Past exhibitions

Sonja Ferlov Mancoba with sculpture

Sonja Ferlov Mancoba | 100 years

Thursday 23/6 – sunday 4/12

Sonja Ferlov Mancoba (Denmark 1911-1984) is one of the most significant Danish 20th century sculptors. She studied painting with Bizzie Høyer at the School of Arts and Crafts (Håndværkerskolen) and with Aksel Jørgensen at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts (Kunstakademiet), both in Copenhagen.

She was active in the surrealist and spontaneous‑abstract movement connected to artists’ groups Linien, Høstudstillingen and CoBrA but developed her own, characteristic idiom, inspired – among other things – by African and Mexican mask art.
Ferlov’s parents were close friends of art collector Carl Kjersmeir, who owned around 1,500 pieces of African art. She introduced Asger Jorn and others to Kjersmeir and his collection.

It was not until the summer of 1935 that Sonja Ferlov Mancoba became seriously interested in sculpture. The following year, she left for Paris where she ended up living next door to Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti whom she befriended.

Sonja Ferlov Mancoba spent long periods of her life in France; she was the only Danish artist who remained there during World War II. By 1938 she had met the South African sculptor, Ernest Mancoba, whom she married in an internment camp during the war, as he was denied an entry permit to Denmark.

Sonja Ferlov Mancoba built her sculptures in clay and plaster. She felt her part of the process was complete when the object was finished in plaster.
She was more interested in the process than in the result, and was never present during the bronze casting process.

Asger Jorn edited the CoBrA Library’s series “De Frie Kunstnere” (Les Artistes Libres), and Sonja Ferlov Mancoba was among the 13 artists to have had a booklet dedicated to her work. In it, the Belgian poet Christian Dotremont writes:
“She lived in Paris for a long time, and for a long time Paris for her was Alberto Giacometti. Like Giacometti’s sculptures, hers, too, emanate strong, dramatic tension from behind their smooth, precise, impeccably formed surfaces. And yet it is difficult to zero in on this tension, to define it, for Sonja does not adhere to the pumped up perception of sculpture for which adding the maximum number of indifferent shapes to the stone is all.”

What really matters is not the sculptures, but the spirit of fellowship which one tries to express. I would say that the things themselves are only a means to an end. The value of the pieces lies in the moment when they have a direct bearing on life, when they help us to see more clearly, give us heart, help us to get to grips with life. But the pieces are not life. They are a reflection of life.

Sonja Ferlov Mancoba, 1970

A person is driven by an innate urge to express themself through the material. And gradually you enter into dialogue with what you are creating – a dialogue that in turn provides the impetus for new ideas. As long as the piece seems alive to me, talks to me, I can and must keep going… This can go on for years before I reach the point where I feel that from here on it can only go downhill, the point where it is impossible to pare away any more because all you do could now would be to add on again.

Sonja Ferlov Mancoba, 1973


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