“I am concerned with identity and how paintings can convey something
about a human beings history or nature.   Could one find an essence in a story
or a human being by painting them?”

Charlotte Engelhaart

In this exhibition, Charlotte Engelhaart presents a series of portraits inspired by her own private photo-album.  Both of Engelhaarts parents were orphans. Engelhaarts mother grew up in a childrens home during postwar time, and in her search and longing for relatives, she made her own album with fictive family-pictures from magazines and newspapers.  While exploring the photographic material, Engelhaart also found her grandmothers photoalbum, who died under dramatic circumstances only 28 years old.

Engelhaarts family-history is riddled with missing links and unfamiliar people,  and in the finished exhibition, Engelhaart has chosen to emphasize on the entire family album in general, instead of  portraying specific individuals.

A portraits function has traditionally been to represent. remember or honor the one pictured.  But what happens if we dont know who the people in the picture are? Portraits gives a fascinating glimpse into the hidden story about another person, and has the potential to tell us more about a person than a entire biography.  In addition, portraits opens windows into a specific persons individual characteristics, which in art, is usually the face. Although many portraits are trying to reproduce the model as correctly as possible, every portrait is more or less a conscious interpretation of the personality or role.

In a religious sense, the human being is gods greatest creation,  and thus, the portraite genre been in high esteem through art-history, only outranked by the religious painting.

A photograph is snapped in a fraction of a second, and shows only a single moment of a human life. In Charlotte Engelhaart paintings we see only faces. The are no other referances in them.  It is as though all the moments collapse into one image,  and gives us a timeless look at what makes us all human.

We can also see the context between a constructed photo album  and today’s social media.  Today’s focus on individuals, on the individual’s peculiarity and possibilities, has given portrait art a renewed importance.  Ultimately, it´s all about the search for confirmation and identity.

For us as viewers, the exhibition provides a feeling of wandering inside a photo-album.  The faces and the eyes follow us as we explore, and ask: “Do you see me?”  Most paintings are painted in large formats which creates a monumental presence.  The paint strokes are powerful and expressive, yet put together in such a way that the vulnerability is intact.   The audience does not only experience to perceive, but also, to be perceived themselfes.

Vibeke Lundel
Museologist and curator,
Chairman of Galleri Vanntårnet, Nesodden

Translated by Mikael Andre Larsen