Artist of the Week (2023)
Original publication in Danish from kunsten.nu: https://kunsten.nu/journal/ugens-kunstner-birgitte-stoevring/
Text by Lene Bilgrav
Birgitte Støvring works in a figurative and often symbolic and narrative idiom with a focus on humans in various actions and situations. Although she often draws on ancient tales and myths about gods and goddesses, her works are stories about being a modern person – with all that that entails.
It is not the mythological story that Birgitte Støvring is interested in, but the skills and characteristics that the mythological figures possess, and which Birgitte Støvring brings into our time. In particular, Støvring is concerned with the female figure and the way in which the female figure is produced both then and now.
Although the figurative is dominant with Birgitte Støvring, she has a permanent focus on the formal. Shapes and colors are explored at Støvring as patterns that repeat and let the foreground, background and figure flow together. She conjures up her figures with a few brushstrokes and a few layers of paint. The compositions are precise and complicated, whether the figures are in motion or standing still.
She often constructs her works as collages using mathematical systems of colors and patterns. The figures are then painted into this universe, and in this way a relationship is created where background and figure cannot exist without each other. Both construction and deconstruction, figuration and abstraction are present in Støvring's works.
The mythological starting point
An example of this is the work Motherhood from 2022, where Birgitte Støvring makes use of the myths about the goddesses Freja and Artemis as a starting point in a work about vulnerability and willpower. The work was exhibited at the Museum of Religious Art in 2022 as part of the Vera Icon exhibition .
In Motherhood , the pregnant female figure is seen in several places in the work. Among other things, she is placed in the middle of the painting, and there is no doubt that it is her. A large leaping feline can be seen at the bottom of the work. Above this stands a smaller stag, and on its back is a figure with a bow and sword. Furthermore, there are various symbols, and the entire picture surface is divided into colored fields that both relate to the background and the figures, so that there is no actual space in the work. The work contains both the vulnerable, in the form of the pregnant woman, but also speed and power in the form of the animals and the weapons.
Both Freya and Artemis were composite goddesses who had both vulnerability and strength within them. Freya was both the goddess of love and war, and she is often depicted riding a cat. For Artemis, it means that she was the protector of the earth, the animals and the forest, but also the goddess of childbirth and fertility. It is especially the complex and contradictory nature of these goddesses that makes Birgitte Støvring find them interesting to bring forward today. Because don't we all contain many facets and characteristics?
In the exhibition Shapes of Harvest, Birgitte Støvring revolves around the harvest as a symbol of fertility and that of giving and receiving, but also passing on to future generations. In the work Gatekeeper from 2022, a woman can be seen standing with her arms spread wide to the sides. She stands at the very front of the image in a patterned dress. She carries a branch with flowers on her head. The expression on her face is neutral and she lifts herself onto her tiptoes. There are hints of ground and horizon behind her, and a small sun can be seen to the right of the work.
Despite standing on her tiptoes, she seems to be balanced. It's like she could stand like that forever. As the title suggests, she is a guardian, but what does she guard? And does she block the way for us or does she welcome us? The Greek caryatids were columns shaped like women and which had a real supporting function in a building. The woman in Gatekeeper also has a responsibility and something that she "holds up". It is seen in the form of the branch with flowers that she carries on her head.
The primal mother
In the work Sunflower Sunrice from 2023, which is also shown at the exhibition, Birgitte Støvring takes her point of departure from the Greek goddess Demeter, who was the protector of the earth and the goddess of grain. Demeter is represented here as a modern woman in a dress and high-heeled shoes. It can be a bit difficult to define whether she is standing, sitting or lying down. Anyway, she's in some kind of movement. From her, large sunflowers can be seen in the colored fields of the painting. There are six in all and they are all yellow except for one that is black.
It belongs to the story of Demeter that her daughter Persephone was kidnapped to the underworld. However, she was allowed to come onto the ground for part of the year. And when she did, spring came, when everything blossoms. When she disappeared again into the underworld, it meant the coming of autumn. The work shows this cycle, which is also the cycle of life, but it also shows a woman in a close relationship with her daughter and in eternal grief and helplessness at having lost.