A repeating theme in Anne-Karin Furunes’ art is that of the female character victim to historic events beyond her control. She uses different archives to search for pictures that move her.
A repeating theme in Anne-Karin Furunes’ art is that of the female character victim to historic events beyond her control. She uses different archives to search for pictures that move her. These small photographs, originally taken for bureaucratic purposes, are enlarged into paintings often over two metres in height. She tells us that she often goes to an archive with a specific theme in mind, but then finds something unexpected and surprising which has been classified as marginal and without proper identification in the archive world.
What she discovers in the archives are the human beings behind the historical destinies that they have been subjected to. These documentary photographs have often been taken under extreme conditions: Jews due to be deported to Nazi Germany, victims of eugenics when it was still carried out in Sweden, criminals in prisons.
In 2014 Anne-Karin Furunes had an exhibition at the Palazzo Fortuny where she presented large-scale portraits of women who had worked at the palace studio of theatre and fashion designer Mariano Fortuny. She has also made a series of pictures in aluminium of former patients from the San Servolo psychiatric hospital, nowadays a museum in Venice. These were exhibited in situ in the beautiful park surrounding the institute.
The faces in Furunes’ portraits have usually been stripped of all the attributes that would reveal their historical time and social position. The faces are naked; we see serious and worried gazes, likely unaware of the atrocities that they are doomed to undergo. And yet, through Furunes’ skilful technique, the paintings manage to reveal something of their historical time and social position but also of their personalities.
The technique that Anne-Karin Furunes uses is based on piercing holes of various sizes into canvas or paper by hand. When producing work to be exhibited outdoors, she uses aluminium plates and creates the holes with a machine. The canvas is usually soaked in black paint, and the picture emerges from the grid that the pierced holes create by letting light shine through in varying degrees depending on the sizes of the holes. She has developed this technique for about three decades and today masters it to the minutest detail.
The result creates an optical effect that changes according to the lighting conditions of the exhibition space as well as the movements of the onlooker. The picture becomes an event, a moment of communication between the eyes of the portrayed person and the viewer. The layers of historical events disappear as we face the gaze of another human being.