Sofie Thorsen
Whose Sleeves?
1 Jun  – 30 Jun  2017
Whose Sleeves?: Three spatial gestures

Whose Sleeves?, the title of Sofie Thorsen’s exhibition, refers to a pair of Japanese screens with a decorative motif that also represents a kind of screen. The image shows kimonos on a folding clothes stand. The themes of folding and a light partition are thus repeated in the basic structure and decorative motifs of the screens. The architectonic approach that permeates everyday life in Japan is akin to Sofie Thorsen’s artistic thinking. She is not content with just applying elements or structural principles as transparent means, but instead subtly explicates their unique essence to the viewer.

The works displayed by Thorsen are based on three simple and magical spatial elements. She offers her light and airy actions to the viewer on a gold platter, and the viewer is given the opportunity to be enthralled by their ingenuity. The elements are solutions for constructions that the artist strips of their function, presenting them like a child playing with an unknown utensil used by adults, such as a sieve, will show it to other children.

On the one hand, Thorsen employs and attunes to the extreme a thin pole tensed between the floor and the ceiling. Standing in the space without a base of its own, the pole remains, with some exceptions, upright and in place because its length is the same as the height of the room. Structures of poles wedged upright through a room have been applied in exhibition mountings of modern art, because paintings attached to poles in the centre of a room create the impression that they are hovering in space. Space was no doubt in the mind of artist Yves Klein in Milan in 1956, when he mounted his first blue monochromatic paintings on steel tubes stretched between the floor and the ceiling of a gallery instead of on the walls.

On the other hand, Thorsen composes a planar image in which the only recurring element is a chalk line drawn with a carpenter’s line marker. The marker is a line impregnated with pigment and rolled like a tape measure into a case when not in use. When a straight line is to be marked between given points, the chalk line is stretched between the points, then pulled up in the middle with one’s fingers and snapped on the underlying surface. The result is a line that is unpredictable and broken through the spreading of the pigment but absolutely reliable in its geometric alignment. The snapped line marks each part at the same time. A line falling at once from above is of a different character than one that is drawn laterally. Since it is originally made with a snapped puff and not drawn, it will explode open or flow over its edges in the same anarchic way as enlarged lines in photocopies. The particles of the pigment are spread lightly into the surroundings by the force of the snap like unruly make-up powder, wasteful pollen or the toning of the background of a print. When Sofie Thorsen repeats the snap several times with parallel lines, the result is surface of colour composed of live, granular lines.

Thirdly, Thorsen mounts on her poles paper fragments of which one can guess that they are images or remains of them. Thorsen’s streaming flounces are the negatives of cutting. Form is hidden once again when it is wound around the shaft of a pole. The flounces arouse the same enigma as the image of the Japanese screen. The viewer is left guessing what Thorsen’s flounces might look like when spread open. Whose sleeves?

Silja Rantanen


Sofie Thorsen (born 1971 in Aarhus, Denmark) has lived and worked in Vienna since 1999. In recent years, she has held solo exhibitions at venues including the Galerie Krobath in Vienna, Kunstverein Langenhagen, Kunstverein Düsseldorf, Kunsthaus in Graz, Kunsthaus Baselland in Basel and BRG Rechte Kremszelle in Krems. She has participated in joint exhibitions at, among others, the Galerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst in Leipzig, Statens Museum for Kunst in Copenhagen, Kunsthallen Brandts in Odense, the Salzburger Kunstverein, the Kölnischer Kunstverein in Cologne, Kunsthalle Krems, and Kunsthalle Wien in Vienna.