Gerd Tinglum trained as an artist in Japan and Oslo and at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Hamburg in the 1970s. She is a leading figure in early Norwegian conceptual art.
In 1991 Tinglum exhibited a series called Invisible, extinct and endangered species, featuring thirty portraits of women each partly obscured by a plant. Tinglum had appropriated the portraits directly from biographies and reference books, while the plants – all of which are rare, vulnerable, or extinct species – were taken from tomes on botany. The women depicted are musicians, artists, and poets spanning several centuries of cultural history, including Sofonisba Anguissola, Rosalba Carriera, Corona Schröter, Charlotte Brontë, Katherine Mansfield, Margaret McLachlan, and Vanessa Bell. To add currency to the timeless images, Tinglum also incorporated portraits of herself and her mother. In self-conscious silence they bear witness to the not always recognized efforts of women throughout the ages, and in total they represent what may be called the cultural and intellectual genealogy of feminism. The rare or vulnerable plants that partially conceal the depicted faces allude to the women’s problematic, vulnerable status, their obscurity, and their often tragic fates. The pictures thus serve as a kind of monumental epitaphium over the creative forces that were denied free rein and recognition.
Ever since the 1970s Tinglum has worked on a technique where she veils the primary image in order to highlight the mechanisms of disregard and restriction, a technique she again puts to good effect in this photo series. The plant motif and the portrait, both of which are suggestive in themselves, work in tandem here to highlight an issue that seems to be forever current.
Text: Steinar Gjessing / Randi Godø
From "Highlights. Art from 1945 to the Present", Nasjonalmuseet 2016, ISBN 978-82-8154-116-0