Rhizom 8

Rhizom is a platform created at the art residency Kunstkollektivet 8B, in Unnerud (Denmark). “It is a reference to the horizontal world view of Gilles Deleuze in which time and place emerge through relations and as part of a network. Rhizom points to art as a network of roots that grow from below and outwards in all directions. (...), resulting in exhibition sites that pop up at various locations as opportunities arise in random encounters between visual artists away from home.”

My project within Rhizom, named Rhizom 8, is a series of  illustrations combining paper, textiles and wood. These were created throughout a 3-month residency period and are the result of an interaction with the community living in the small village of Unnerud. The series talks about local tales and stories together with aspects of everyday life.

I took reference from the surrounding folklore, starting with the story of  a village in Ulkerup forest, forced to depart when disease killed all the cattle. Another tale mentioned a giant who threw a stone at a church in the village of Egjeberg, only to miss it and hit the sea instead. One other story mentioned a golden chain buried underground: the more one tried to dig it up, the further it got swallowed by the soil.

Impressions were also taken from visits to historic sites: a Stone Age grave, a windmill whose miller painted the inside with wildlife motifs, Højby church’s dreamy frescoes. And everyday I was observing animals and plants amidst the quietness of fields, sky and sea.

A recurrent figure present in these illustrations is that of a person with very long hair. This character is based on Chiquinho, an old man whom I met in Estremoz, a small town in Portugal, were my mother was raised. He was an extraordinary presence 40 years earlier in that conservative town: he had long blonde hair, blue eyes, was gay and the only male housekeeper around. Despite those aspects, which could have made him an outcast, or maybe because of them, Chiquinho was loved and protected by everyone.

In the textile illustrations, fabrics were used belonging to both my grandmothers, some of them dyed with Danish seaweed and berries: yet another way of connecting and overlapping narratives.

Rhizom 8 is an exercise in merging distinct stories and places and finding their common thread. It is a reflection on the way in which memories, fantasy and reality often get entangled in our thought processes and find multiple combinations and possibilites.

Rhizom 8 was first exhibited at Nykøbing’s library near Unnerud, in Denmark.

1. Sukkertang
Silkscreen monoprint on hand-dyed linen
193 x 39 cm

2. Sukkertang (detail)

3. Golden Chain
Pencil on paper
14,85 x 21 cm 

4. House (inside detail)
Acrylic and collage on wood

5. Ulkerupfolket
Embroidery and collage on paper and fabric 
120 x 350 (installation)

6. Ulkerupfolket (detail)

7. Troldstuerne
Acrylic on wood and papier-mâché; embroidery on hand-dyed cotton
124 cm (diameter)

8. Troldstuerne (detail)

9. Stone-throwing giant
Pencil on paper

10. Tree
Silkscreen prints on hand-dyed cotton
140 x 120 cm (installation)

11. Tree (detail)

All images & designs are copyright © Clara Leitão and may not be reproduced