Cooper&Gorfer

Enveloped within herself – and yet still so strongly present as to affect the viewer’s every sense – Aana greets visitors at the entrance to Avesta Art. Her eyes are closed, her face is pale. The billowing flowered mantle endows her with a queenly grace and contrasts with the pattern of the traditional Sámi costume underneath. The figure of Aana is exquisitely beautiful, ambiguous and transcends borders. What is the meaning of the severed braid in her mittened hand? Does destruction create beauty? Is she already on the other side? One level down, in the large open hall of the roasting house, where the slag stone shimmers and cultural events are held, another magnificently attired woman awaits. Watching Vivienne. Knowing Vivienne. Leaving Vivienne. To observe, to converge, and to relinquish. Here, artist duo Cooper & Gorfer transport us into a Baroque chamber, to a woman who seems to be warding off our approach. Hesitantly, she meets the viewer’s eyes. Her movements rise in frenzy as she first looks out the window and then flees. That which draws and lures seems also to frighten. Could it be nature? The two women show different facets of Cooper & Gorfer’s art. Aana comes from their exploratory work in Sámi communities, where they interviewed and visited with women of various ages and then depicted their lives in artistic photography. Layer upon layer of stories and symbolism settle like brushstrokes in a painting. The borderland between realism and the realm of mysterious saga or dream becomes blurred. The visibly observed is sifted through the soul’s filters of dreams, moods, fears and wounds. Many of the portraits in the Sámi series Interruptions are photographed through a thin layer of glass that unveils rather than conceals that which is deeply human. The Vivienne Series is the result of the artists’ collaboration with one of Sweden’s foremost museums of applied arts and design, the Röhsska in Gothenburg. The elegant gown from the Vivienne Westwood fashion house was acquired by the museum, a decision based on respect for both innovative design and the garment process. The dress is an iconic silhouette in the collection Chaos Point, in which the fashion designer collaborated with schoolchildren to promote environmental responsibility and peace. Vivienne told the children a story about soldiers, who give up their war and reshaped the front line in the jungle into a bond of friendship with their former adversaries and with nature itself. In the jungle, they gain insight into the miracle of life – the interplay of nature. It is only through this give and take that the Earth can tirelessly and sustainably give of itself and reveal its deepest secrets. The soldiers become freedom fighters for the environment. When they travel to the city to enlighten others, they dress in uniforms painted with the nature they love – butterflies, magical flowers, snakes. These are the pictures the children painted of the Freedom Fighters, which blossom in Vivienne’s designs. Four other works in the large hall of the roasting house originate in Kyrgyzstan. Red Shola Standing depicts Shola in a red dress forming her own contours in a grandiose landscape with expansive steppes and tall mountain ranges. Firmly, she stands. Conspicuous, fearless, almost demonstrative. Shola belongs here. She seems to be at one with nature, in an existence in which nature forms the person and the person acts in harmony with nature. In Kyrgyzstan, the artist duo Cooper & Gorfer got to know a people with a nomadic ancestry stretching back over a thousand years, pushed here and there by other people and cultures. In the 15th and 16th centuries, they settled down in the region that is now Kyrgyzstan, but which has been dominated by other powers for centuries: first by the tsar in the 1900s, and then by the Soviet Union. On 31 August 1991, Kyrgyzstan declared its independence from the Soviet Union. But even for the independent republic, the political climate is characterized by corruption and unrest. Shola stands as a link between roots and dreams of the future. For a people who have always had to fight for their own identity, the old narratives and sagas gain renewed meaning. In another work, Man Under Orange Leaves, an old man sums up the experiences of his long life. The orange leaves burn in his head covering. For us in the Folkare district, who grew up with Karlfeldt’s Nobel Prize-winning poetry, the muffled tones of Autumn Hymn sound: “‘Quo vadis?’ The question shakes me. Where shall I go, when evening overtakes me?” Still other expressions can be found in Cooper & Gorfer’s works from Qatar, depicting Eastern culture in a dizzying phase between past and future. Here at Avesta Art, they carry out a beautiful dialogue with Aidan’s marble sculptures. Cooper & Gorfer are an artist duo consisting of Sarah Cooper (USA, 1974) and Nina Gorfer (Austria, 1979), now residing in Gothenburg and Berlin. During their travels, they draw near both collective narratives and individual experiences and lives. They create images with the same care as a painter in her studio. They do not make traditional documentaries. Instead, they portray cultures and experiences in a life-giving confluence of reality and saga. Many of their works resonate with art history.

www.coopergorfer.com