Ditte Gantriis – A Rose

What is in a name? As the famous quote from Shakespeare’s great play Romeo and Juliet suggests, it does not really matter what we call something. The rose would still smell as sweet. And Romeo would still be himself, even if he cast off his rival family name. In the context of Shakespeare’s times this is quite a modern idea: that an individual could be merely himself and not represent something else.

The iPhone 6S, launched the day after the opening of this exhibition, and comes in a new colour: Rose Gold. As with all things Apple, this new colour and the semiotics of its name has been the subject of intense discussion on the Internet. What is in its name? Why not just call it pink? Maybe there really is something in a name. And perhaps a rose would not smell as sweet if it were called ‘stench blossom’, as Homer points out in an episode of the Simpsons. 

What is in the name of Ditte Gantriis’ exhibition? The title adds something, a third part which completes the exhibition’s two other motifs. Of course, the grand pianos crowding the walls of Picnic Picnic, the single candle on the floor, and the flower evoked by the title are, together, clichéd symbols of love and romance. (Even the quote from Shakespeares romantic tragedy, serving as a subtitle for the exhibition, is a cliché.) Each of those things is not the real thing, but rather, in three different ways, a representation of it. The candle in the candlestick, turned out of a single piece of wood, cannot burn; the pianos, for all the mural’s lyrical composition, cannot play; the rose, there only in name, cannot be smelled. Yet so much more present is their symbolism that it verges on overload, thus pre-empting the clichés and restoring their potential for significance.


Ditte Gantriis’ work concerns itself with the idea of caricature in its attempt at examining the condition of contemporary culture. The artist sees the caricature as a defining characteristic of the world we have created, a world in which all features are exaggerated or reduced according to dominant trends. It is a world where brand names have transcended the objects they once adorned to become flexible signifiers of value with which consumers can built identity, and where behaviour has become rituals performed for the sake of reaffirmation.

Thus, to look at a painting, to eat sushi, to listen to Beyoncé is not to really see the art, taste the food, or hear the music, but rather to perform an already scored activity which bears a certain value, readily exchangeable in an economy of cultural capital. However, acknowleding the truth of the feelings and desire that animate this system, Gantriis’ work puts her interest into play without passing judgement. Instead, her work is both earnest and humouristic, critical and celebratory.

Ditte Gantriis, Picnic Picnic, Sheffield