Hilde told me that the images she used for the show are taken from 90’s Japanese knitting magazines. Knitting magazines seem like the perfect feminine non threatening pass-time, conveniently removed from worldly issues such as politics and economy, however one gets a sense from the works in this show that there may be more happening below the surface than is immediately visible. It seems like Hilde, by working with aspects of the apparently flat and harmless universe that these magazines produce, has highlighted how they can be seen to reference and at the same time obscure the depths of female reproduction and power.
While being associated with qualities traditionally described as feminine, such as gentleness and care, knitting and patchwork require a degree of structural planning that is perhaps more often associated with traditionally male fields like engineering. Yielding materials such as fabric and thread are treated in a systematic fashion, and while endless variations of pattern can be generated there are also rules that need to be adhered to. Traditionally the knowledge of these crafts is passed down between generations. A parallel could be made to other things that are passed down generationally such as psychic abilities, home remedies, depression, trauma, shame and guilt.
I find the cut out faces sown to the fabric bodies reminiscent of icon paintings of virgin Mary, particularly in the wall works where there is a larger figure and one or two smaller ones that are held or float angelically. Interestingly the larger figures look the same age as the smaller ones, and both have similarly dejected and pouty facial expressions, size being the only sign of relative maturity. There seems to be a lot of emphasis on draping and fabric in these works and one can’t help to think about what is underneath the wooly jumpers and robes. However in the works where the body is revealed it turns out to be mysteriously flat and sexless, as if complications and messiness of bodily existence have been erased. The faces of the women are similarly simplified, being literally flat images. Their facial expressions also seem flat and vacant, as if they aren’t the expression of feelings of the individual woman but rather a fleeting embodiment of widely circulated tropes of feminine posture. The women, like butterflies, are caught and immortalised, pinned down or photographed in their short-lived prime. We seem to be dealing with a surface, a fantasy of a simplified and ideal woman where more gruesome aspects of femininity and especially motherhood are obscured. Being faced with the fragility and instability of this surface makes the presence of deeper existential truths and forces more intensely felt.
Similarly to the sadness expressed in some of the women’s faces, the worn off paint and other signs of distress on the beds and in the miniature interiors seems stylised. The passing of time is retained in the gentle deterioration of the surface patina, making it appear less threatening and even desirable. I can’t help associating the abundance of beds and cots with a hospital or orphanage, the term ‘baby boomers’ comes to mind. I imagine all these cots and dolls materialising out of a dust cloud after a war, the dolls being either literally orphaned or partially parentless in the sense that large parts of their parents’ minds were wiped out by the intensity of trauma they experienced.
Looking at the titles of the works as well as the notes attached to the butterflies in the vitrines one is struck with a flurry of names; Angie, Amiral, Nymphalidale, Haruna, Satyridae, Dolores, Gordana, Pamela. Naming seems like an exercise in trying to capture the essence of something, to vocalise its singular quality. There is a feeling of abundance, women and butterflies will keep appearing and life goes on.