås in Skåne, Gyllenhammar blasted a chamber deep below ground, then faithfully recreated her studio in it – only upside down. The visitor finds himself walking on the ceiling and contemplating furniture and other objects suspended from the floor.
In recent years, Gyllenhammar’s installations have come to include snippets of newsreels. Her exhibition Obstacles and Disguises (2004) at Galleri Charlotte Lund in Stockholm shows German policemen, armed and in disguise, moving stealthily over the rooftops of the Olympic village in Munich 30 years ago. Palestinian terrorists are holding Israeli athletes hostage. The attempt to free them ends in disaster – all hostages are killed. The games have been transformed into terror and fear. In an adjoining room, a sculpture of a young girl wearing gym shorts hangs quietly from her knees in a trapeze.
The exhibition private idiot is a co-production between Kulturhuset Stockholm and Dunkers Kulturhus. Charlotte Gyllenhammar got the idea for the title when she read that the word ”private” – in the sense of solitary or particular – is ”idiot” in Greek. At the same time, ”private” in English refers to an enlisted soldier – i.e. someone of low rank. These references may be interpreted in a variety of ways. The hostage theme is again taken up in the current exhibition. Another theme is that of ”bedroom community”, where Gyllenhammar represents states of sleep, unconsciousness and anesthesia.
Several new pieces have been produced especially for the current exhibition, which also contains some of her earlier works. The art of Charlotte Gyllenhammar has never been the subject of a major publication or catalogue. Kulturhuset Stockholm and Dunkers Kulturhusare therefore delighted to be able to offer the present joint publication. We are pleased to include two insightful essays written especially for the occasion by Donna De Salvo and Håkan Nilsson, respectively.
Our heartfelt thanks to the authors. We would like to thank all those involved in the exhibition and the publication at both institutions, especially Evalena Lidman and Sophie Lönn. Our thanks also to designers Boris Bencic and Anna Gunneström for giving the publication an attractive and exciting design. Special thanks to the publisher, Trygve Carlsson, for stimulating collaboration.
Finally, our thanks to Charlotte Gyllenhammar for enthusiastically contributing four new and specially created pieces for private idiot – works that we are proud and happy to be able to show. Her deep commitment to the publication has also been an essential contribution to its final form.
Margareta Zetterström Chief Curator, Kulturhuset Stockholm
Magnus Jensner Chief Curator, Dunkers Kulturhus