Time Passes for Virginia Woolf

11.05 – 16.06.2012


”Nothing, it seemed, could survive the flood, the profusion of darkness which, creeping in at keyholes and crevices, stole round window blinds, came into bedrooms, swallowed up here a jug and basin, there a bowl of red and yellow dahlias, there the sharp edges and firm bulk of a chest of drawers. Not only was furniture confounded; there was scarcely anything left of body or mind by which one could say, “This is he” or “This is she.””

Virginia Woolf – ”To the Lighthouse”


The thematic focus of Jesper Christiansen's new series of paintings is Virginia Woolf's novel "To the Lighthouse" from 1927. This is not the first time Christiansen has employed a literary work as the basis for an exhibition; he has previously painted works inspired by the writer Marcel Proust for example.


Woolf's novel is now considered to be a masterpiece of modern literature. The book's main characters are the Ramsay family and their various friends. The action plays out in the Ramsay family’s summer home on the Scottish Isle of Skye, which in the book they visit twice at a ten year interval.


Christiansen's title for the exhibition, "Time Passes" comes from the novel's middle section where the leading role is taken by the house itself. The building takes a somewhat secondary role in the first and final sections of the novel when the family and their guests are staying there, while it is the empty house and the time that passes that forms the primary focus of the book's middle section.


The paintings are therefore free of people, focusing instead on the house and its interior. The house depicted in Christiansen's pictures is a faithful representation of the house in Woolf's novel - which was in fact Woolf’s own family summer house, although in reality it lies in the southern English town of St. Ives in Cornwall.


The pictures are filled with patterns and structures from the interior and the garden. Together the works combine to form vibrant, colourful landscapes. The patterns and colours do, however, lie set against the black foundation which here and there is left untouched. It is precisely this penetration of darkness that forms the common theme of Woolf's novel and Christiansen's paintings. The darkness flows through the rooms, changing them continually. It lies behind the motif at all times and can cause it to disappear, and the black background simultaneously lends the colourful motifs presence and endows the images with a sense of absence.

Photo credits: Jan Søndergaard