Anna Krogh: Grønland
Til trods for den allestedsnærværende kultivering af nutidens landskab har mennesket bevaret fascinationen af naturen som en urkraft med en særlig æstetisk og sanselig tiltrækning. Og kunsten har haft netop landskabet som genstandsfelt, som et projektionslærred for drømme, fantasier og længsler. Søren Rønholt er ingen undtagelse. I sine fotos af monumentale bjergformationer i Vestgrønland lader han sig inspirere af den vildsomme og overvældende natur, hvis uberørthed og autencitet er slående. Og det ses i billederne.
Der er fortilfælde. Særligt Romantikken – med bl.a. norske Peder Balke og tyske Casper David Friedrich – dyrkede forestillingen om det sublime med skildringer af det ubetydelige menneskes ærefrygt for den guddommeligt skabte natur. Senere tog Anselm Adams tråden op og søgte at gribe den storslåede amerikanske natur. Om naturen i dag skulle besidde et link til en verden på den anden side er måske mere diskutabelt, men det er interessant konstant at notere sig at drømmen findes, at forestillingen om noget hinsides eksisterer. Måske er det ikke så vigtigt hvad vi kalder det, guddommeligt, åndeligt, spirituelt, men det er en forestilling der ikke lader sig ignorere: naturen fascinerer, forundrer, overvælder.
Ser man Søren Rønholts grønlandske fotografier tænker man uvilkårligt på kunsthistoriens romantikere. Men Rønholt er ikke nødvendigvis inspireret af sine afdøde kunstnerkollegaer. Snarere er naturen fotografens direkte fascinationskilde. Man vil nok overfladisk set kalde billederne for landskaber: de registrerer lysets skiften i løbet af et døgn. De massive bjergvægge, de dynamiske overflader, den ubevægelige sten står i stærk kontrast til vandet, skyernes transparens, der ophæver bjergenes kontur. Men billederne peger langt ud over det. De er ikke blot registreringer af en æstetisk oplevelse af en natur hinsides denne verden; de er den energi og sensibilitet som naturen har skabt i fotografen. En visualisering af et sanset øjeblik, et monument over menneskets ærefrygt og betagelse af naturens manifestationer.
Anna Krogh, kurator Brandt’s Kunsthal, 2014
Astrid La Cour: The duality between the natural and the unnatural
The duality between the natural and the unnatural, between the authentic and the artificial is an obsolete notion in our late-modern society. Or is it? Just as it is almost impossible for us to see a picture of a Greenland iceberg without thinking about global warming, we can no longer see a classically beautiful body without reflecting on its degree of naturalness. Perhaps the very idea of the natural has a more pivotal position than ever before, because it is easier now to manipulate, or co-create, if you will, and because we human beings influence everything around us – intentionally or not. Not least our own bodies.
Søren Rønholt has spent years travelling through Scandinavia, photographing women and landscapes. He has pointed his lens at majestic mountains and inaccessible, desolate expanses, and he has photographed women naked in their own living rooms.
With technical perfection Søren Rønholt depicts the landscapes with a respectful grandeur. He conjures forth a richness of detail from which an infinite number of hues and tones from the deepest black to the brightest white emerge. In these dramatic photos, weather conditions and the play of shadows in the sceneries make the photos seem like pictures from the dawn of time, before mankind left his mark on anything. In this regard his landscape photographs are positioned between depictions of reality and the myth of the primordial, unspoiled nature.
While the landscapes appear with reminiscences of romantic, enthusiastic drama, the women’s portraits are objective depictions of un-retouched bodies. This points in two different directions within the genres of art photography, while simultaneously establishing a shared story of nature and humans, unfolded between ideal and realism – between myth and reality.
The women in Søren Rønholt’s pictures have wanted to show their bodies. They have signed up for a project that quite simply is about representing the female body, not as an object of desire, but as a figure containing a narrative of a human life. A body that has been loved and hated, a body marked by scars, pregnancies and age. These are bodies telling stories – or perhaps rather hiding stories, because our bodies are concealed when we move about in public spaces.
In Søren Rønholt’s photos we are allowed to stare uninhibitedly at imperfect bodies. You look at them, look at yourself, compare and contemplate. The women have to some extent chosen to look like they do, with tattoos, shaved body parts, and perhaps cosmetic operations. We do not know if they have had physically challenging jobs, if they eat unhealthily, or exercise regularly. Life stories and lifestyle choices help shape our bodies and, not least, our self-perception – and the latter is a key element of Søren Rønholt’s women’s portraits.
All the women have one thing in common, and that is that they, in one way or another, are proud of their bodies – proud of their uniqueness and distinctive character, which have made them want to preserve it photographically. The women have chosen how to pose or have tried not to pose at all. It is, however, the photographer who has selected the final picture for the book, which beckons the question of what happens to the women’s experience of their own bodies when they see the selected photograph. Do they feel representative, average, or specifically chosen?
Søren Rønholt has a background in the fashion business at the same time creatively innovative and cynically manipulative idiom and imagery. Now that he is working exclusively in the indefinable sphere of art, he assumes his place in a different history, too – art history’s ever-changing ideals of beauty. He knows that representations of the ideal body as well as fashion photography’s retouching unavoidably comprise part of our shared history of images, and that we curiously regard the female body through the lens of this collective consciousness.
Søren Rønholt does not embark on a crusade against the deceitfulness of the fashion industry. He merely wishes to portray the bodies that the women themselves want portrayed. Perhaps it is soppy to claim that he wants to display human diversity, but nevertheless his project illustrates that the natural body becomes a vague and indefinite entity when juxtaposed with the hunt for the perfect body. The primary concern here is to be comfortable in your body and your self-perception – an ambiguous space between bodily reality and society’s many ideals of beauty.
It is this ‘being comfortable’ and the communication of individual self-perception that Søren Rønholt manages to bring out in both his female portraits and his more traditional portraits. Through his discrete approach to the models, he directs the focus towards individual lives and personal narratives. His work is characterized by a respectful distance, which allows the individual subject to shape and reveal herself in the here and now of the photograph. This constitutes a humane respect for the individual intimate space and mental self-defence mechanisms. Thus each instance becomes a shared project with equal participation from model and photographer, and thus Søren Rønholt’s portraits are both genuinely real and indisputably staged.
While Søren Rønholt’s photos of the Nordic landscapes point to the natural as something exalted and sublime, the present portraits of individuals emphasize that the notion of naturalness may well be rather more concrete, close, and physical. In this way the notion of naturalness is framed as a field that reaches from reminiscences of romantic longing to a concretely and deeply rooted bodily self-perception.
Astrid La Cour, Curator and Art Critic, 2015