Fredag 24. mai åpner Kunstakademiet i Oslo sin avgangsutstilling for masterstudentene. Utstillingen vises på Kunstneres Hus, og varer til 16. juni. KUNSTforum presenterer her avgangsprosjektene, sammen med kurator Andreas Schlaegels ord om prosjektene.
When Mads Andreas Andreassen paints singular figures in oil on canvas, his creatures are pure inventions of color, the flow of paint from the brush and the associative movement of the hand determine their shape and form. As inventions they represent aspects of an idiosyncratic narrative, together they form a celebration of the absurd heroism of painterly storytelling on the brink of figuration, and the gestural autonomy of the brush mark.
In comparison it would be difficult to grant the elements that Goutam Ghosh composes his paintings from, any such authority. Executed with panache and lightness they appear as painterly renditions of entities that could be symbols in a map or diagram, static in their earthen shades, as if to specify the characteristics of a terrain otherwise vague and uncertain, a topography of reference points, of speculative realities conditioned with conflicting signatures. The duality of the animate and inanimate is explored even further, when the artist casts his painting less as backdrop but as a level zero of a film projected alongside the painting, the relation of what is static and in motion creating a new space and site for and of imagination.
Another danger-seeker in the field of painting is Siri Leira, whose recent work has been based on exploring ways to expand preexistent notions of the painterly and the painting. For her series of works entitled Stretching Crusty Slabs (Struck by Subduction) (2012), she treated fabric, loosely fixed to stretchers, with concrete and chalk, until these developed rock-like surfaces and assumed sheer sculptural weight. By applying gestural marks on sheets of glass for her series Slipstreams (You and Me Climbing a Hole in the Sky) (2012), with sprayed polyurethane foam colored with generously applied spray paint, her reflections concern the importance of supporting materials and the creation of painterly texture and composition. Her endeavor in this exhibition now takes her ideas to a new level, grappling with concepts of scale, relating to the human body as well as to the architecture of Kunsternes Hus.
Architecture in the paintings of Martin Bech-Ravn is the backdrop, but also often takes center stage, as real protagonists are scarce. Oscillating precariously between abstraction, albeit with a nod towards ironic concepts (such as adopting the color scheme from popular Norwegian chocolate bar Kvikk Lunsj) and a figuration that draws its inspiration from pittura metafisica as much as from eighties bad painting of the Cologne school of Martin Kippenberger, for example. With a focus on bizarre architectural elements, Bech-Ravn creates impossible settings, mainly as a structuring system for his own virtuoso application of paints, by attributing every field its own distinct treatment. Together these form something of a Meta-landscape, one third exterior, one third interior, one third nowhere, fragmented and kaleidoscopic, but potentially endless, hazardously spilling from one canvas to the next.
Ottar Karlsen is active in a slightly different medium: drawing with a pencil on paper. His tightly controlled approach to the medium is heightened by his most recent series, that show the artist introducing delicately abstract linear compositions in water color to elaborate landscapes. Ostensibly focussed in means of color and scale, both techniques, pencil and aquarelle, share a natural sense of transparency, where there can be no such genre as bad drawing. Both rely on paper not only as material, but also as visible surface, and while a pencil line can be erased, water color will always leave a stain. The purity of the surface of the paper in his drawings reflect on that of the act of drawing, exemplified in a different way by a performative action of drawing with charcoaled trees. It‘s not only what is drawn, but who draws, from what- and how. How to draw today?
A completely different and disarmingly autobiographic answer is suggested by Gelawesh Waledkhani. Her elaborate and often large scale pen drawings on paper are informed by a political reality, she experienced herself, and the complex ways in which the ongoing struggle of the Kurdish people for freedom from oppression has affected individual lives. Drawing an oversized portrait of the imprisoned leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) Abdullah Öcalan from interlooping doodles, it is as if his presence was inevitable to her, always on her mind. Another group of works present paragraphs from Öcalan‘s writing, emphasizing the need for a peaceful end of the conflict. By stitching the text into paper with her own hair, she gives these words a sense of personal urgency, immediacy and intimacy, giving the viewer a physical understanding of how the unresolved situation of the Kurdish people affects her every fibre. As the rest of the world is oblivious to this plight, the image of Öcalan deals also with an economy of attention, and the capacity of a society to withdraw from making decisions.
