Bonfires of Internal Affairs – Essence (2016)
160 x 120 cms
Linen warp, wool, cotton, linen and synthetics
Danish born Anne-Marie Nygaard Eilertsen is now based in Southern Spain where she weaves her epic tapestries. She has covered many themes over the years yet symbols and stories have always been key to her work. She describes her art as having a serious aspect that touches the viewer and the longer people look at them, the more will be revealed.
What is your background in textiles?
I am self taught and have been weaving tapestries since 1977. I am educated as a teacher in textiles, but not specialising tapestry. I’ve just worked my way into tapestry.
Why did you choose to specialise in tapestry weaving?
I have loved working with yarn since childhood. At the beginning it was mostly knitting and crocheting. But I have “been around” many different techniques – from hand spinning (all sorts of fibers – dog- and human hair, yak, linen, camel, silk, hemp, cotton etc.) to tatting, macramé, sprang, old-style lacemaking. I have always been fascinated by the fact that one thin thread can become into something solid – and even a picture. In my childhood home, there was a lot of picture-making. I think that combination of interests might have just have “hit” me. I love the process of turning yarn into pictures. It is a very delicate, sensual process.
Where are you based and where do you weave?
Since 2009 I have been living in southern Spain – in the mountains, surrounded by wild nature. My house is a very old stone house with a lot of soul. I have my studio at the top floor of the house. The nature surrounding me and this soul of the old house is very inspiring. My tapestry loom is a big wooden one, which my husband made for me many years ago.
How do you describe your work?
I want my work to be beautiful, but a bit scary or at least serious. The pictures must not leave the viewer untouched. Many people have a hard time coping with that – but I think it’s important to be brave in your life: too see what there is to see. Even if it is terrifying. Closing your eyes to the truth comes at a big price.
It is also important to me that you can keep on finding new aspects in my pictures. Keep on looking – some things, stories and symbols are hidden very well.
You seem to do a few tapestries on a theme. How do you decide your theme?
In fact, I don’t decide on a theme – the themes attack me! At least this is how it feels.
I have been through many themes: in the beginning – surrealism with focus on human interaction. Then a long period of naturalism, where I focused on the balance between nature and culture. Fascination of the human body, all its layers and secrets took over. For some strange reason, I then became totally hooked on sumo-wrestlers´s bodies and “dance” – their bodies being contrasts in so many ways. For this theme, I invented “calligraphy of movement”, a way to catch the elegance and lightness (yes, even though they weigh 200 kilos!) of the wrestlers. I then had a period, where I described the dance of the corrida.
This was followed by “El lobo interior”, the inner wolf, where I began to close-in on fragile matters, going on inside of my head and body. In the series “Bonfires of Internal Affairs” I am taking the step in full: I am addressing and revealing some of the most private matters of my life. I am using the wolf a lot as a symbol because of it’s positive, strong and “clean” significance.
These last two themes are not random, they are the expressions of a very conscious choice. Be brave – or at least try to be brave!
How do you work?
Nowadays the preliminary part of the work goes on only in my head. There are a huge number of symbols, words, stories, discussions, layers in my pictures. I find a form – in my mind – of expressing this during the start-up of a new tapestry. Then I am sketching, studying all the elements of which the picture will consist. Afterwards – or meanwhile – I am doing a large sketch, one part of the picture at a time. The course of the lines in the picture is very important to me – it has to flow, infinitely. It involves a lot of gazing, thinking, evaluating and re-doing. When things seem to fall in place, I copy this sketch into the “cartoon”. I colour-code this cartoon and put it behind the warp of the loom. The colours are all in my head. Before weaving, I blend the colours of yarn into “butterflies”, to be able to get the right hue, the exact world of colours that I want. The butterflies are compositions of different yarns – from around 6 up to 20. The yarns are very thin so a composition with several colours makes it possible for me to work with sliding transitions of colours. From soft to hard contrasts.
How long does a large tapestry take from start to finish?
Working with the idea, the pre-sketches, completing the sketches and making the “cartoon” takes from a couple of months to six. The size that I am currently weaving (1,6 m x 1,2 m) takes about half a year to finish. Of course, it also depends on how complicated the tapestry is. But it is a pretty long process. What makes it even harder is that I am only able to see about 40 cm of the tapestry at the time.
Where do you find inspiration?
Nature, for one, inspires me. Nature is the supreme best designer in the world – from rocks to landscapes, flowers, animals and humans. From micro cosmos to macro cosmos. From gentle and soft to raw and terrifying. Nature has it all!
But the inner landscapes of the mind also, and to an increasing degree, inspire me. What we do to each other and who we are, how we react and think – both in ways of cognition and in our pure, deep neurobiology.
I have been concentrating on general human issues, but during the last years I have put more and more focus on my own private challenges. I am digging into very sensitive matters, this of course being a very vulnerable, but purifying process.
What is your proudest career moment so far?
Well, I would definitely say the moment, when my mother had been at my studio and seen “El lobo interior”, she came out – just a bit wet-eyed – and said:” I am the mother of an artist!” That really was a big moment.
Another warm memory is when my tapestry was selected the “best of works” among 800 others at “Flygelet” in Kokkendal, Denmark.
What advice can you give to aspiring textile artists?
Just go for it. Look at what others are doing, but do be sure to create your own style and contents – or else art doesn’t matter at all.
Is there anything you would like to add?
During the last years I have actively chosen not to make exhibitions. Knowing that I am going to exhibit my works means, that I automatically am censoring myself in my way of expression. And I don´t want that. To me making pictures is a very intimate, fragile process. The years of no exhibitions/ promotion have meant very much to me and my process, honesty and integrity.