In Constance Tenvik’s Mesmerizing Paintings, Dance and Fashion Are Avenues for Self-Discovery
“I used to dive into fictional characters to find my figures, but at some point, I found people in my surroundings to be as interesting,” said multidisciplinary artist Constance Tenvik in a recent interview with Artsy. “I have my universe going and some people feel like they could have crawled out of my world.”
For her 2017 solo show at Loyal in Stockholm, titled “Gesamtkunst With Myself,” Tenvik staged her own version of the dramatic 12th-century love story of Tristan and Isolde. And in 2019, at the Astrup Fearnley Museum in Oslo, she created an installation of a bedroom—complete with wallpaper, sculptures, drawings, and a rack of clothing by the artist—that referenced French writer Xavier de Maistre’s 1794 novel Voyage Autour de Ma Chambre. While Tenvik’s current solo exhibition at Loyal is a departure from her usual predilection for historic references, she continues to shape the world in her own unique, whimsical image to create, as she puts it, “worlds within worlds.”
Tenvik’s dazzling suite of 12 paintings in “Long Reaching Gloves,” on view until December 18th, capture people dancing in nightclubs and dripping in high fashion. Each of the works—mostly group portraits, with a couple of exceptions—feature strangers Tenvik met in cities across Europe, subjects she sketched during the lunchtime rush at a restaurant in Stockholm or dragged from a dance floor in Berlin. Included are also friends whose portraits Tenvik painted live in her studio, while others are inventions of Tenvik’s wild imagination. “I paint people who are in my life and people who I might never see again, but always people that captivate me and that I wish to take into my world,” Tenvik said.
The swirl of lively energy felt in Tenvik’s work reflects the artist’s enduring passion for dance, reignited when she moved to Berlin at age 27. “I would find joy, healing, and expression on the dance floor,” Tenvik said. “Dancing is my favorite language.” Tenvik finds inspiration in everything from voguing to the choreography of Bob Fosse, and often posts videos on Instagram of herself dancing in her studio (found under #consdance123).
Her paintings evoke the possibility of self-actualization not only through metamorphosing moves, but also bold fashion. “Both dancing and dressing up [are about] making a stronger connection to oneself and others,” Tenvik said. “Moves and style uplift me.” In La Vie En Rose – Make A Wish (2021), for example, among the fanciful figures dressed in 1970s-style outfits is a woman wearing a dark slinky dress with long, elegant white gloves and touting a black handbag with the words “Gucci Orgasmique” emblazoned on it. Spilling out from her paintings and into real life at the opening reception for “Long Reaching Gloves,” the artist wore one of the embroidered looks from her January 2020 collaboration with designer Mads Dinesen.
Tenvik’s work is a celebration of dressing up and going out as a way of honoring the subconscious and hidden parts of ourselves that we may not fully acknowledge or understand. Humorous, flamboyant, and weirdly wonderful, her large-scale, mixed-media works are fundamentally about bodies in flux, and take the viewer on a voyage of self-discovery.
Thumbnail image: Constance Tenvik, “La Parisienne,” 2021. Courtesy of Loyal.