“Eike – “Those that stayed behind”” – 1st prize, 2011

PN_Eike

Torben Åndahl (* 1959)
Denmark
Eike – “Those that stayed behind”
Photography
25 x 39 cm
2009
Collection of the artist

The jury awards the 1st Prize to the Danish artist Torben Åndahl with the following citation:

The portrait is a picture of a woman. There is the picture, there is the woman – and there is the artist who is signing this picture of this woman.
The picture is a black and white photograph. Its motif, the woman, is illuminated in the foreground with razor-sharp clarity. To the sides, the background is dim and somewhat blurred. The woman almost parts the background in the proportions of the golden section. It shows a kitchen with everyday objects. Yet: To the right, several big knives – hard and dangerous – are hanging from the wall. To the left, you see a number of milk cartons, soft and harmless. Behind the woman there is an open door, which is bright too. The illuminated face of the woman is symmetry – cally placed in the contour of the open door and she is connected to it through the (child’s?) drawing posted on the open door, which doubles her own face. The fact that the door is illuminated in contrast to the rest of the background adds a certain meaning. Apart from the motive historical allusions (eg. Hammershøi), the door delineates a way out or away, it becomes something which the woman is connected to in capacity of the illumination. In the dynamics of the picture, the doorway almost becomes exactly that which enables the woman to perform her sensitive approach, this polished confrontation between herself and us. The connection between the woman and the doorway creates a marked axis of depth in the picture.
The woman is a person we do not know. She looks at us, and we look at her. Had she been a Prime Minister or a movie star, we would have connected her to everything that this person represents. However, we do not know her. She is a human being appearing as herself. To us, her expression and her entire appearance are strangely ambiguous. She opens herself to us, she invites us in, and there is something both courageous and forceful about the naked openness she exhibits. Still, at the same time there is an element of powerlessness, despair, which she dares toexhibit, yet which still is and remains her very own. She presents herself to us in her human complexity as a person with a life and a history. A person whose secret we do not know, but which we in capacity of her approach to us sense that we would be able to understand, and which could be our own.
The artist directs this picture of this woman at us. Thus, the picture holds a double approach: That of the woman and that of the artist. The artist signs the complex time of the picture. On one hand, this looks like a scene from everyday life, an ordinary human being in an ordinary kitchen on an ordinary day. A day which could have been any other day, just as it could have been any other woman in any other kitchen. Still, it isn’t: This is not everyday life, this is “a defining moment” (in the words of Cartier-Bresson), a sectional view of time in which precisely this woman approaches us once and for all with exactly this defenseless force, which hits us in a way we will not be able to escape. That defining moment which through this picture is lifted from our mortal time and into an eternity where the everlasting will insistently repeat its “now”.
The woman, the gaze, the artist: Here, the three levels happily intervene and gather into the complex, defiant whole which characterizes true art – when it hits us.

Morten Kyndrup