Eighteen is pleased to present
Eros Unlimited
Danielle Orchard, Emma Kohlmann and Rose Eken

In Greek mythology, Eros is the son of Aphrodite, representing the erotic dimension of love. In Plato’s Symposion, he is rendered a somewhat abstract concept, expressing the desire to create and procreate, to extend our lives and selves in the material world. Compelling us to revisit this contested notion, particularly in the light of a global pandemic and great social and natural upheaval, Eros Unlimited presents an open-ended exploration of love, desire, sexual embodiment and eroticism through the perspectives of Danielle Orchard (b. 1985, US), Emma Kohlmann (b. 1989, US) and Rose Eken (b. 1976, DK).

New works on linen and paper by Danielle Orchard unveil intimate sceneries populated by nude women, reclining, smoking, sketching and socializing with each other. The motifs are familiar from art history – still life interiors, a summer picnic paraphrasing Manet’s iconic luncheon (Hillside Picnic, 2020), but here, the male gaze is entirely absent. Chronicling homosocial intimacy and admiration between women, Orchard redeploys Cubism’s masculinist language, while allowing her subjects to jettison the lethargic, Venusian smile of traditional female nudes. Neither enticing nor repelling, their introverted, thoughtful gazes suggest
worlds beyond our knowing.

In a large grid of works on paper, playful bodies and vibrant flora emerge organically from wondrous spills. Working with the inherently aqueous nature of watercolor and ink, Emma Kohlmann’s figures materialize in between genders, species, nature and culture. Some appear to pause in the middle of sexual acts and stare unabashedly at the viewer, while others simply rest and huddle together inside of giant leaves. They exude calmness, seemingly unaware and unbothered by the burdens of culturally inscribed taboos, existing in an Eden for the polymorphous and dispersed nature of human sexuality.

Well-known for her meticulous still life objects in clay, Rose Eken presents a refreshingly punk take on the theme of Eros, exploring earthenware’s archaic function as vessels and carriers. Various jars, vases, bowls and containers recall antique artifacts but are glazed with lyrics from contemporary pop songs. On one phallus-shaped vessel, PJ Harvey wonders whether desire is enough (Is This Desire, 2020). Others carry vignettes of disembodied hands wringing themselves, signing, and holding lifeless birds, evoking the death of innocence by the hand of love. Together, they make for a fragmented narrative of shipwrecked romances
as well as a collection of fetish objects - testaments to the inseparability of physical and immaterial love.

With a cornucopia of allusive forms and imagery, three women artists circle the complexities of modern gender, sexuality and intimacy with both effortless joy and candid vulnerability. Their stories encompass our everyday drama, the tectonic shifts we encounter in life, the feeling of being swept along by affects and desires beyond our control; we recognize ourselves in them, gender notwithstanding.

Text by: Astrid Wang