(Exhibition text, September 2017)
Blaa Gallery is pleased to present The Bath - a solo exhibition of new works by by Ene Bissenbakker.
The Bath consists of a new series of large abstract gouache paintings together with a number of ink drawings. The exhibition is based around a study of Sjællandsgade Bad, the historic public bathhouse located less than a Kilometre from Blaa Gallery in the heart of Nørrebro. But rather than being a precise representation of motives from the bathhouse, The Bath explores the abstract and sensitive experience of the rooms.
Sjællandsgade Bad has served as bathhouse for residents of Nørrebro in Copenhagen since 1917, when most citizens did not have access to a proper bath at home. In 2010, Sjællandsgade Bad was the last public bathhouse to close down in Copenhagen. Since almost all apartments in the city have been sanitized, public baths have become superfluous. Or have they? A group of volunteers has successfully saved Sjællandsgade Bad from extinction because they recognized that public bathing serves a different purpose also: this is the place you come to let down your guard, to show your naked self, to be one with people you under other circumstances never would have encountered. Bissenbakker recognizes the place as meeting point for the socially awkward, a place where the anxious are draped in a curtain of respectful peace.
Bissenbakker is the silent observer, lost in a world of overgrown detail. Scenes from the bathhouse are dealt with in a sensible manner, carefully studied and mediated through fragile paper. Images of people are jotted on scraps of paper, their outlines trembling, never in direct contact with the observer. There is a schismatic drama being played out in this secret gaze - an almost longing to touch the bodies, yet simultaneously wanting to emerge into the corners of the bathhouse. It seems as if the silence in the large paintings are at stake when you examine them up close and find little cracks and errors in the layers of paint or imperfections in the paper.
As such, the works perform a balancing act between the need for human interactions and the ambivalence of dealing with exactly that. The simplicity of being naked and the struggle of being human.
Sjællandsgade Bad is now run entirely by volunteers and serves as a bath as well as a place for cultural activities. The Bath is also a greeting to the group of people, who keep Sjællandsgade Bad open, recognizing the need for little pockets of air for the socially challenged citizens of Copenhagen.
Ene Bissenbakker (1982) is a visual artist working primarily on paper, though also in the field of video and writing. She has exhibited in Copenhagen (including The Spring Exhibition at Charlottenborg), Berlin and Barcelona and is currently represented by Slowroom Contemporary and Galleri Stokkebro. She is educated in Anthropology and Visual Culture and often crosses over to this background in her artworks. The Bath is her first solo exhibition at Blaa Gallery.