“In her ambitious installation Ocean Loop, Mette Tommerup marries the virtual and the physical, creating an immersive experience that uses the ocean as a springboard for an exploration of the way the mind works in our digital world. Tommerup’s connection to the ocean is an elemental one. As a native of Denmark, she grew up in a small coastal town in a country whose history, back to the Viking days, is entwined with the sea. She now lives in Miami close to Biscayne Bay. Her studio offers a view of the harbor from which she was able to view the devastation wrecked by Hurricane Irma in the fall of 2017 while she was preparing this work.

The ocean would thus seem to be a natural subject for Tommerup. In fact, however, this installation presents something of a departure. Tommerup is better known for piquant and often provocative expressionistic paintings inspired by internet image searches. She initiated this project as part of an effort to literally wash away her old assumptions and approaches to art. Using the ocean both as a grand metaphor and a physical portal, she decided to go back to ground zero and think about what paintings can be.

This led her to a series of experiments that have something of the flavor of postwar avant-garde movements like Gutai, Arte Povera and Conceptual Art. Tommerup attached small oil paintings of the sea to a string and immersed them in the ocean. Some broke free and disappeared. She was able to reel others back in, battered and discolored by salt and water. Tommerup repeated the experiment with squares of raw canvas, and after retrieving them, sewed their water stained remains together. She grew salt crystals on paintings. She treated raw canvas with blue dye and salt water to create a surface that suggests the patterns that dance just below the skin of rippling water.”

Excerpt from the essay Out to Sea by Eleanor Heartney published in the exhibition brochure for Mette Tommerup: Ocean Loop. A widely published art historian, Eleanor Heartney is author of Defending Complexity: Art, Politics and the New World Order (Hard Press Editions, 2006) and a co-author of After the Revolution: Women who Transformed Contemporary Art (Prestel Publishing, 2007), which won the Susan Koppelman Award, among other books.


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