Denise Grünstein
November 9
— December 21, 2018


Denise Grünstein, ‘Casting’, November 9–December 21, 2018

Denise Grünstein is a pioneer of Swedish photography and one of the most esteemed photographers of her generation. In her new series of works, which is being shown for the first time ever at CFHILL, she remains true to her main areas of interest: the drama of life, memory, and dream. Psychological fantasies staged in dull colours, with a great deal of care given to the sensuous. ‘Casting’, which constitutes a space formed by objects and films alongside the photographs, will be her first exhibition at CFHILL.

Apart from her great technical skill and severe attention to detail, her photographs are characterised by a liberating lack of respect for all notions of what photography “ought” to be. Her realm is that of the imagination. In her portraits and dramatic tableaux, where there always seems to be something going on below the surface, Denise Grünstein has created a world and an aesthetic entirely her own. For more than three decades, she has been adding to an oeuvre characterised by mythological and psychologically subtle dramatic narration, stretching from the ground-breaking arranged portraits she exhibited at Fotografiska Museet in 1981’s Bländande bilder (“to the many series she’s created with Marta Oldenburg, who has served as her model for 20 years. Over the years, she has consistently returned to a kind of staged, bared-down, dreamy chamber play, in which she uses the still life as a stage upon which a drama is played out.

These new works, which include large-format photographs, smaller pictures, objects, and two films, may actually display an even stronger narrative strain than her earlier works. The protagonist of Casting is an omnipotent character, a hybrid table/woman who is draped in a form-fitting wide dress that connects the table to her body.

– This is one of the most important exhibitions we’ve produced at CFHILL. Denise Grünstein’s art is a Swedish cultural treasure, and a unique addition to our proud photographic history. She turned tradition on its head and created an entirely new space for photography. Of course, we’re honoured to be exhibiting this new series, which she has worked on for several years, says Michael Elmenbeck, founder of CFHILL.

Denise Grünstein has chosen to follow the paths less trodden in her career as an artist. Female photographers were a rarity for a very long time. Denise found her way to a career in photography through working as a stage and costume designer for Swedish films. 1981 was a seminal year in Swedish art history as her exhibition Bländande bilder was shown at Fotografiska Museet (which was still a separate section of Moderna Museet at the time). The exhibition broke with the predominant documentary tradition, as represented by Christer Strömholm and a number of other male photographers, and thus caused some controversy and attracted the ire of certain conservative critics. Denise Grünstein and Tuija Lindström (1950–2017) were two of the individuals involved in laying a foundation for photography as a space for artistic experimentation, and a stage for subjective vision with a broadened concept of what an image is. Among her more recent exhibitions we might mention her solo exhibition at Moderna Museet (Figure in Landscape) and her exhibition at Konstakademien, which featured photographs of the vacated rooms at Nationalmuseum (2014).  

The title of the exhibition, Casting, has a dual meaning, referring both to a physical casting made with a mould (as is shown in the images) and to the process of assigning actors to roles for a film or theatrical performance. In other words, it addresses not just who will be playing a role, but also which interpretation of the role is to be made.