On Orphans and Eden

Limit of Bearable

Lately our eyes have been trained by mass media to become immune to the images of pain, violence, victims of terror and refugee crisis, corpses of children included. Daily portion of suffering is served for breakfast by a morning postman and is consumed somewhere between the first sip of coffee, a bite of croissant and mineral enriched cereals. We glimpse at the spread photo of another torment, skim through the article, turn the page and proceed to jam and cheese.

After Saturday morning meal one heads to a contemporary art gallery to satisfy cultural hunger, in this story, to Wetterling Gallery in Stockholm. What happens to a visitor there? ‘It is so hard to look at’, I hear, ‘Unbearable’. Beyond the limits of acceptable.

Hence, the title of the exhibition. ‘Beyond. Nathalia Edenmont.’

Confronted with Edenmont’s triptych, consisting of the photographs entitled ‘Holy Ghost’, ‘Conscious Mind’ and ‘Lost Soul’ (2015), one seems to have forgotten the easily absorbed doze of blood from newspaper pages and tends to convict the artist of cruelty. Overwhelmed by the powerful images, I keep on looking at the photographs, while the co-visitors have left. Do we prefer effortless?

Parts of the triptych, each depicting the same seated model in slightly varying poses, draped in a single piece of fabric, under which the contours of a child can be noticed, suggest a reference to madonna’s. Similar to ‘Madonna and Child with Grapes’ by Lucas Cranach the Elder, the one by Edenmont is juxtaposed to the black background, which enhances the contrast with the incarnadine shade of clothing. But in the work of the photographer the drapery has just received a colour: it is soaked in what we perceive to be blood. The hands of the mother, glittering from the fluid, are carefully supporting the covered child’s body. The beauty of the woman’s face plays a trick upon the viewer – it can belong to the genre of fashion photography. Her glance is serene and somewhere heroic. ‘With beauty as a shield’, as one of the art critics wrote about Edenmont, she covers the loss. It is a tragedy of childlessness, rooted in personal experience. The recurring motief, seen in the other works from ‘Beyond’ series, in ‘Daughter’, ‘Baptised’, ‘Fulfilment’ (2015).