Catalogue text by Sanne Kofod Olsen for exhibition House of Sand at Norrtälje Konsthall, Sweden, 2023
You find yourself in a place. You turn your head and look out the window. You see the trees in the forest in the dimming sunset. Soon it will be dusk. But in the middle of nature’s silence, a high-rise appears and breaks nature’s contemplative calm. Humankind is there in the middle of nature.
Maibritt Rangstrup’s paintings often present this perspective. You are the eye that watches something. An observer who looks out from slightly above or towards something. You get the feeling of peering out through a window when looking at her paintings, something that is enhanced by their square format. As an observer, you assume the same position as the painter and thus become a co-observer, someone who sees the painter’s world through their own eyes. However, the view is often interrupted by something. A house plant, which is the closest thing you see in your field of vision. Behind it you can see buildings, motorways, a forest and always the horizon, where in the end you can get lost in your gaze.
Rangstrup creates a quiet ambience that calls for reflection, as does her exhibition title "House of Sand". In the title, through the use of language, she provides us with an image that refers to the sandcastle’s effortless impermanence and its temporary existence. It can, in its idea, be reminiscent of the message in the Baroque’s "Vanitas" images, with their incorporated Memento Mori("remember that you will die"), in which the hourglass or the fruit reminds us of transience and of the individual’s time-limited existence on earth. In the Vanitas, the concepts of impermanence and vanity are united in one and the same meaning, which reminded the 17th century human that impermanence is a condition of life, and that vanity is one of the seven deadly sins which can affect your eternal life.
Rangstrup’s paintings are, however, without the loaded religious symbolism of the Vanitas, but show familiar elements from the everyday. Here it is not shiny objects with symbolic meanings, but rather constructed landscapes, with the clash between culture and nature communicated through the presented motif. In the painting "Ascension" she shows the encounter between nature and man-made culture in all its mundanity. The same is the case in the paintings "Wetlands" and "City Exit", in which the city’s infrastructures become integrated parts of the landscape. Rangstrup’s paintings reflect on the Anthropocene epoch, which describes our time in which humans’ influence on the earth’s geology and ecosystems have affected and continue to affect life on earth, now and in the future. The plants in the foreground of most of the paintings, seem to function as a presence of a cultivated and human-controlled nature. They intervene with our field of vision in the same way as the knife or the fruit peeler does in the Vanitas, with the message being that this is part of our life here and now, for which, through our actions, we should take responsibility for.
A state of instability that the Anthropocene epoch has placed us in is also the starting point for four large ink paintings, all titled "Vanishing Point". Here, the linear perspective is the basis for the construction of the image, and provides the experience of endlessness, or of a road to nowhere. Some of the ink paintings take as reference point, the experience of hotel corridors as one typically knows them from large hotel chains. But from painting to painting, the surroundings become more and more abstract, eventually dissolving all recognisability so that what remains is a structure in an open space. What is left is a road out into the void. The floors, or the road, constitute an uncertain element with its non-specific ground which seems to be in a state of dissolving in one way or another. Again, the visual starting point is an observation from a person who appears to be standing on the floor. In the openness of the images presented to the viewer, Rangstrup again creates a sense of identification with the eye that sees. She creates the illusion that one as a spectator, is moving along on this uncertain journey down the corridor or the road, without quite knowing where the road leads. There seems to be something existentially philosophical and phenomenological in Rangstrup’s visual statement, which seems to indicate that man-made reality and humankind’s struggle against nature are part of the choices people have made all along, but also reminds us that we continue to make choices that shape our lives and existence on planet earth. By presenting these elements, Rangstrup’s paintings function as reflections on the state of things, making the viewer a participant in her own view of the world.
A break from the idea of a man-made and controlled reality, and how it affects our surroundings, is seen in two paintings that show nature in all its power. "Moonrise" and "Reclaiming Places" present almost symbolic-like depictions of nature in their idiom and content, showing nature’s powerful and unaffected existence. "Reclaiming Places" shows the triumphal strength of nature in the form of wild flowers, which break through almost anything, and slowly but surely take over the man-made constructions; cities, asphalt and concrete, if nothing is done and nature is allowed to unfold freely. There seems to be both hope and apocalyptic foreboding in the metaphoric subjects of these images.
No matter what happens, the moon will always rise.
Sanne Kofod Olsen
Catalogue text: House of Sand, Norrtälje Konsthall, Sweden, 2023
The exhibition House of Sand with Maibritt Rangstrup at Norrtälje konsthall creates a multitude of associations about our existential condition. Humankind and all that we create will some day crumble into dust. Nature will take over everything that we leave behind.
In Rangstrups ouvre we’ll encounter the complex fact that we are a part of nature and at the same time being civilized. We create roads, buildnings and gardens, an environment that most people find themselves in today. At the same time, there is a longing for the uncontroled raw force of the wild forest, the sea and the mountains. We are aware that we, in one way, are part of a wild nature and at the same time we have the ability to reflect on moral end ethical questions. We can also relate to the future, something that nature does not take a stand on. We might get a glimps of ourselves through art’s processing of these question.
Maibritt Rangstrup’s paintings about our civilization are stripped down, the colour are intense and with a lot of light. Sometimes with a narrative as in the large ink paintings, Vanishing Point #1, #2 and #3. In the exhibition House of Sand there is a feeling of abandonment and longing and it is perhaps in the intersection between those and the desire for belonging where mankind find themselves in and to which we must always relate.
