Starting in September 1985 Carin Ellberg has done more than 600 dated self-portraits, sometimes one a day, sometimes one per week, sometimes less often and all resembling one another, a three-quarter profile from the bust upward. Self-portraiture being one of the most important genres in art-history since the Renaissance, it has often been seen as the very appropriation of the identity as artist, the ability to capture an emotional state, to stage one’s image to the world. Ellberg’s portraits, all in the same format, all with the same fixed gaze, leave the viewer with seemingly very little clues to her ego or her personality and have no such ambition. In the era of selfie-culture and the constant curating of the self in the eyes of others, the self-portrait is more than ever a part of our visual culture and self-definition and has lead us to look at earlier work in a new way. A smaller selection of Ellberg’s self-portraits have been exhibited in a touring exhibition in 1994-1995 but the presentation at the gallery will be the largest and most comprehensive to date and include 622 works.
Carin Ellberg, born in 1959 and living and working in Stockholm, is arguably now one of the country’s most influential artists. The point of departure of Ellberg’s work is often waywardly constructed pictorial worlds, and her œuvre is characterized by a unique exploration of not only shapes and ideas, but also of such disparate materials as coffee, silicone, tights, clothes and, more recently, glass. Her process is a flow of ideas and thoughts in an on-going and open-ended transformation. The Selfportrait-series is her only work ever dealing with portraiture, initially conceived as an exercise of self-knowledge and self-presentation rather than as singular artworks.