In her first solo exhibition with Hans Alf Gallery, Anna Sofie Jespersen presents six paintings of varying size and format. Here, the modern body becomes a new existential starting point, from which she paints herself anew.
For Jespersen, painting is a necessary translation apparatus. In order to make sense of a reality that seems chaotic and happenstantial, she must paint it. In other words: with her whole body, figure, gender and sexuality, she paints herself into the world.
Jespersen has developed a deeply personal, at once intimate and expressive, direct visual language through which she interprets the classical painting genres from portraits to interiors. Easily recognisable by her red colouring, Jespersen’s raw, gestural brushstrokes evokes a ’here and now.’ A trembling, almost cinematic, sense that something is about to happen or has just taken place. The cinematic quality is further enhanced by the many layers that the paintings contain; memories, traumas, experiences, bodily as well as psychological wounds, paired with a wealth of intertextual art historical and pop cultural references to the 00s, myths and anatomies, which she effortlessly translates, transforms and transfers to the canvas. It is references upon references, images upon images.
We are drawn into the constant exchange of gazes. Like in the intimately, dramatic family portrait NuclearFamily_GettyImages, which at first resembles a common family portrait. Initially, we are captivated by their wide grinning faces, all looking back at us. But beneath the surface, unease lurks. Suddenly, the eyes become cross-eyed; the faces appear grotesque as the bodies merge together, and a darkness in the background threatens to devour the entire portrait. In Jespersen’s version, the biographically anchored experiences of loss gain both bodily and metaphorical significance. The individuals are drawn from the artist’s own life, yet in the paintings, they play a role or a version of themselves. The artist’s quest for self-narrative persists, manifesting as recurring reconstructions.
Jespersen has painted The Big Six as a true tour de force in the embodiment of the flesh and the transience of beauty. Through her raw and expressive depiction of the suffering body, recalling Cornelius van Haarlem’s mannered monumental painting, The Fall of the Titans (1588-90), the bodies in The Big Six are caught in a fall. Yet, while Haarlem’s version features sculptural titan-like male bodies falling in battle, Jespersen’s version presents a pile of six naked female bodies vying for the capture of the camera lens (or rather, our gaze). This act of exhibitionistic suffering transgresses the norm; instead of objectifying themselves, the women liberate themselves from the classical dichotomy between gazes, returning the viewer’s gaze with overtly defiant looks. Some of the models’ gazes overflow into grotesque grimaces (as if blinded by the flash of the camera). The memory of sweet, nauseating odors of flesh, blood, and other bodily secretions becomes insistent, accompanied by equally repulsive sensations upon witnessing the groping naked female bodies – in various shades of fleshy pink – colliding with themselves and each other’s contorted body parts. The sense of this visceral, corporeal sight is further intensified by the bodily tumult. It is an image that grows and grows in the eye as we observe. A sight that on one hand produces a peculiar seductive effect, and on the other hand, a rare corporeal discomfort stemming from the fear of confronting one’s own mortality: witnessing one’s own bodily decay.
The dissolved, amorphous mass of the body stands as a representation of the modern, fragmented, and suffering subject. Just as Jespersen’s body is divided, her paintings reflect this fragmentation on a formal level as well. Her aesthetic is easily recognizable through the repeated layers of overpainting and blurring. The raw canvas is visible through the numerous layers; delicate line drawings mingle with patches of red oil paint, running or dragged across the surface in swift movements that create a sense of material presence and bring the painting into focus. Jespersen’s narrative arrives, but without a conclusion; it remains open, turned towards us.
Anna Sofie Jespersen (b. 1992) lives and works in New York. She holds an MFA from Hunter College in New York and a BFA from Chelsea College of Art and Design in London. Her works have been presented both nationally and internationally, including recent exhibitions at Dimin, New York; Vejle Kunstmuseum, Vejle; Politikens Forhal, Copenhagen, and Den Frie Udstillingsbygning, Copenhagen. Furthermore, Jespersen was the recipient of the Solo Award at the Charlottenborg Spring Exhibition 2021. Quality Time is her first solo exhibition at Hans Alf Gallery
"Quality Time" opens on June 2nd and will be on view through June 24.