hanne lydia

Drawings that grip you


The artist Hanne Lydia O. Kristoffersen draws women’s faces with men’s briefs pulled down over their heads. The drawings will not let go of you.

True Identity Kunstverket 19. September – 19.October
A fearless exhibition about gender, identity, body and culture.

By Kari Brandtzæg

The exhibition title True Identity relates to a collection of underwear for men, with identical label. In Kunstverkets attractive showroom near Sofienberg park large, framed drawings are hanging orderly along the walls. All the drawings show women’s faces with men’s briefs pulled over their heads. Only the eyes are visible. 13 pair of eyes are staring intensely at you, wherever you turn. And the men’s briefs transformation to headdresses seems surprisingly reliable.


There is something confronting and insisting about Kristoffersens drawings. They will not let go of you. Also her texts are significant. For her exhibition in Tegnerforbundet last year she wrote: “The commercial was frequently shown on TV. It showed well-trained young men walking down the catwalk wearing nothing but briefs. I liked he simple logo in black and red on the white briefs. I wanted to buy my husband one as a present. He takes medium size. I went to many department stores, the briefs were at a discount”. In a playful, but serious way Kristoffersen shows how we let ourselves be seduced by commercials. The works can be interpreted as a reflection on the significance of covering /or uncovering the body in a sexualized and medialized reality web of TV serials, underwear commercials, sex shops, Viagra, silicon breasts and slimming adverts on the internet. If we are to take commercials seriously, the fashionable way of stressing the brand label above the jeans has given the briefs a new role as a marker for identity and belonging. And if we are to take just these cheap and mass-produced briefs seriously we may, ironically enough, get a true identity when wearing them. A True Identity.

In Kristoffersen’s earlier work the drawn motives have been victims of violence and oppressed women. In the series “True Identity”, however, she stages herself. The realistic and detailed drawings are technically brilliant, and indicate ambiguous interpretations with complex, cultural connections. If we are not immediately fastened on the men’s briefs, we can, for instance, see that the works thematize the way women’s faces, gender and identity are drawn into a world- wide political battle between alleged civilizations and nationalities (true identity). Kristoffersen’s drawings easily give associations to Muslim women’s use of hijab or niquab, or to news pictures of guerrilla warriors with Palestinian scarves. However, the white Calvin Klein briefs make us think about a white nun’s veil, which, flanked by dark sun-glasses, give a Grace Kelly effect. While the woman in the green patterned briefs emerges as a guerrilla warrior ready for a fight. Black gloved arms are lifted up around the head so that the woman’s attitude and expression remind us of Munch’s  Skrik (The Scream). In other motives as well we can sense that Kristoffersen refers to models from art history.


New in this series are “photographs” that the women hold in front of them. The connections between the main motive and the small pictures are not obvious. Is there a reference to another relation or belonging? Or a threatening message? Is it a family father who stands in front of the Viking ships in ID (Er Stirbt), or a hostage about to be beheaded? In this way the systematic ambiguity of the motives is developed in even more directions. The visual presentation is at the same time getting more interesting.  Especially ID(Dublin) is successful. A woman, wearing turquoise True Identity briefs, holds up a photo of a naked man with his back to the audience. He is sitting on a bed with a laptop in front of him. The use of crayons and the softness of the drawing remind us of Edvard Hopper’s melancholic depictions of the lonely city man. Also the man’s luminous computer screen intensifies the feeling of loneliness, loss and longing in a world ruled by an aggressive use of visual markers.










last century
the Other
I am a block
The Storm
Pizza and Death
Being mistaken
true story
northward, by the sea
panties and threats
drawings on the right
drawings that grip you
private violence
marked for life
the scarlets
various text