By Johan Zimsen Kristiansen, History of Art, MA
In a series of new and open-weave works, the Danish artist Anne Bjørn (born 1954) calculates with a luminous effect, which transforms the textile from definite handmade craft to ambiguous space. By letting the tapestries cast a shadow, by doubling, reflecting, distorting and repeating in connection with mounting and hanging the works, it becomes more a question of an actual evocation of the textile and the many different views contained in an image than a traditional artistic practise.
This point manifests itself by relating Anne Bjørn’s large layered tapestry Transparent Landscape, 2015, with her series of edited black and white photographs from Sardinia, 2012. In order to accentuate the displacements that the memory may bring about, parts of the motives have been coloured yellow – plastered walls and facades, details of buildings and old men in conversation are seen through several layers and in a new light which change, transform and invent. The gap between then and now, a span in time, creates an effective photographic depth of field, which Bjørn transfers with such ease to her textile works.
Precisely because the shadow plays an important part in Anne Bjørn’s evocation of the tapestry, it is fair to talk of an immaterial form of weaving in her later works. As with the underlying black and white recording of the photography, the textile shadow appears on the wall like an echo, a basis. Here the weave – perhaps some of the most tangible or textual and sensuous – transposes into pure dissolution, passes into nothing. The question is no longer what “I” think, or what “I” experience in front of the tapestry. With Bjørn it is more a question of discovering and making room for the basis of the textile itself (or the photographic image).[i] Thereby, she sets free the open weave, which with its shadow changes from reflexion and the philosophical, theoretical and linguistic experiences into a state in which the weave reveals its own unguarded essence.
This way Anne Bjørn’s work with the light, painted paper yarn also in the large Transparent Landscape becomes the evocation of a weave from before it was known to anyone, from before anyone was aware of the weave. Bjørn’s command of textile techniques and patterns and her sense of the properties of the materials shows, also with the memory as a fellow player, in quite a concrete manner the tapestry in its purest and clearest form.
[i] Descombes, Vincent: Réponse à Jean-Luc Petit, p. 157-158 (from L’expérience vécue est-elle une fiction including quotation by Wittgenstein). In: Études Ricoeuriennes / Ricoeur Studies. Vol. 5, No. 1 (2014).
Anne Bjørn: Photographs from Greenland
By Randi Nygaard Lium, 1. curator, The Museums in Sør-Tøndelag, Norway
Since 2007 Anne Bjørn has taught at the Art School in Nuuk at various periods. Next to the school lies Brættet, the market, where the area’s fishermen sell the day’s catch. Here we find seals, cod and herring. Bjørn has let herself be inspired by the goods, that lie for sale, and has focused on the seals’ colours, contrasts and fur. The ocean’s animals lying with their stomachs sliced open and entrails falling out are at one and the same time both repulsive and fascinating. In a way, it feels like a kind of “horror” aesthetics, which simultaneously documents the richness of the fjords in Greenland.
For an itinerant artist like Anne Bjørn, this area has proven a great source of inspiration. What makes the strongest impression are the cut up stomachs with intestines falling out – and the contrast between the fresh blood from the dead seals and the physicality and colours in the visual expression. This provides a fervour. In this surprising brutality, new images arise. We are confronted with something well known but as yet unseen. The photographs provide knowledge, and at the same time, function as independent artistic expressions. With her clear vision and keen eye for contrasts, Anne Bjørn has found the strong motifs. Photographs of the fish skin’s sensuous surface reflect an artist’s joy in the material. She seeks the structure in the dead. Through photography, the sea’s lost life is recreated.
The urbane white
A textile artist has great knowledge of materials. Mastery of the craft provides a security and a steady course. In Greenland, Anne Bjørn is confronted with other modes of existence. She thrives there and is inspired. Not only because she is comfortable with teaching but also because of a need for “the Arctic” in her own work. The physical proximity to the environment stimulates a wish for creation with the tough reality as a contrast to homely Denmark. Interestingly, the journeys to Nuuk have renewed her art. Now the motifs have a different orientation towards tougher conditions of life and the geography of the wilderness. Perhaps an Arctic picture has been on her mind for a long time both as a longing and a motivating power. I sense that in her examination of various materials, the raw, fish-industrial white, meaning something touched by human hands and work, she seeks – a work far away from the pure and virginal white.
