Bruce Silverstein is pleased to present an exhibition of recent
and early work by the artists Nicolai Howalt &Trine
Søndergaard. Living and working together in Denmark, their art
shares a history and evolution as well as an intersection, which
becomes apparent in this mini-retrospective. This is the first
show to incorporate multiple series by each artist (side-by-side)
provoking a conversation regarding a mutual influence, either
aesthetically perceptible, or sometimes more subtle—a joint
exploration of fragile and ineffable motifs. Juxtaposing the
artists’ collaborative projects with their separate endeavors
highlights a shared attention to their cultural heritage as well as
an interest in marking transition, evolution, spaces of limbo, and
the continuum of life and time.
Both artists began their careers with an approach more toward the documentary—
Søndergaard followed and chronicled the lives of female prostitutes on the streets of
Copenhagen’s red light district for her series, Now That You Are Mine, while Howalt, in a
similar style, observed and captured the lives of a family in Denmark over several years
for his project, 3x1. Howalt’s later series, Boxers—images of young boys before and
after their first fight, and Søndergaard’s Versus—photographs of individuals paired with
a work of art from Copenhagen’s Thorvaldsens Museum, are also aesthetically similar.
Both series are about what is not pictured—the space between the photographs—a
transition, a change, a relationship, that charges the images.
The artists’ well-known joint project, How to Hunt, consists of layered, time-lapsed
photographs of Danish hunting grounds, which like the Megafossil series (silkscreened
images of a 1500 year old Kings Oak tree—a living fossil from the woods of Jægerspris
north of Copenhagen), are monuments to the artists’ Danish heritage and confront the
topics of duration and time passage.
Søndergaard’s Strude and Guldnakke images, as well her Interior series, emphasize a
bridge (and a gap) between past and present. There is a quiet and engaging tension
between the historic and the contemporary. Her Monochrome Portraits of friends and
neighbors are remarkably revealing while also seemingly distant. The viewer can only
perceive the sitters’ “absence”, their apparent concern with what is within, that which is
occupying their thoughts—written on their face or perceived in a tilt of the head.
While Howalt’s Endings (photographs of cremation ashes) his Car Crash Series and
Rusland could be viewed as a fascination with death and destruction, the artist in fact
sees his work as primarily concerned with life and its fragility. He draws inspiration from
a line by T.S. Eliot, “The end is where we start from.” His Seahawks series and
Borderline project (images taken at the physical borders of Denmark), like
Søndergaard’s work, are images of contemporary Danish / Nordic cultural space that
simultaneously reference and engage with the history of Danish / Scandinavian culture.
Howalt and Søndergaard’s collaborative projects, Dying Birds (photogravures of the
birds from their hunting scenes, taken at the moment of impact) and Tree Zone (portraits
of the final trees struggling to grow at the tree line at high altitudes) are concerned with a
space of limbo, the location between what was and is now.
Trine Søndergaard (b. 1972) graduated from Fatamorgana, The Danish School of Art
Photography in 1996. In 2000 she received the Albert Renger Patzsch Award and has
since then received numerous grants and fellowships, including a three-year working
grant from The Danish Arts Foundation. She has exhibited in numerous solo and group
exhibitions in Denmark and abroad. Søndergaard’s works are included in major public
and private collections, among them: MUSAC Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de
Castilla y Leon, Spain; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, USA; The Hasselblad
Foundation, Sweden; The Israel Museum, Jerusalem; and The Danish Arts Foundation,
Nicolai Howalt (b.1970) was born in Copenhagen and graduated from Denmark’s
Photographic Art School Fatamorgana in 1992. He has exhibited at Statens Museum for
Kunst, ARoS and Skagens Museum in Denmark. He has received a series of grants
from the Hasselblad Foundation, The Danish Ministry of Culture, The Danish Arts
Foundation and The Danish Arts Council. Nicolai Howalt’s work is a part of numerous
public collections, including The Israel Museum, Jerusalem; MUSAC, Spain, Maison
Européenne de Photographie, France, The Museum of Fine Arts Houston, USA,
Fondation Neuflize Vie, France, Hiscox Art Project, USA. And in Denmark, The National
Museum of Photography, The Danish Arts Foundation, Skagen Museum, Nykredit and
Museet for Fotokunst, Brandts.