About the works

ELISABETH TOUBRO

ABOUT THE WORKS


 

  ELISABETH TOUBRO
     Hair Arabesque 1, 1998
Fibreglass, steel and wood
280 x 180 x 180 cm
The jade coloured sculptures hang from the ceiling and seem to invite a sensuous experience. Their forms are incongruous and disharmonious. They look fragile and awesome at the same time. The surfaces are alluring, instantly making us want to touch them.

The plainly organic appearance of the sculptures combined with the titles, Cell Arabesque and Hair Arabesque, call forth something alive, undergoing change and development. The amorphous form resembles a growing cluster of cells, in other words a biological structure.

Besides the purely sensory perception the sculptures contain a number of references and inspirations requiring specific knowledge beyond what we can gather from merely looking, if we want to fully understand them.

STORIES FROM GREENLAND
The sculptures are literally open and translucent, yet they are also cryptic and uncommunicative because they are hard to read and understand. They do not depict anything in a traditional sense but are symbols of a story connected to Toubro's own life.

She was born and raised in Greenland, and the sculptures reference Greenland's culture and nature in a variety of ways. They paraphrase a polar bearskin (Cell Arabesque) and an Eskimo hairstyle (Hair Arabesque 1 and 2) Hair Arabesque 2 respectively.

The letters protruding from the insides of the arabesques allude to 'sounds' in the form of writing. They are transcripts of recordings that the explorer Knud Rasmussen made of Inuit shamans. The words constitute the chorus of the drum dances that the shamans performed on certain occasions.

The sculptures also comment the situation in present-day Greenland. Toubro achieves this by juxtaposing references from Eskimo culture with Danish ones, i.e. ones from the Western civilisation. Eskimo mysticism contrasts the rationality of the Western, Danish society.

The Danish culture is represented by the orange framework which has a degree of logic to its structure. Both cultures are present but cannot merge into a coherent whole. The shapes representing Eskimo culture are attached to the framework, dependant on the framework. The sculptures illustrate that the aboriginal Eskimo culture has become dependant on a culture far removed from their own.

Elisabeth Toubro's art in general
Toubro is a representative of a sculpture tradition with a complicated philosophical and theoretical foundation. Typically her sculptures and exhibitions are accompanied by theoretical texts testifying to her great interest in French Postmodern theory and philosophy.

With sculptors like Henrik B. Andersen, Morten Stræde, Elle Klarskov Jørgensen and Øivind Nygård she studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts under Professor Hein Heinsen. The group acquired the moniker "the cool sculptors" since their work has a very polished surface and often exhibits a certain reserve.

Parallel with the emergence of the Wild painting in Denmark in the early 1980s a brand new movement sprang up in contemporary sculpture. Whereas the painters were concerned with executing fast paintings, the sculptors worked slower and did not receive the same kind of interest from the media.

ART AND PHILOSOPHY
Toubro's sculptures are heterogeneous, i.e. she regards the form as points of varying intensity. This entails that the sculpture is not to be pieced together and understood in one gaze, but rather read like a narrative. That is to say we physically move around the sculpture, discovering the irregular surface. This is Toubro's manner of emphasising the significance of time and space to the perception of her sculptures.

Toubro sees sculpture and art as a distinct way of understanding and realising the world. Consequently she believes sculpture to have a different 'language' from other artistic media.

METAMORPHOSES
Juxtaposing highly disparate materials is a recurrent feature of Toubro's sculptures and aids in further complicating their expressions. They become composite games between the many clashing forms, figurations, references and materials.

Toubro's sculptures can be directly sensed and read intellectually at the same time. The three sculptures belong to a series of works which are visual parallels to the Roman poet Ovid's Metamorphoses. Ovid tells the story of Daphne who, in an attempt to dodge the advances of a badly enamoured Apollo, was turned into a tree. Metamorphosis, transformation and narration have been key words in Toubro's œuvre until today.

Toubro's sculptures are closed around themselves and philosophical-theoretical discussions. They are not concrete explorations of the surrounding sociological society. Instead she is concerned with discussions on art and in particular sculpture and how it can contribute to cognition of the world.

Art historically there is a certain parallel to the artists of the Baroque who also explored the temporal aspect of the experience of the sculpture combined with the complex and open form. Toubro, however, makes use of completely different materials: fibreglass, polystyrene, vinyl, metal and PVC.

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