Gustav Elgin

Constance Tenvik

‘No one really dreams any longer of the Blue Flower. No longer does the dream reveal a blue horizon. The dream has become a shortcut to banality.’*

Behind Walter Benjamin’s melancholic dirge hides an optimism. For while consumer society has drained the dream of symbols, its new won kitschiness is what allows us to perceive the world at its most timeworn and raw.

Constance Tenvik’s reveries begin with the threadbare threshold of her nightstand, accommodating the sometimes odd bunch left at the door before drifting off: pen and paper, letters, books, pottery and jewelry. Objects of importance mingling with the dull, for like the dream, the nightstand habitually lends importance to the banal and banality to the important. The worlds of Tenvik’s paintings are in constant flux: flowing lines and coiling shapes, eccentric colors and characters blurring the line between masculine and feminine. It is a similar nature that has earned dream comparisons to the ruinous paradise of Arcadia, both landscapes in perpetual production and decay.

Whereas classical Arcadia is a vision of pastoralism in harmony with nature, Tenvik’s dreams are one of people in harmony with modern society: party guests chattering away in the sumptuous hall of a hotel lobby; the artist’s father, her grandfather and the businessman Jon Fredriksen merrily sipping champagne; portraits of men and women proudly brandishing their identity. But as with the arcadian landscape, something lurks under the glitzy surface of Tenvik’s dreamscapes. Look closely, and you’ll spot the man carrying a severed head through the hotel lobby. And on second glance, don’t the men seem inexplicably large, their eyes uncannily wide? Even the portraits harbor a promise that something strange is tucked away behind their respective red and blue velvet backdrops.

* Dream Kitsch, 1925, Walter Benjamin.