Anne-Birthe Hove

Artist Spotlight: Works in the Nuuk Art Museum Collection document an iconic mountain and the relationships between humans and the landscape it represents. 

Land Climate Creating
A photo-lithographic print in red tones in the centre of a piece of cream paper shows the snow-capped mountain Sermitsiaq. The foreground of the image is blurred, while the mountain itself is in focus.

Nuuk Art Museum’s collection includes 14 lithographs of Mount Sermitsiaq by Anne-Birthe Hove (1951–2012). They are from the year of 2000 and were part of the decoration of the former Hotel Nuuk, owned by Svend Junge. The hotel’s decor included additionally three large copper plates called Night Ravens (which are now part of Nuuk Art Museum’s collection too), a large surface of sandblasted glass (which, as far as we know, no longer exists), and ornaments of copper embracing the columns in the entrance hall of the former hotel, then a lobby and bar. While Hotel Nuuk has now been converted into student housing, the copper ornaments are still to be found there. As a whole, these pieces of art turned into a sort of installation, which segmented and completed the space, endowing it with a particular atmosphere.

A photo-lithographic print in red tones in the centre of a piece of cream paper shows the snow-capped mountain Sermitsiaq. The foreground of the image is blurred, while the mountain itself is in focus.
Anne-Birthe Hove, Sermitsiaq (2000). COURTESY NUUK ART MUSEUM.

Sermitsiaq is an icon, in its presence overlooking Nuuk—where, conversely, it appears with its own unique shape. This shape is the logo of both Kommuneqarfik Sermersooq and the newspaper Sermitsiaq/AG; it is on postcards and city maps. It is a landmark, which has been pictured again and again and has repeatedly found its way into the arts.

Every Sunday at 10 AM for a whole year, Anne-Birthe Hove photographed Sermitsiaq from the same spot. She subsequently printed the mountain in different colours onto cotton canvases, using the graphic technique of photogravure, in which a photo is transferred onto a treated copper plate, which after being washed and etched can produce prints using colour inks. Sermitsiaq appears amid clouds or with a clear sky, with snow or without, and in a range of different formations. Some of the photographs are similar but with different coloured inks. Together, the colour differences have the effect of a blinking slide show where the motif remains the same—somewhat like at a traffic light shifting colours.

A photo-lithographic print of Sermitsiaq. The mountain is shown in high contrast, making its top edge difficult to distinguish from the sky, while the hilly base of the mountain in the foreground is richly textured in deep brown tones.
Anne-Birthe Hove, Sermitsiaq (2000). COURTESY NUUK ART MUSEUM.

A large number of motifs in Anne-Birthe Hove’s work originate from Greenland. In an interview for the art and culture magazine Neriusaaq in 2005, she affirmed that the cooperation between artist and land goes both ways: “As artists, we are invariably influenced by the country and the landscape that we live in. But we also conquer it. Art consists in conquering the world.” In this series, Hove conquers something physically massive—i.e. the mountain Sermitsiaq—but also something immaterial: the logo, the landmark, and the symbol Sermitsiaq.

The artist continued to work with Sermitsiaq during the following years, creating a series of graphic works where buildings, cranes and the town blend in with the mountain, where photogravure also gets mixed with other graphic techniques. As Lene Therkildsen writes in Neriusaaq, the image series can be seen as a paraphrase of Nuuk’s landmark, where Anne-Birthe Hove concurrently challenges and provokes the mountain’s symbolic meaning. In the repetition of the motive and the retelling across many different colours, Sermitsiaq develops into a construction: something that can be altered—and which is all but massive and untouchable.

A photo-lithographic print in blue tones of Sermitsiaq. The image shows the mountain’s peaks at closer range, and gives the impression of misty and windy atmospheric conditions.
Anne-Birthe Hove, Sermitsiaq (2000). COURTESY NUUK ART MUSEUM.

This repetition and paraphrasing of the mountain and symbol Sermitsiaq is at the same time also an illustration of the way Anne-Birthe Hove worked. She explored, replicated, and immersed herself in different graphic techniques through all of her artistic work. She began working with photogravure in the 1990s; in that same period, her former professor at the Art Academy, Eli Ponsaing, developed new techniques within this particular medium. Occupied as she was by graphic techniques, Ponsaing’s pioneering work inspired Hove to work in a similar direction.

Eli Ponsaing thought of his graphic work within a conceptual frame of microcosm and macrocosm—not in a particular religious meaning, but as a process of contemplation of the graphic possibilities and expressions. This tension between the large and the small world is also experienced in Anne-Birthe Hove’s Sermitsiaq series. She zooms in and repeats an element, so to place it into a larger perspective; or she focuses on the detail—the mountain’s physical appearance week after week—to assemble the whole, the mountain’s inner placement and significance.

The retrospective exhibition Anne-Birthe Hove 1951-2012—which was a collaboration between curator Rikke Diemer, Nordatlantisk Brygge, the Art Museum of Bornholm and widower of Anne-Birthe Hove, Thomas Steensgaard—was exhibited at Nuuk Art Museum until July 10 2016. There, one could experience a larger selection of the Sermitsiaq series. The exhibition was supported by Royal Arctic Line and Tips- og Lottomidlerne.

In the fall of 2016, a large anthology about Anne-Birthe Hove was published by Milik Publishing. Catalogues and more information about Anne-Birthe Hove can be found at Nuuk Art Museum.


Credit: This article was originally published by the Nuuk Art Museum as part of their “Behind the Art” series. COURTESY NUUK ART MUSEUM.

Original published link.