Cecilia Edefalk – CU
Towards the end of her time at the Royal University College of Fine Arts (KKH) in
Stockholm, Sweden, Cecilia Edefalk received a visit from Thomas Wallner, owner of the legendary gallery in Malmö. Galleri Wallner’s regular clients included the famous art collector Fredrik Roos, who bought many of the works in his collections there. Thomas Wallner immediately noticed something very special in Edefalk’s works, and so he invited her to hold an exhibition at his gallery the following year. It transpired that he was absolutely right about the works exhibited – every last one of them was sold before the exhibition even opened.
Ola Billgren’s positive review of the exhibition naturally also contributed to making it a success:
“Like a kind of Virginia Woolf, Cecilia Edefalk lingers over the object of our attention in a drawn-out dichotomy: the need to express herself indirectly blends with a determination never to leave out anything of value. For this reason, even a painting that has long since been analysed and explained to death can come to life once more in the form of a kind of subtle literature.” Sydsvenska Dagbladet, 13 October 1988
All the paintings displayed were large-scale works. The people depicted were – somewhat disturbingly – without feet, to allow viewers to imagine being able to step into the paint and let themselves be assimilated by the work. They were not originally painted as a series, but Edefalk noticed a kind of interaction between the works when they were hung close to each other. The paintings were actually based on photographs, but Edefalk herself plays down the importance of this. “The photographs are a place to start, but you shouldn’t be able to
recognise them in the finished paintings.”
The painting CU is originally based on Frau am Fenster (Woman at the Window), which was painted in 1822 by the German artist Caspar David Friedrich and now hangs in Alte Nationalgalerie (the Old National Gallery) in Berlin. A lonely woman gazes out over the sea through an open window. The technique of painting figures from behind gives us – the viewers – a sense of being one with the subjects, as we see what they are seeing. However, we cannot see what this woman looks like, or what she is feeling. We can simply hazard a guess
based on our own feelings and experience.
CU was therefore a natural choice when the Swedish National Museum in Stockholm organised an exhibition of Caspar David Friedrich’s works in 2009–2010. In connection with this exhibition, the museum showcased works by contemporary artists who had been inspired and influenced by Friedrich’s oeuvre.
Most recently, CU was exhibited at the Parasol Unit in London in 2011, where it was used as the cover image on the exhibition catalogue. The reviews from international art critics were generally very positive:
"But if the show of their paintings at the Parasol Unit proves anything at all it is that there is still art out there that needs no introduction, no explanatory preamble or wall text or foreknowledge on any sort. This is art that speaks beautifully for itself." Laura Cumming, The Observer, 8 January 2012.
Jackie Wullschlager of The Financial Times selected the exhibition as the newspaper's Critics' Choice, 3–4 December 2011.
Cecilia Edefalk prizes the exhibition at Galleri Wallner in 1988 – which included a number of key works such as Baby and Dad – very highly, and calls these works archetypical paintings that constitute a very important part of her artistic oeuvre. The painting CU still means a great deal to Edefalk personally.
Cecilia Edefalk - Without (Untitled)
Cecilia Edefalk has enjoyed success after success since her debut at Galleri Wallner in Malmö at the end of the 1980s. She has clearly positioned herself as one of Sweden’s best-known contemporary artists. Her list of achievements is impressive and includes exhibitions at numerous prestigious institutions in Sweden, Europe and the United States. Today, she is represented by the recognised and respected gallery owner Barbara Gladstone in New York and Brussels.
Cecilia Edefalk achieved her public breakthrough three years after graduating from the Royal University College of Fine Arts (KKH) in Stockholm, Sweden. Her exhibition entitled En annan rörelse (Another movement), which Galleri Sten Eriksson in Stockholm staged in 1990, consisted of seven paintings of various sizes in which the same motif was repeated – a motif she had drawn from an advertisement for suntan oil. Since then, Edefalk has often recycled her motifs and allowed her works to communicate with each other by working in series.
Cecilia Edefalk’s production is supremely fastidious. She makes a conscious effort to work slowly, with a great deal of thought. Actually executing the work is only a small part of the process; what is important is to find balance and immerse herself in the idea. She often works from a photographic base in her painting, and over the years has moved freely between photography, painting, sculpture, film and installation art. In this context, we often encounter communication with great artists from previous eras. Today, Cecilia Edefalk stands proud as a representative of a strong, individual, expressive and distinctive artistic oeuvre.
Cecilia Edefalk made her international breakthrough in 1994 at the Bienal de São Paulo exhibition in Brazil. Since then, she has held exhibitions at a range of prestigious galleries including Kunsthalle Bern, Art Institute in Chicago, Kunsthalle Kiel and Moderna Museet in Stockholm. In New York, Edefalk participated in two projects in 2010: a large separate exhibition at the Barbara Gladstone Gallery, and a Web project at the Dia Art Foundation. Over the past year, Edefalk’s works have been on display in London at the Parasol Unit Foundation for Contemporary Art. The exhibition that introduced Edefalk’s and Gunnel Wåhlstrand’s art to a British audience was positively received by both the public and the critics.
Cecilia Edefalk creates contemporary icons of her time. Her exhibitions and works never fail to capture our interest. They fascinate us, amaze us, force us to react and to become involved. In her paintings, she succeeds not only in conveying her special state of mind, she even manages to communicate it through her art. The painting Untitled (Without), which she created in 1988, was displayed at Edefalk’s debut exhibition at Galleri Thomas Wallner in Malmö that same year. Cecilia Edefalk herself prizes her debut exhibition very highly – it was here that she presented paintings that laid the foundations for her continued progress in the world of art. They were paintings distinguished by deep personal involvement and comprehensive underlying effort.
In the majestically inviting painting Untitled (Without), the captivating woman stands before us. Enticingly clothed in a strapless evening dress, she approaches the viewer in all her splendour. Her gaze is lowered, and a shawl is draped across her shoulders. We are forced to wonder if she is putting it on or taking it off. Here, Cecilia Edefalk succeeds in creating tension in this very ordinary action. The work is imbued with a tranquil, contemplative atmosphere; Edefalk’s peerless skill in communicating a special feeling or state of mind is clear. The painting is distinguished by the silver-tinged grey spectrum, where the colours of
the background, the dress and the shawl merge and mingle. The only element that stand out is the woman’s skin – simplicity. At the same time, it radiates a magnificent grandeur. And the reflection of the light, which falls across the woman’s face and asks us to speculate about her emotional feelings and her thoughts. In an interview by Birgitta Rubin in the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, Edefalk says:
“We North Europeans have a strong relationship with light. I am fascinated by how dramatically different it can be, particularly around midsummer. Most special of all is that weirdly beautiful, silvery light that appears around ten minutes before everything goes dark.”