Helén Hedensjö, Director Norrtälje konsthall
Exhibition text: Escaping the Scenes, Artelli Gallery, Antwerp, Belgium, 2018
Maibritt Rangstrup works primarily in the medium of painting, focusing her investigation on a sampling of photographic fragments taken from the overload of imagery omnipresent in everyday life. These fragments are then layered and juxtaposed, combining them into new images. In deconstructing and challenging the constant bombardment of visual imagery, she pauses the film and focuses on the quiet and contemplative quality of the stills we tend to overlook.
In her nightscapes she explores the evocative cut-scenes commonly seen in film. They are predominately drawn from familiar scenes of nature, or of empty places and abandoned architectural structures. While somehow familiar, the visible stroke of the brush and the flattening quality of the surface keeps us from believing the representation – as if our eyes flicker between the dark scenes and the disclosure of their construction, with the suspense-laden stillness withholding its secrets.
The places depicted in her paintings appear as if frozen in time. Through the use of dark monochrome hues and a toned-down palette, these appear as familiar yet strangely unsettling excerpts from a film or of a dream long since forgotten.
Exhibition text: Scenes In Between, ITG, Copenhagen, 2016
Maibritt Rangstrup works in series and sequences of still pictures that draw their tension from cinematic and camera-based narratives. In a series of paintings, she explores the Scenes In Between - the type of evocative cut-scenes commonly seen in film. Challenging the ongoing overload of visual imagery in our everyday life, Rangstrup pauses the film and focuses on the quiet and contemplative nature of the stills we tend to overlook.
The motifs of Rangstrup’s works seem strangely unsettling, yet familiar - like cut-scenes from a dream long forgotten. They are predominantly drawn from the inhabited nature we know so well, yet the visible stroke of the brush and the flattening quality of the surface keeps us from believing the representation - as if our eyes flicker between the dark scenes and the disclosure of their construction.
Rangstrup’s Scenes In Between points towards an alternative, slower and more contemplative visual space. In her paintings the suspense-laden stillness in between decisive narratives has taken focus, and what unfolds is an atmospherically dense psychological space which seems to withhold its secrets. The lack of clearly-defined narrative or pictorial focus turns the paintings into poetic screens, allowing for space upon which the viewer’s personal perceptions and thoughts can be projected.
Sam Fisher on the Paintings of Maibritt Rangstrup
Maibritt Rangstrup comes from a history of making that is familiar with the way in which technology both gives and takes away certain things. Images made by artists who were once video and filmmakers, seem very different from those who were not, because of where they have been and what they know and what they have done to get to here.
Many of her paintings come across almost as film stills, tipped out onto a flat surface and picked through to find the right mark for the right image within each frozen frame. Tents in woods, an isolated figure, trees that curtain the view, buildings set above that loom up on a hill. Images shown together on the wall cannot help but build a narrative. What is intrigueing is what is the story that comes with each group of pictures? Who is the girl? Is she being watched? If so, does she know? Where and what is the building? Is it a house, is it a hospital, is it a hotel?
All these ambiguious ideas make the colour very important. The dark tones shut out the light and increase the tension of the atmosphere. Is the light fading, should I be outside this late, or should I be on my way home? This twighlight tonality brings a different quality to the possible stories that drift through and around the painted images. The viewer can feel this. But only after “forgetting” the image sequence as a literal representation, and allowing the experience of the sometimes dark thoughts of being alone in a landscape to create a dialogue between our isolated body and the indifferent world of nature.
In these works, you cannot get away from the way the surface crumbles into looking like something and yet just as easily could, when you look away, turn again into something else. The subjects of the work are not fixed. Their brushy surfaces stop the viewer from simply ignoring how each image is made. It pushes the making into the same place as the representation, and brings together the “time” of the work and the “time of it’s facture.” All of this coaxes the viewer into the paint surface as much as pushing them away, and makes us look in from the outside. Because the images come through to being via the internet, they are alien, and given the enticing sodium brilliance of the computer’s screen light, seductive and illusive. When they are turned into paint, they are still in flux and just hold together within the open rhythms of the brushstrokes. Other artists do this too, and Maibritt Rangstrup’s work sits easily in the family of interests shared by these artists.
Alex Katz also uses images fed through from the screen world. His pictures of both the night and day focus the attention on a painted reality that is fleeting, and yet real enough to be considered a contemporary of our lived time. Images of people laughing and playing on the beach with the scream of seagulls overhead in a azure blue sky, are unforgettable reminders of vacation time, a time out of time. The lights of New York offices seen from across the street, hide mysteries that are both public and personal, sites we have all experienced and wondered about.
In Seurat, the figures, the dancers, the lovers are wrapped in their own time, and we are peering in without any hope of more clarity or a better idea of what they are saying. His mysterious drawings, clearly made without the aid of computers but near enough to be enthralled by the emerging world of photography, capture lamplight, fog, smokey rooms, people sitting or standing in the street without communicating with each other. They are lost in webs of marks that have cut off the sound world and replaced it with mime. We make up the rest in our heads because the silence is almost unbearable, because it is the silence of our ophaned individuality. They are speaking somewhere beyond what we can now hear. They are in another time, the time of the image.
Maibritt Rangstrup’s paintings do this too. They are simple images of complicated things. Images that come to us from time spent gazing into a world made accessible across the ether by the internet and turned into the here and now.
© Sam Fisher
Former Head of Department of Art, Goldsmiths College, University of London.