Anne Bjørn has followed her own path and holds a distinct place among textile colleagues in Denmark. Yet, at the same time, the relation to the Danish tradition is visible. This classic dimension, which I consider a distinctive Danish feature, in her case also constitutes a point of departure for experiments with materials and texture. Different fibre materials and threads are combined with plaster and steel wire. Structures and shades of white play against each other leaving a somewhat tough and urbane expression in the eyes of the beholder. Bjørn does not seek “the white cube” or white snow. More the “dirty/used” white after the fishermen have gutted the fish, or boxes and trash have created a grey/white atmosphere in the backyard. She creates a white physicality that I relate to industry and labour – something, that has been touched by human hand.
Anne Bjørn (b. 1954) was educated as a weaver at the Kolding School of Design from 1973-1975 and trained under the weavers Annette Holdensen, Jette Nevers and Bodil Bødker-Næss from 1969-1973. She made her debut at the Easter Exhibition in Århus Kunstbygning in 1974 and for the next five years participated on a number of occasions at the juried exhibitions in Copenhagen, both at Charlottenborg Spring Festival at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts and at the Autumn Festival in Den Frie Udstillingsbygning. She is represented with textile works in a number of public institutions and has made decorations for, among others, The Danish National Broadcasting Service’s office in Fyn, Odense Katedralskole and Vingstedcenteret, Bredsted. She is a member of the group Danish Gobelin Art. Besides this, Anne Bjørn has displayed her works in Greenland with a solo exhibition in Katuaq – Greenland’s Culture House in Nuuk in 2009.
In her weaving, Anne Bjørn has gone from classic tapestry to today’s light and transparent tapestries in various materials associated with the Nordic winter and light. With a sovereign knowledge of materials and being highly skilled in techniques, she continues to seek new original expressions in weaving.
From the danish newspaper Kristeligt Dagblad
In a series of ten articles the Danish daily paper Kristeligt Dagblad brings into focus recent ecclesiastical textiles which in different ways take us by surprise and stand out. The articles are written by art historian Johan Zimsen Kristiansen, who among other things have been attached to the Centre University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and who has worked with modern textile related Danish art and with the weaving tradition of the Navajo Indians in the USA. This is the second article in the series published 15.01.2015:
The Light of Nature and Culture
Virtuosity is perhaps the term that best describes the two white tapestries Nature-Culture by Danish artist and weaver Anne Bjørn. In January, the two tapestries were hung in the late Medieval and very bright Church of Our Lady in the city centre of Assens, Denmark, and which in time are intended to become a permanent part of the church interior. Both tapestries were originally created for Dansk Gobelinkunst’s exhibitions in 2009, and although not intended specifically for church purposes, they nevertheless have established themselves in the high-ceilinged and lime washed church in Assens in the most surprising and beautiful manner. ”In their own material way both works add a contemporaneity to the church which may ease off on the official dogmatics”, Anne Bjørn explains and continues: “That way the tapestries relate to the surroundings of the church in our present time and not necessarily to a fixed tradition. They prevent the church from becoming a museum”.
The tapestries, each measuring 180 x 190 cm, are made of paper yarn on a plaster cast. To Anne Bjørn, the extremely light and transparent textiles were a welcome opportunity to break away and leave the occasionally rather heavy and traditional weaves which are typically associated with tapestries. ”It was a case of either abandoning my loom altogether and concentrate on visual art instead or rethink the entire textile process which can be very slow and time consuming”, says Anne Bjørn. The result was Nature-Culture, which received an award the same year from the Danish Arts Foundation, and which has made Anne Bjørn hold on to the textile dimension in her work.
In the Church of Our Lady in Assens, the tapestries hang facing one another like two transparent membranes. They form a special space. With a high degree of texture they reach out into the church and interact in a rarely seen delicate manner with the light that falls through the high windows. Even on a sunny winter’s day both tapestries catch the light, and even if you only sit in the church a little while, you can see and sense the movements of the light and the passing of day. It is the world outside being let into the church and brushing against the light textiles. And precisely that quality is Anne Bjørn fond of. ”I like that the tapestries change their form depending on the light and the time of year”, she says. ”Perhaps they become more dense, perhaps more open in different kinds of wind an weather. It gives the tapestries a life of their own which cannot be controlled”.
Together with a large cross by the Danish sculptor Carl Henning Aarsø, who like Anne Bjørn lives in the western part of the island of Funen, the tapestries in the Church of Our Lady in Assens bring Christianity and the content of Christian faith into play with our present time. While one tapestry is without words and completely abstract in the way the thread is worked, the other allows letters to form and be seen. Like almost shimmering visions of ”something”, and here out of a culture and of bits of a content the congregation and other visitors to the church can piece together a creation or a beginning in nature and culture. A transformation from the silent and wordless to a message which the church in its own way leaves room for.