Aunts and Dolls17 Nov 2023 – 18 Feb 2024
Gammel Holtegaard proudly presents Emily Gernild’s exhibition Aunts and Dolls, the Danish artist’s biggest solo show to date. In Aunts and Dolls Emily Gernild (b. 1985) focusses on how we relate to family stories that get passed on – and the ones that get lost between one generation and the next. Gernild uses the many layers of painting to probe the bleak, ambivalent and disturbing psychological traces lurking beneath the surface. Taking the story of Aunt Inger and Aunt Eva as her starting point, the works in the exhibition explore cross-generational stories, sorrow and sisterhood.
Emily Gernild only has vague memories of the aunts from childhood. What she knows about Inger and Eva’s lot in life is limited to family conversations, family photos and heirlooms. A melancholy universe of marzipan beige, raspberry red, cream and shades of plum presents Emily Gernild’s take on her family past.
Sisters Inger and Eva were born in 1919 and 1921. They grew up in a gentrified villa in Vanløse, where they lived together until their deaths. Their father ran a successful luxury bakery, and the aunts loved it when he brought large cream cakes home from work. Inger and Eva never married. They led an isolated life in the family house, leaving only rarely.
Inger suffered long bouts of bedridden illness during her life and Eva dedicated herself to caring for her sister. As a teenager Inger was considered a rebel and unruly because she went against her evangelical family in refusing to be confirmed. Afraid of growing up, she rejected this rite of passage from childhood to adulthood. In the teenage novels she read she carefully whited out any words referring to gender, age and religion. Inger grew increasingly disturbed, started hearing voices and developing OCD. She had a lobotomy in her thirties. The controversial surgical procedure left her listless, depressed and subdued.
Emily Gernild’s paintings are works of construction, interweaving cream cakes, interiors, floral wallpaper and the scent of Lux soap in open narratives that approach the aunts’ shared life with curiosity, wonder and doubt. A life that played out parallel to the dawn of women’s liberation in Denmark, and prior to the development of modern psychiatry. Gernild also draws on the generational stories passed on in conversation, photo albums, heirlooms and disconnected memories. In doing so she sheds light on some of the lives of women that have been hidden from history.
The exhibition is generously supported by:
Beckett-Fonden and Grosserer L.F. Foghts Fond
Gammel Holtegaards exhibition programme 2023 is supported by:
Augustinus Fonden, the Obel Family Foundation and The Danish Art Foundation