press release

The Peter Kilchmann Gallery is pleased to announce the first solo show by the Swedish artist Hanna Liden (*1976, Stockholm. Lives and works in New York). On display are coloured photographs made in the years 2004 - 2006. She is currently featured in the Whitney Biennial (NY) (until 28th May, 2006).

The photographs of Hanna Liden show mostly large sized landscapes, which are frequently populated by disguised persons wearing casual clothes. The photographs were taken during a two-year period in Sweden, Texas, and New York. The artist uses references as different as the places the photographs were taken: there are influences of American horror movies, the Gothic and Heavy Metal scene mingle together with quotations from movies by Ingmar Bergman, or the themes and leitmotifs of Romanticism, as well as with the iconography of death. Based on this cultural, visual archive, Liden develops a visual cosmos of her own, which appears to be an ethnographic inventory of a society whose motivations and rituals we obviously do not know.

An oversized wooden cross, consisting of a Latin passion cross and a St. Andrews cross, is placed in the middle of a snow covered reed landscape, Bird Totem, 2006. The wooden construction is draped with black cloth and the mask of a bird. The footprints in the snow are the only sign of human presence. Swamp Walkers II, 2005, on the other hand, shows two persons walking through a swamp towards the viewer. They are wearing black T-Shirts, masks and are holding burning torches. The landscape is characterised by high tree stumps rising from the water. Liden’s pictures evoke post-apocalyptic scenarios from Science Fiction novels or Hollywood movies, where survivors of the post-modern society re-organise themselves into tribes.

The artist usually takes her photographs during the day without any additional sources of lighting, so that the pictures look very expanse. The landscape seems to function as a stage or movie setting. Due to the composition and stylistic manner, the photographs remind us of paintings from the Romanticism, like the large sized landscapes of Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840). Friedrich's melancholy and symbolic compositions were singular expressions of the significance of landscape. Though, the landscapes in Lidens’ work, only appear to be pure and unaffected at first glance, there are actually various indications of civilization. In Unicorn, 2004, you can see a road section between the pine trees and road markers on the rocks. Hairface Highway, 2005, on the other hand, names precisely the symbol of industrialized society, but vehicles are not to be seen. In relation to the main character, nature seems to dominate. People and objects are often photographed from some distance and it seems as if they were partly embedded into the landscape: the landscape functions as a disguise.

Hairface (Self Portrait), 2006, is a close up of a human face with dangled long hair. The portrait reminds us of the beast in the TV show "Beauty and The Beast" (1987, with Linda Hamilton), where a secret utopian community of social outcasts are living in the underworld of New York City. By putting the word Self Portrait in parentheses, however, the focus lays on the aspect of the production of the image itself. It is obviously a masquerade. Hanna Liden mixes props, relicts of primitive tribes such as totem, torches, animal sacrifices or masks with urban symbols of contemporary life-style: her protagonists wear jeans and T-Shirts and seem to be irritatingly casual. The seemingly spontaneous and casual gesture of the photographs, her use of strongly coded symbols in combination with home-made and store-bought props, is probably the reason why Liden’s work is so mysterious and contemporary at the same time. For example, when we see a child hiding her face by holding a mask in front of her, and we don’t know whether we are taking part in a children’s play or some unknown ritual, Untitled (Child), 2005. The question then arises: who is hiding from whom?


Hanna Liden
Beyond The End