Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, USA (exchange)
About Bodil Frendberg
In the beginning there was the prop. A fan. A top hat. A sunflower. The pent-up horn of a gramophone player, baritone strains begging to be audible again. Discarded objects, stubbornly guarding the memory of those who once held them dear. Forms frozen in time, holding out for something beyond the evasiveness of life. Red shoes. Stuffed birds. Sedentary paper cones. Props made or found that under Bodil Frendberg’s discerning eye are not only brought to life, but become central to a poetics of metamorphosis. A poetics made complete, and immortalised, through her textured and highly personalized approach to the process of photography.
Freeing them from their intended functions and from oblivion in second-hand shops or skips, Frendberg brings her props into settings created specifically for each piece, often in unexpected connections with the human figure. The play with light and shadow features strongly in the settings, in the search for an in-between space, that twilight zone rippling with the potential for release, for the taking on of new forms.
Chosen with no less care than her props, the people photographed by Frendberg are more important for their ability to convey a sense of the transitory nature of life, than their assertion of fixed readable identities. At a time when obsession with the body runs high, from object of political control to status symbol, the physical attributes of the body in Frendberg's work take second place to gestures, expressions or postures which subtley convey both the fragility of the self and the determination of the human spirit. Solitary figures emerge from the shadows or boldly intersect the light, always partially concealed but gaining presence and strength through the objects and settings with which they bizarrely interact.
There is in Metamorphic[s] an element of the carnival, of a search for something beyond the level of the conscious, where the spirit is released from the drudgery of social conformity to be temporarily rehoused in a series of imaginary configurations. A goose-headed figure clothed all in white. A fallen cone in a disused warehouse. Movement in the muslin curtains, as if ruffled by the spirit moving on. The silhouette of a figure transfixed by white light. Half smiling eyes face to face with a suspended sunflower’s head. Together the images build up a narrative of the spirit’s passage, coming and going at will, as in Ovid’s Metamorphosis, never dying, always alive and passing on to new and unexpected forms.
Frendberg's intricate control of her imagery, of atmospheres capable of housing such a passage, is as much due to her sensitive direction of the people, props and settings she works with as it is to her control of the photographic medium. Using fine art photographic papers and alternative printing techniques, Frendberg will often rework the surface of the final prints at a later stage, extending the process of transformation to the object of the photograph itself. Freed from its indexical being-there-ness, the photograph becomes a rich and seductive medium calling us to linger a while among the parallel realities she creates. Linger then among the pages of Bodil Frendberg’s Metamorphic[s ]and be inspired, if not transformed, as I have had the honour to be.
Text by Anne Burke.
Selected solo exhibitions;
Photogravure, Bladhaska Gallery, Skara, Sweden.
Metamorphic[s], The Northern Photographic Centre, Oulu, Finland.
Flight, Yorkshire Artspace, Persistence works, Sheffield, UK.
Portraits, Bildhuset, Stockholm, Sweden.
Selected group exhibitions;
Grafik Triennal XIV, Konstakademin, Stockholm, Landskrona Museum, Falkenbergs
Museum, Kulturenshus Luleå, Sundsvall Museum, Sweden.
NSA PRINT! The Exchange Gallery, Penzance, Cornwall, UK.
A4 Printmakers, The Open Space Galleries, Penryn, UK.
7th RWA Open Print Exhibition, The Royal West of England Academy, Bristol, UK.
Dis/Connected, South Hill Park, Bracknell Berkshire, UK.
The Photographers Showcase, Online Gallery, Photoeye, Santa FE, USA.
Winterwonderland, Photograph Forum International, Frankfurt, Germany.
Roots, Falmouth Arts Centre, Falmouth, UK.
Curwen Gallery, London, UK.
Selected prizes include;
British Institute of Photography, Professional examination award, UK.
Kentmere, photographic competition, UK.