Danish textile artist and designer Vibeke Rohland was born in 1957 in Gladsaxe-Søborg outside Copenhagen. As a child, she enjoyed embroidery, knitting and crochet without imagining that these would play any role in her future and with little concern for the finished product; instead, it was the thread, the yarn and the colors that fascinated her.
Only much later, after having studied art history at the University of Copenhagen, would she go on to study textile design at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, graduating in 1986. That year, she received a two-year grant to travel to Paris to hand-paint fabrics for use in haute couture and interiors. She stayed at Eliakim Creation des Tissus for two years.
From 1981 through 1989, Rohland helped launch the experimental gallery KONGO, where she and her colleagues ran collective exhibitions year-round and published the art, music and poetry magazine KONG. In 1994, the Danish Ministry of Culture invited her to participate in the Sao Paolo Textile Biennale and in 1995, she received a grant from Nationalbanken to develop a dozen tapestries in Oaxaca, Mexico. That same year, Rohland established her own studio to produce abstract work that represents the intersection of art, craft and design.
Rohland has been designing everything from linens, curtains and t-shirts to scarves and porcelain patterns for the likes of Hay and Georg Jensen Damask, Ikea and Agnes B. Kvadrat has repeatedly commissioned her upholstery and drapery. For Paustian she designed bed linens and graphical umbrellas. She has fashioned tableware patterns for Royal Copenhagen, upholstery for the DSB Royal Danish Railway and tapestries for the Royal Theater. Her client list also includes Stilleben, Chi Chi Potter, Bang & Olufsen/B&O, Bodum, Kopenhagen Fur and ESPRIT Home New York.
Meanwhile, Rohland has been exhibiting a portfolio of hand-painted, printed, embroidered, woven and knit patterns on felt, paper, linen, cotton, silk and more, in world-class art venues. She has been featured in shows at the Borås Museum of Modern Art in Sweden and the Kunsthal Charlottenborg in Copenhagen and her work has been added to the permanent collections of the Design Museum Denmark, Focke-Museum Bremen and Neue Sammlung Berlin.
Rohland’s work, which evolves from minimal and abstract motifs, including pluses, minuses, dots and squares to which she returns again and again, has been included in publications ranging from the International Design Yearbook (1997 – 2002, 2007) and Frame magazine (July/Aug. 2000) to Scandinavian Style by Ingrid Sommer (Carlton Books Ltd. 2003) and INSPIRED, a book about how creative people think, work and find inspiration (BIS Publishers, 2005).
Supported by numerous grants from institutions such as the Danish Arts Fund (2014, 2013, 2012, 2010, 1996), the Danish Art Workshop (1996, 1992, 1987) and the National Bank of Denmark Jubilee Fund (2015, 13, 12, 08, 06, 01, 1999, 97, 94, 86), as well as Kvadrat A/S (2012), Danish Crafts (2012, 1998) and the Toyota Fund (2008), Rohland was also named Artist of the Year in 1992 by the Bikuben Fund. She has been a guest lecturer in graphic design and textiles at universities in Sweden and Denmark, including the University Textile College of Borås, the Danish School of Media and Journalism, the Design School Kolding and the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts Schools of Architecture, Design and Conservation.
Rohland takes an intuitive and emphatically low-tech, hands-on approach that may be seen as a reconciliation of the practices of artisanry and art. In 2000, she embarked on the BlackStar project which riffs on her signature plus sign in offset layers that are rendered in multiple overlapping colors to form a blunt star. How many colors and displacements can Rohland execute before the paper dissolves under the pigment or a black star emerges? Through this prolonged color study, she tests the limits of her materials and her media, and uses repetition, abstraction and variation to reveal the emotional power inherent in color combinations and in seemingly slight degrees of difference. BlackStar is an ongoing project, and like all of Rohland’s work, a meditation on some of the most basic elements that make up our material world.
Shonquis Moreno – Design consultant & Writer / Editor