Rachel Boyd looks into the work of recent GSA graduate Christel Fruehoj.
Our lives are all punctuated by 'phases' - changes in thought and perception which spark transition. These transitions can be sparked by our age, our environment, but so often, they are marked by the people who have influenced us most. For me, Christel Fruehoj was one of those people.
A recent graduate of Glasgow School of Art’s Fine Art Photography department, she remains unfalteringly open, and as free-spirited as my memory last left her. Glasgow is a mere footnote is a whole volume of chapters; first of them, going to from her native Denmark to Brazil at eighteen, to live and work independently. It was from these experiences that she produced her first book of photographs, Lebenslauf (German for, ‘The Running Life’).
“My father had his own tourism company. He pushed me out into the world...He has been my biggest influence in terms of encouraging me to be a risk-taker; you have to get yourself in deep water sometimes, just to see if you can swim. It’s those kinds of situations that really test you as a person, and the same applies to my work. Everything is inspiration from famous artists to fellow students to the stranger you meet for moment on the street, not only research which artschools have a tendency to over teach which can stop the creative process because It’s all been done before, but it’s not been done by you; or in the way you want to do it. For me, that’s what’s important. The same goes with The Melting Diamond [currently on show at the mound, The Scottish National Galleries, Edinburgh, as part of the RSA New Contemporaries 2015]."
"I’ve done projection before; but not in this scale, and I found the diamond shape interesting, and how images could be contained within the diamond through projection. I’ve featured clips of previous work, the eyes – always watching, from every angle; this nice advert where a pelican stretches it wings, and it flies across the screen in panoramic. I’ve gathered these clips together on instinct; it feels like they belong. Perhaps, in a way, I like the politics of bringing human characteristics to artworks but I also like how projecting onto sculpture can change the way you see the image. It’s more of a case of bringing attention to something that I find particularly beautiful – like the pelican. I’m trying to get the viewer to appreciate it for what it is; a great visual. The Diamond’s melting – maybe, subconsciously, that’s something to do with the fire; things degrading.”
Fruehoj’s initial degree show work was one of many shows to be completely destroyed in the Macintosh Fire in May 2014. Her consequent degree show, Things I lost in the fire (2013), deals more with the frailties of social networking (and that of the creative temperament) than with the subject of fire itself. After completely abandoning her previous degree show – “that work was for that space, and I felt it wasn’t meant to continue beyond it” – she showcased a series of interpersonal experiments – spanning sculpture, installation, and film;
“I see creating art like a two-sided mirror – you can reflect your views and preferences out into the world, but society always has something to reflect back. Its give and take...it’s up to the audience if they like what they see, or how exactly they interpret my work. It’s those different interpretations that encourage me to see things differently.”
Like The Melting Diamond, Fruehoj’s art is often multi-faceted. A short film, titled ‘Catatonic Actuality’ seems to summarize her practice; Stoic, and yet deeply affected – sometimes, afflicted is a better term – by her own insular, private self. These are things she doesn’t share, or pander to.
“I’m quite a good builder, and used to making things, I hadn’t considered how difficult a material like Perspex could be to work with, given how precise the shape. I broke down a few times whilst making it; in the beginning, it just kept cracking. Now, I’m just glad it’s out there, its standing, finished and people can see it. A friend and I were discussing how I felt. She said I must be suffering ‘institutional fatigue’. That’s a great word."
‘Catatonic Actuality’plays in split-screen, inviting the viewer to consider two sets of visuals. One, considering the ‘quiet chaos’ of an immediate space – the twitches of a dreaming cat, the rhythmic click of typing on a keyboard; the abstract movements of a waking lunatic. The other, recordings from people with schizophrenia, vocalizing the idea of trauma as the film boils to climax.
‘Anthropomorphic belief’ and ‘Blue’ deal with the idea of submergence. Soundtracked by gentle trickles of water, as underwater faces and figures eerily dissipate in and out of view. In ‘Anthropomorphic Belief’, the only comparison to being underwater is a tunnel; where the camera is held at height and with great unease as we tread further into a contained environment. In ‘Blue’ the water is deemed poetic; conceptualizing a meditative state in which fluid, like memory, can bring release from the confines of body and soul.
‘Blue’ was filmed in New Mexico, where Fruehoj took 6 month’s study in Filmmaking; citing video and technology as the main materials in which she would continue her craft. ‘Nothing’, another product of her American habitat, also vacates entirely from the ‘hand-made’ quality of her pre-graduate videos – melodramatic and voyeuristic, the viewer quietly observes the sleeping artist as a foreign voice announces: “Nothing...is everything.”
Christel Fruehoj’s artist is an eternal student; she could never be catagorized:
“We have a saying in Denmark; a stance is made until a new stance is taken.”
To find out more about Christel visit: www.fruehoj.com
Article by Rachel Boyd