Too Far Away – Too Close

Too Far Away – Too Close by Pernilla Zetterman
Nordiska Galleriet, Nybrogatan 11 Stockholm
30/9 – 4/11 – 2020

Strength and power radiate as a latent promise stored in the muscles under the horse’s shiny coat. The idea of the animal as an extension of the owner’s vitality and status is in play in Pernilla Zetterman’s images, as well as the dialectics of intimacy and control. Never vulgar, but always intriguing – the tension between dominance and submission is fundamental to Pernilla Zetterman’s artistic practice.

Instantly visible from the street is the video Exercise No 4 where a woman, tied to her waist is repeatedly lunging, struggling to move forward, to break free from an unidentified source holding her back. On entering Nordiska Galleriet we encounter Zetterman’s series Close (2001-2017) where the relationship between love and authority as manifested in equestrian culture is the central theme. Turn Down Center Line is a video work in two parts where we see two girls enacting an equine training session. One plays the commanding trainer, the other the obeying horse. A strange power game or innocent child’s play? Large scale, intimate close-ups of the horse’s body as well as cut off pieces of hair from the manes of Zetterman’s favourite horses, paired with impeccable still life images of whips, reins and bites make out the strongest part of the exhibition. Striking photographic artworks representing domination and fetishization in the expanded field carried out with impeccable technical skill.

The interspecies relationship between man and horse has a long history with representations of horses available in cave paintings as early as 17 000 years ago. The horse has been admired in art from ancient Greek marbles, English fox hunting scenes and war paintings, to Eadweard Muybridge’s famous study of the horse’s movement in the early days of photography. Since the invention of the railroad and cars, the horse’s importance for everyday life has dwindled into oblivion. Once a male symbol of status, power and sexual desire, the horse transformed into an object of leisure. Thus, passing from the masculine to the feminine arena, with the stables often being an all-female place where young girls come of age.

Together, the works in Too Far Away – Too Close show an intimate portrait of equestrian culture, leaving one question lingering in the viewers’ mind. What makes the submissive submit?

Pernilla Zetterman (b. 1970) lives and works in Stockholm, Sweden. She studied photography in Sweden and Finland, receiving a postgraduate degree from the University of Art and Design in Helsinki and an MFA from the University College of Arts, Crafts and Design in Stockholm. Zetterman’s work has been shown extensively in solo and group exhibitions at Fotografiska and Gallery Grundemark Nilsson (Stockholm) to name a few.

Words by Lina Aastrup
Artwork by Pernilla Zetterman