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Long Reaching Gloves

We last caught up with the Norwegian-born visual artist and Yale School of the Art grad Constance Tenvik in an interview some two years ago as she was then exhibiting in Athens. She is currently presenting a new solo with LOYAL in Stockholm, Long Reaching Gloves, and just arrived in Vienna where she will inhabit an old bread factory with Eva Beresin for the next few months; a stay which will culminate in an upcoming exhibition in what is one of our favourite cities for art. "I am sleeping in a Wiener Werkstatte-style bed and next to it I have a guidebook for Vienna that my mom gave me, diaries for this year, next year and dreams, besides four books by Thomas Bernhard", she says.


Constance Tenvik at LOYAL, Stockholm. Photo: Pierre Björk


C-P: When entering Loyal, the visitor finds herself surrounded by these larger than life figures populating your works. There is colour, there is glitter, and there is dance. During the pandemic you yourself uploaded videos of yourself dancing in your studio on social media. Could you elaborate on the significance of the act of dancing as conveyed in your works? C.T: Painting happens through movement and I always play music while working. Like in music a lot of elements come together finding their place through contrasts. I danced as a child and when I moved to Berlin around 2017 dance came back into my life. I am forever grateful for this. In Long Reaching Gloves you can find people dancing, especially in Dressing Up Before Going Out, Sweet Tooth Dancers and Hush Now. The latest is named after a techno track with the same title by Nene H. Dance is my favourite language. It’s good to have this non verbal way of communicating to oneself and others.


Installation view, Constance Tenvik, Long Reaching Gloves, LOYAL, Stockholm, Nov 13–Dec 18, 2021, Courtesy of LOYAL.

C-P: Looking at the trajectory of your work with portraiture, one can discern at the core the attempt to capture a moment. At the same time, one could note a subtle thematical evolution taking place. How has your work with portraiture evolved? C.T: It started the way a lot of paintings begin, wanting to freeze time. I began with those closest and dearest to me, and always with the same small paper pad. Eventually I expanded formats and I switched up who I would paint. I did lunch sessions at the restaurant Riche in Stockholm one summer. In Berlin I would drag someone from the dance floor to the studio because of their style or vibe or both. In this show you find a mixture of characters from my imagination, some half-invented and some have sat in front of me in the studio. Ceval, Jacqueline, Miro and Karma She who appear in some of the paintings in the show were all painted live. They might look fabulated but they are just fabulous!


Installation view, Constance Tenvik, Long Reaching Gloves, LOYAL, Stockholm, Nov 13–Dec 18, 2021, Courtesy of LOYAL.

C-P: On that same note, how do you approach the term “portraiture”? Is it an apt description or would you say it entails limitations? C.T: I don’t mind art historical categories but we all have our take on things. I paint people for various reasons. I like to be in dialogue, to get to know someone through being concentrated together. Some portraits I make because I want to remember them in that moment, and the sea of iphone photos ends up trashed together with screenshots of google map directions.


I paint people who are in my life and people who I might never see again, but always people that captivate me and that I wish to take into my world. The portrait session also makes for an event in the studio. I am no longer alone. What we snack on and talk about, how we feel, all that energy ends up in the paintings and it's good for the studio walls too. Even when I don't want them to, the portraits also reflect me. They are objects between people, thereby they take on a bit of them and a bit of me. I suppose they could be regarded as mirroring tools. Also when the viewer takes them in. Self portraits can mark a chapter in my life, a mood. The one in the show, Baroque Longing hinted towards the Viennese chapter I am now in the beginning of, half-grim, half-elevated. The tee says Amadeus. Mozart is a big icon for me.


Installation view, Constance Tenvik, Long Reaching Gloves, LOYAL, Stockholm, Nov 13–Dec 18, 2021, Courtesy of LOYAL. C-P: I understand that you are an avid traveller and have more than one place you call home. I also read that the paintings featured in your current show were made in your studios in Berlin, Oslo and Marseille. What would you say that this mobility brings to the works?

C.T: It gives me input and perspectives. I pick up on human behavior, habits, mannerisms, movements. Hopefully the mobility makes me able to take the pulse on our time. I have a broad field of interests, a curious mind and a heart for people. I am a sponge that pours over canvases.

C-P: A theme that pervades your work is the act of dressing up. As a means of expression, it could be perceived as a means of accessing or liberating the self. Yet paradoxically enough also as a transformative act – a form of “staging” of the self if you will. How do reflections around this theme come into play in your works? C.T: In my eyes we are all fluid, with the need of making ourselves feel more solid than we might be. Our cells are constantly shifted out and the world is spinning. Metamorphosis is all around. The extended nails, loose hair, make up, slippery shoes and dancy coats could of course signify all kinds of stuff, but to me they show the carnival of life, gathering qualities and playing out roles. Someone called carnival half real, half play. I like this. It happens in portraits and it happens in social interactions. When you fall in love you fall half for the person in front of you and half for the idea in your head. The real and the imagined go hand in hand.


Installation view, Constance Tenvik, Long Reaching Gloves, LOYAL, Stockholm, Nov 13–Dec 18, 2021, Courtesy of LOYAL. C-P: One can find books and records casually scattered around in your works. I noted in particular a copy of Tim Walker’s Wonderful things on a nightstand in the work Dressing Up Before Going Out. Tell me more about the function of inter-referencing in your works. C.T: Yes, there’s a sweater with Nature Mort, a top saying Paradise Garage, boots with repeated mentions of film director Fellini, an Aphex Twin vinyl, a Siouxsie and the Banshees tee, etc, etc. They are winks to those who pick up on them, but also undercurrents of stories from my life and interests. I make a lot of mind maps. I like to remember details and I sometimes share them. The references are hints of what’s on my mind. They tell stories and they ground the paintings by taking them back into our world.

C-P: Which book is currently on your nightstand? C.T: I just arrived in Vienna to spend the next months painting with Eva Beresin at a gorgeous space belonging to the gallerist Miryam Charim. It used to be a brotfabrik (bread factory). The activity in the space will culminate into an exhibition. I am sleeping in a Wiener Werkstatte-style bed and next to it I have a guidebook for Vienna that my mom gave me, diaries for this year, next year and dreams, besides four books by Thomas Bernhard; Wittgenstein’s Nephew, Old Masters, Woodcutters and The Loser.

C-P: Lastly, what might be in the pipeline for you in 2022? C.T: The double show with Eva Beresin at Charim Galerie (the Brotfabrik one) will be in February, then there’s a solo show in Nice at Hoffmann Maler Wallenberg between September 17 and November 27. Later in the year I am hoping to do some grand things in Los Angeles and Mexico City. Stay tuned!


Corina Wahlin



Constance Tenvik's Long Reaching Gloves is on view at LOYAL through December 18, 2021


www.loyalgallery.com


Constance Tenvik (b. 1990) is a Norwegian artist born in London, based in Oslo and Vienna, working with painting, drawing, sculpture, installation, video, performance, dance and costume. Tenvik holds an MFA from Yale University School of Art in New Haven, and a BFA from the Academy of Art in Oslo. Solo exhibitions include Loyal Gallery (Stockholm), 56 Henry (New York), Astrup Fearnley Museum (Oslo), Kristiansand Kunsthall (Kristiansand) and UKS/ Kunstnernes Hus (Oslo). Group exhibitions include Anat Ebgi (Los Angeles), The Breeder (Athens), Château du Feÿ (Bourgogne), Carl Kostyal (Malmö) and Charlottenborg Kunsthall (Copenhagen).