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Nina Sten-Knudsen: Epilog. 2014. Oil on canvas. Photo: Anders Sune Berg Nina Sten-Knudsen: Epilog. 2014. Oil on canvas. Photo: Anders Sune Berg

januar 23 - may 16, 2016 LOVE, FEAR AND EVIL

With Nina Sten-Knudsen, we embark on an unsettling search for the nature of evil. The 36 pictures in the exhibition form a continuous narrative, skipping between time and place, inner and outer worlds.
©©Where does evil come from? Did it enter the world when Eve let herself be tempted by the snake to eat the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge? Or when man’s ancestors first killed an animal to eat it? The question about the nature and origin of evil has always fascinated man. It is an essential part of man’s self-perception – and a theme Nina Sten-Knudsen (b. 1957) confronts us with in her exhibition ’Love, Fear and Evil’. 
’Love, Fear and Evil’ is a pictorial narrative with a beginning and an end. The 36 works featured in the exhibition are hung in a chronological progression – as if they were a cartoon strip or a film. The captions all consist of fragments of prose or poetry. Pictures and texts combine to complete the narrative. The texts add an extra dimension to the pictures while, conversely, the meaning of the texts is expanded through the pictures. 
Formerly, Nina Sten-Knudsen never used to make sketches. The pictures evolved spontaneously in the direct encounter between the artist and the materials – paint and canvas. But in 2009, after moving to Berlin, Nina Sten-Knudsen woke up one night, her head brimming with ideas for countless pictures and she had to get up and note them down so that she was able to retain them. 
The pictures proved to connect into one great narrative about evil, fear, grief, pain, and crimes of the past: about the crimes perpetrated by colonial powers in Africa. Nazi-crimes. Exploitation of child workers. Life as a heroin junkie, and about the search for an answer explaining where evil comes from. But also a narrative about the possibility of transformation and redemption!
As viewers, we are whirled into the story and captured by it. This is because of the narrative structure of both texts and images. But also because the story is related to us by a first-person narrator with whom we can identify. At the same time, it is difficult to distinguish between reality and narrative. We are constantly forced to ask whether what we are witnessing has actually happened, or whether it is fictional. 
Nina Sten-Knudsen has always insisted that she wanted to address stories about man’s basic conditions of life in her works. She has always worked figuratively and each individual painting has always offered several image layers and narratives. But in ’Love, Fear and Evil’, the narrative assumes a new form and dimension. In the chronology of the pictures, she ties up countless situations, memories, conditions, and happenings from past and present into one huge narrative – a modern myth sourced from e.g. folk tales, visual art, mythology, popular songs, and Hollywood films. 
The pictures exist in all sizes and formats – from miniatures to ‘monumentals’. And the exhibition is not limited to paintings. The tale is also told by means of drawings, dioramas, photographs, and videos. A central element in the exhibition is the monumental wall installation ’Slottet’ (The Castle), consisting of numerous pictures and objects summarising the entire process – like a mediaeval altar piece. 
As a preamble to the show, small reproduction of works from the exhibition ’Love and Fear’ – a precursor of ’Love, Fear and Evil’.
Nina Sten-Knudsen graduated from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in 1982. That same year, she took part in the seminal exhibition ’Kniven på hovedet’ (The Knife on the Head) at Tranegården in Gentofte, Copenhagen, which marked the introduction of Wild Youth painting to Denmark. In contrast to her colleagues, she did not focus on the collapse of values. Instead, she used the grand narratives of man along with her ideals Leonardo, Vermeer, Turner, and many others as her point of departure. 
’Love, Fear and Evil’ is produced by Horsens Kunstmuseum where it showed earlier. A catalogue has been published to accompany the exhibition with reproductions of all the pictures featured. The exhibition enjoys generous support from Insero Horsens, the Danish Arts Foundation, L.F. Foghts Fond, and 15. Juni Fonden.