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The National Gallery of Denmark opens exhibition of recently donated works by Ragna Braase
Ragna Braase, Africana’s House, 1981. Photo: Esbjerg Kunstmuseum/Torben E. Meyer.

COPENHAGEN.- Last year, SMK (The National Gallery of Denmark) received a major donation of works by Danish artist Ragna Braase. On 12 February 2020, the museum opened its first-ever exhibition of Braase’s art, presenting a selection of her architectural, oriental and cosmic dream visions in the exhibition Textile, graphics, sandal.

Forms, colours and materials. Danish artist Ragna Braase (1929–2013) occupied the field where art, architecture, crafts and design intersect. She created abstract, tactile works as well as figurative paintings and used simplified geometric shapes in graphic arts and weaving.

Braase was an artist’s artist, known and respected among her peers, but like so many other women artists of her time she never achieved wider recognition. In recent years, however, her works have resurfaced and taken on renewed topicality at several artist- curated exhibitions at Sorø Kunstmuseum, Esbjerg Art Museum and Kastrupgårdsamlingen. Still, she remains a relatively unknown figure.

Now, SMK (The National Gallery of Denmark) seeks to remedy that situation. The museum is presenting an extensive solo exhibition of Ragna Braase’s works, comprising painting, graphic arts and textiles. All the works featured in the exhibition were donated by Ragna Braase’s son, Martin Braase, and form part of the total of 54 works he generously donated to SMK in 2019.

Everyday materials
Ragna Braase trained at the academies of fine arts in Paris (1952–53) and Copenhagen (1954-57). In 1968 she moved to the French village of Marcoussis, located 25 km south of Paris, with her husband, artist Ib Braase, and their two children. Here they built their own house out of simple materials, setting up a workshop on the lower floor and their private home on the upper floor. In Paris, they became friends with the slightly older artist couple Ernest Mancoba and Sonja Ferlov Mancoba, whose sculptures SMK presented in a large exhibition last year.

In her artistic practice, Ragna Braase was keenly interested in experimenting, working intuitively and individually. She used the everyday things and materials she had at hand – such as a pair of sandals that she weaved into a work – and if she didn’t have what she needed, she would make it herself.

One of the highlights of her career is her architectural, tactile works which take the form of large tents and columns; examples include Africana’s House, 1981, and Columns of Uruk, circa 1985. The pieces are made out of fabric in coarse and brightly coloured patterns that Ragna Braase weaved using home-spun yarns on a home-made loom.

Dream visions
Ragna Braase’s Bedouin-like tents and Oriental columns evoke clear associations to the Middle East and nomadic peoples. So do her many paintings, where tents, camels, desert landscapes and figures clad in flowing robes are common motifs.

Braase was deeply fascinated by the Middle East, and such oriental inspirations followed her throughout most of her career. This despite the fact that she had never personally come any closer to the nomads than when she visited Turkey on a study trip as a young student.

Even when, in later years, she could afford to travel, she did not. The Middle East remained a fantasy for Ragna Braase, and right up until her death she continued to build, paint and weave her oriental, vividly coloured dream visions.

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