Caring Absurdities

31 May - 25 July 2024
In order to understand ourselves and our present time, we often look to the ones that came before us. We hold on to memories, emotions and objects they have left behind. Sometimes these marks are visible, physical and other times they are psychological. They can appear as heirlooms, photos and stories but also as practices carried down through generations, crossing and bending time. They are not ours, originally, but they become part of us anyway. 

In the exhibition Caring Absurdities Wilson Saplana Gallery presents works by four young, talented, danish and Swedish artists Ellinor Åslund, Alberte Ida Harboe Westergaard, Ihsan Saad Ihsan Tahir and Rebekka Hilmer Heltoft who all engage with themes of family and care, and the nostalgic objects and elements that we are attached to. Their aesthetics mix familiar, cute, kitsch, dramatic, and somewhat absurd visualities which together sets the stage for their personal and unusual stories. We are very grateful that the artists have chosen to share these with us!


On the gallery floor, Ellinor Åslund presents a mixed-media installation of large-scale ceramic sculptures. Here two cute, disheveled and jewelry-like parrots caringly hold hands and stand guard around a large decorative fabergé egg. Inside the egg is a stage on which the parrots' lives are shown. In one area there is a tree for the birds to happily sit on and in another two birds are captured in a claustrophobic cage. Lastly a larger bird, with lazes and fancy shiny red booths, caringly sits and carries two baby parrots in their lap. This figure is possibly depicting the artist’s grandmother who’s two noisy, but very much loved, parrots the installation is inspired by. In another part of the gallery, a mixed imagery video of 3D cans, animation, and opera music, is playing inside the glasses of two over-dimensional, decorative sunglasses, inspired by the grandmother’s extravagant wardrobe. Here we learn more about the family history of the parrots who tragically lost their parents, a tongue, and almost their minds. 

Displayed on the walls are yet another project that looks to the aesthetics of the familiar past. Here artist Alberte Ida Harboe Westergaard shows new paintings that zoom into - and back in time - to the complicated fates of the women that came before her. To the mythical figures of large dramas such as Ofelia and Manon, but also to the real lives of her family members, such as her grandmother's wedding day. The works are abstractions over old family photos and memories of the artist's many visits to the ballet. Painted with thin, very dry, and carefully detailed layers of oil paint, the female characters almost seem to dissolve or slowly appear from their matte surroundings. They are ghostlike, mystical, hiding behind their weil, their masks, their dresses. Always looked at - but now always known. 

From Ihsan Saad Ihsan Tahir’s new series of paintings (PALM ANGELS), he presents two gold-orange, dry and dusty looking paintings that depict the resistant agave plant known for growing in the desert next to a more abstract red-brown painting of an Iraqi man driving a motorcycle. Both motives are symbolic of the diasporic feeling Tahir felt during his travels in 2023 from Los Angeles, US, and then to Bagdad, Iraq, within the same month as the nature of the different places looked alike despite their many cultural, political and economic differences. Painted with dry oil pastels the materiality of the paintings resemble the very same landscape that Tahir would travel through. On the one hand, the precise contours depicting the agave that shines like gold stand as a symbol of the great aesthetics, nature and culture of Iraq. On the other, the connecting painting of the motorcyclist is gesticulating, dramatic and almost bloody. Here, red, fast paced brushstrokes cut through the canvas as obstacles for the rider - perhaps pointing to the struggle of the Iraqi people and the artist’s own journey. 

Rebekka Hilmer Heltoft presents an installation of soft but cut through pencil and watercolor drawings framed in forceful materials. They depict a form of animated nature - the idea that something can come to life through drawn images - and that plants in turn keep us alive, animate us, through photosynthesis. The works are bodily, cute, precise and at times aggressive. They are carried and supported by crowbars, ratchet straps and wooden frames smeared in glittering makeup. It is evident that Heltoft is interested in softening the divisions of so called opposite materials and energies, and she is attuned to the small details in the world. In Heltofts’ work, spiky lines move onto the paper from multiple perspectives and meet in the middle with an overwhelming energy. The lines grow, tie into each other, and take shape as plants and figures resembling roses, dandelions, mosquitoes and animated characters. The works are both futuristic and naturalistic and seem to blur all boundaries of the natural and fictional world. A rose is a rose, is architecture, is a frame and feeling. Dandelions are plants and carriers of seeds that can travel thousands of kilometers to resettle in new spaces. 

As a final note, we would like to include this quotation from Rebekka Hilmer Heltoft’s book Drawn to the Pencil; Dark Light Glitter, (2023, p.7), that sum up the exhibition in a line of questions: 

“Do you collect situations? Stories? Proof? Traces in materials? Reassurance? In order to find meaning, and a way to live with life and death? I do. I carry them; I save them, akin to pearls on a necklace, always with me, close, a soft pressure of sorts, in intimate space. To be touched, held or gifted, when necessary.”

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