1 December

Which were the best exhibitions on Nordic soil in 2021? Artist Stense Andrea Lind-Valdan lists her favourites.

Kathrine Ærtebjerg, De tusind gåders sted, installation view, Brandts Kunstmuseum, Odense, 2021. Foto: David Stjernholm.

Kathrine Ærtebjerg, Place of the Thousand Riddles, Kunstmuseum Brandts, Odense

Having wandered among the countless strange, immensely powerful works and reached the innermost chambers of Place of the Thousand Riddles, it became clear that Ærtebjerg is an unusually strong painter endowed with complete artistic integrity. There were no compromises here, but plenty of curiosity. Ærtebjerg’s imagery is fragile and clear, psychedelic and violent. Her colour compositions are simultaneously elegant and obvious, absurd and bold, clear-cut and sharp enough to draw blood from your eyes. Or they catch everything you carry within in their dreamcatcher haze. The works see you with their dark eyes, perhaps smiling a little … They are harpies, life-giving and deadly.

Casper Roshan Koch Hughes, Gaze (1), 2020. 65 x 61 cm. Acylics on unmouted canvas. Photo: Amanda Hestehave.

Casper Roshan Koch Hughes, A World Within a World, Eks-Rummet at Prags Boulevard, Copenhagen

The interrelationship between painterly issues and personal imaginary worlds unfolded beautifully in Hughes’s exhibition, which comprised a few selected paintings on loose canvas stretched directly onto the wall, as well as caricatured mannequin heads set up on shelves accompanied by the Danish national anthem recited in Hindi. The exhibition revolved around issues of identity and cultural heritage embodied in naive-humorous compositions, a form of mega-miniature painting. At the same time, it also addressed formal issues, for example, the question of where a given subject ends and begins. With subtle wit and unpretentious openness (the accompanying press release was wonderful), Hughes managed to poignantly showcase his picturesque existentialism with just a few precise gestures.

Simone Aaberg Kærn, Micro-Global Performance #1 (Open Sky), 2002. Foto: Magnus Bejmar © Simone Aaberg Kærn / VISDA.

Simone Aaberg Kærn in After the Silence – Women of Art Speak Out, Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen

Among the many important works featured in this exhibition, I found Simone Aaberg Kærn’s film Smiling in a Warzone (2006) particularly poignant. With a lump in my throat and tears falling freely, I followed the journey all the way from Denmark to Afghanistan, where a young woman, Farial, dreams of learning to fly. In a flying rust heap, Aaberg Kærn transcends the boundaries of war, communication and gravity. “Flying,” she tells Farial, “is simply raising up your wings and doing it. You can fly!” Suddenly, it struck me that Aaberg Kærn is the Peter Pan of the art world – and of feminists.

– Stense Andrea Lind-Valdan is an artist, lives and works in Copenhagen and is one of Kunstkritikk’s regular contributors. She is currently working on the exhibition The Camera and Us at the National Collection of Photography at the Royal Danish Library and is also working on a photo book due to be published in 2022.

For this year’s contributions to the Advent Calendar, see here.