project_ Solo Show - Gallery Kant - Coquettish
More fresh fruit from the basket
The painter Emily Gernild (b. 1985) has emerged with her first solo exhibition Coquettish in Galleri KANT. As the title indicates, it concerns a game between the sexes, in which coquettish femininity attempts to awaken the desires of the masculine. As such, she invites the viewer to “devour” her ripe fruit and swollen, pointy kitchen utensils with desirous eyes. Of course, one must make their own mind up about whether to accept this invitation, but for me her motifs strike sparks and are a delight to behold. We are witnesses to an erotic play on the surface between hard and soft, pointed verticals and recumbent horizontal forms etc.
Gernild graduated from Funen Art Academy in 2016, but prior to that she was a student of Tal R’s at the Art Academy in Düsseldorf. This encounter has undoubtedly sharpened and radicalised her project, and here and there one can trace the inspiration of the professor in her works. Her preferred motifs are everyday objects, in particular those she finds in the kitchen or the living room. She charges these unostentatious and for most people wholly trivial objects with such poetic energy and vigour that they cannot quickly be forgotten.
In her language of form, Gernild is related to great modernists such as Henri Matisse (1869-1954), Anna Syberg (1870-1914), Hilma af Klint (1882-1944) and Christine Swane (1876-1960), though also to the British painter Clare Woods (b. 1972). Apropos sources of inspiration, she will exhibit next year alongside Christine Swane at a dialogue-exhibition at Rønnebæksholm. How fitting, that the gallery in southern Sjælland should have chosen to let these two artists enrich and challenge one another from across a century or more.
A deeply loved motif
One or two might feel a little sceptical about seeing a young female painter adopt motifs as conservative as flowers and domestic utensils. Her female predecessors did not have the option of developing their talents at an academy and were consigned to paint life close at hand, whilst they lost precious time when it fell to them to manage domestic arrangements and take care of the children. But in Gernild’s case, this is a result of her deliberately choosing a deeply loved motif, one which she has radicalised and brought somewhere new: they are beautiful paintings, but there is also much that tears the beauty apart.
Complimentary contrasts clash on the surface, the forms pull in many directions and are on the verge of capsizing into chaos. There is movement, life, electric energy in her pictures, where the strong and also appetising colours break away from the real world and deliver themselves to a completely new order, far from the real world “referents” that make up her models. Gernild revives the still-life genre with patterns à la Matisse,though also with amorphous occurrences, where the forms are twisted rhythmically and wrested out of their usual “schema”. Decorative? Certainly. But what is wrong with that? Today everything is allowed in art — all genres, materials, motifs, expressions and media are in play — including flower paintings. Just look at the legendary American painter Robert Kushner (b. 1949) who paints these beautifully decorative, stylised, flower-motifs on furniture, canvases and tapestries. And look at “flower-painters” like Jesper Christiansen (b. 1955) and Erik A. Frandsen (b. 1957). The latter said about his flower-motifs that they are among his most erotic, that it is indeed sex organs that one sets in a vase on a table.
But Gernild’s oil paintings take time. She is young and one must hope that for long periods she locks the door to the studio to absorb herself in the material and set herself new challenges. That she, in other words, has sufficient stamina to resist the demands of the market. For pictures of this kind take time if they are to set new standards.
Translated from the Danish by Max Minden Ribeiro.