While most of us hail the light in life and art, the visual and contemporary artist Kirstine Roepstorff celebrates its opposite, tempting the mind with a Renaissance of the Night
This summer, Kunsthal Charlottenborg in Copenhagen – one of the largest and most beautiful exhibition spaces for contemporary art in northern Europe – presents Renaissance of the Night. It’s the largest and most comprehensive solo presentation of the internationally acclaimed artist Kirstine Roepstorff, and offers visitors the opportunity to step into a unique mindset of creativity and darkness.
Taking up the whole south wing of the Kunsthal, the exhibition will feature more than 70 works, including the incredible immersive sound and light work Theatre of Glowing Darkness, presented in a new format, and the 7.5-metre-long tapestry Renaissance of the Night. Other pieces, both new and old, will be examples of her work with painting, collage, relief and sculpture. Visitors will be transported on a journey from dusk to dawn as they pass through the exhibition.
When we reach the artist, she is in the middle of the last-minute preparations for the show and, needless to say, is very busy. However, it is obvious she is thrilled by the concept. “The movement of darkness is transformative. It gives room for creativity and possibilities, and it influences human existence, in both strengthening and challenging ways,” she says.
An alumna of the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts and Rutgers University’s Mason Gross School of the Arts, in New Jersey, USA, Roepstorff has been described as dealing with re-ordered power systems and new associations through her art. She has become known for her collages but, in more recent years, has also engaged in the making of abstract sculptures, some of which have been shown around Denmark in the form of public-art projects.
Defining herself and her art is a more puzzling task for Roepstorff, and maybe that is also the point. “I just don’t see it as that literal,” she says. “In terms of creative process, my work is basically about intercepting and trying to shape. Having initially learnt from collage-making, I have a core interest in the in-betweens, which is a container of massive information and which the physical eye doesn’t immediately register. This liminal space is loaded with an autonomous consciousness.”
Darkness as a theme seems to lie close to the creator within Roepstorff, partly because of its absence in our minds. “Darkness is about pre-creation and transformation. As humans, we are light, but we are also darkness, and many of us have been neglecting this part of us for thousands of years. The exhibition is a reminder of our relationship with this unlit space, but also an encouragement to re-engage with it with curiosity and courage, instead of fear and anxiety,” says Roepstorff. “It’s all about a radical acceptance of the darkness. The overall theme is to re-engage with what does not yet have a form. In darkness, things and beings lose their form. Culturally, we fear the dark and celebrate the light, which is of course also nurturing, but not without the dark. Everything in the bright light of the day has its origin in the dark. A gigantic tree, a truck, a child – even a thought was once without a form.”
Roepstorff gained a lot of attention with her contribution to the Danish Pavilion at last year’s Venice Art Biennale, one of the most prestigious events in the world of art. Gitte Ørskou, president of the Danish Arts Foundation Committee for Visual Arts Project Funding for the Biennale, said of her: “[Roepstorff’s] artistic practice has had a major impact on the way that Danish art has taken in recent times, and her works have the high quality and the format required in Venice.”
Although it’s an honour and a great achievement to participate in Venice, Roepstorff appears even more excited about the forthcoming exhibition at Kunsthal Charlottenborg. “The Biennale situation is a paradoxical circus, not suited for art. But as an event it can be jolly,” she says. “Many people will never go to Venice to see art, so Charlottenborg offers an opportunity to continue, expand and elaborate the thematics, which is of course a huge privilege. And the audience that actually was in Venice are now presented with the possibility to re-experience and contemplate on these thoughts in less-stressed surroundings.”
For those unable to visit Renaissance of the Night this summer, or for those just fascinated by the subject of darkness, the exhibition will be accompanied by a podcast series featuring different voices discussing their relationships with darkness – from a blind boy talking about his sense of light and colour to a renowned astrophysicist sharing his insights into stardust and its importance in the creation of planets. The series will be available for free streaming and download from June 14, in both Danish and English.
So don’t miss this unique chance to expand your mind on the subject of darkness. With her exhibition, Roepstorff wants to tempt the visitor into deeper contemplation about darkness, and promises a walk through a reflective, challenging, multisensory landscape. “I’m curious about the stages prior to beginnings,” she says. “What is inspiration before we acknowledge it? What moves us?”
Renaissance of the Night, June 16-August 12; Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Nyhavn 2, Copenhagen (kunsthalcharlottenborg.dk)
Words by Ted Hammerin
#Featured Image Work from INFLUENZA. THEATRE OF GLOWING DARKNESS (2017)
#1 RENAISSANCE OF THE NIGHT Tapestry (detail) (2017)
#2 Work from INFLUENZA. THEATRE OF GLOWING DARKNESS (2017)
#3 RENAISSANCE OF THE NIGHT Tapestry (2017)
#4 Works from INFLUENZA. THEATRE OF GLOWING DARKNESS (2017)