Also working in pencil and paper Ida Fölling has chosen her very own way of dealing with this motif, in her monumental drawing, Birds of field and forrest: Ostrich.Taking her visual cues from 19th century etching, the artist produces meticulously executed drawings in an obsessive production process often spanning several months, if not more. She draws every single, clearly defined line with a specifically chosen pencil, feather by feather of the world‘s biggest bird. Ostriches are powerful creatures with surprisingly beautiful eyes and a curious beak, irreverently probing their surroundings. Here the bird is shown as a pastiche, its head literally buried in the sand, already reduced to a skull, as a volcano erupts behind it. The paradox is one of time itself: foreseeing the outbreak the bird would have had every chance to flee, before its head had decomposed. Where exactly does this leave the artist in the time consuming process of production?
Maybe on the stairs? After all “the artist’s painful way to the top” was depicted by Per Krogh in the monumental mural over it at Kunsternes Hus. This is the space Snorre Hvamen will activate in this exhibition, reflecting on its potential not only as worn-out metaphor, but also on the way the stairs were and could possibly still be used as an informal meeting place during the openings. His work still under development as this text is written could consist of turning the stairs into a space of informal meetings and of fleeting unexpected sensations, maybe involving lights, wind, smell. Maybe a space where visitors, after having seen the exhibition, would meet and sit down, rather than obstruct each other in the gallery spaces. Hvamen wants to create a new site for the production of knowledge by activating the social potential of the passageway.
Regarding social interaction based on an idea of the theatrical and real time experiences, Liv Kristin Holmberg chooses direct and immediate contact with her audiences. The artist employs herself as practitioner, creating a performative and ritualistic one to one scenarios, that take cues form liturgical procedures, creating complex amalgamations of religion, art and therapy. The artist is the only one that will present the work outside of the exhibition area. In Grønland church she will present her work, Les Tenebres, a one-to-one performance on every night of the exhibition period.
Less existentialist, but, apart from painting and drawing, also invested into the theatrical, Petter Napstads contribution to this exhibition will consist of video material the artist compiled while co-directing a theatre piece in Bergen. Its realization is based on an artistic strategy the artist tested in an earlier piece entitled The Field of Fine Arts (2011). Even if mainly off-camera in conversations with a number of interviewees the artist manages to essentially make his own doubts and ramifications about his work process the instrument that generates the video material. Edited in a way, so what develops for the viewer is a documentation of a process, the work could be regarded as a self-fulfilling prophecy, while also reflecting on the impossibility of any finite or absolute statement.
Playfully skipping from one discipline to another Andrea Bakketun has been active curating, she has been working on a book of texts and paintings, and an armada of kinetic sound objects. The undertow of animism in much of her work reflects the artist‘s sensitivity to finding and creating moments and gestures of magic in everyday life materials and situations, pointing at the possibility of an alternative reality, where things take on a life of their own. Recent forages into large scale video projection act this out, using the suggestive potential of filmic language, in particular camera movement. Her video in the show consists of one shot, slowly and creepily panning the upper corners of the rooms of an apartment, slowly revealing more details, as if building up towards some revelation, but remaining obscure. However then the joke may be that this exploration of or meditation on corners is projected in a space at Kunsternes Hus, where the ceiling veritably blends into the walls – by concave molding. No cutting corners here.
The magic in the latest video of Anni Tiainen World under the water (2013) stems from an approach to video with a strong affinity to a painterly process of development to create an image-based or musical composition. Her video projection is an intrinsic assemblage of multiple interlacing layers, that consist of video footage containing documentation of projecting video images on buildings, combined with hand drawn animated sequences. Interwoven with one another these create a rich visual texture with a dreamlike atmosphere of constant transition, of emerging and submerging, moving in between realms of projection, narrative and the everyday.
While Jenny Patino also finds her inspiration in everyday occurrences, she renders these much more sharply as autobiographical notations and observations of media effects, and as such as experiences of patriarchal structures. In her latest video installation, based on a vicious cycle, feeding on the media images it generates, she aspires to make the physical experience of temporary recess accessible, using narrative as much as tricks of video technology to create a circuital flow of information, revolving around the notion of the inevitability of oppressing structures.
Endre Tveitan‘s new video installation frames the entrance of one of the exhibition spaces. In it‘s centre piece the image is shot by a camera mounted on a roller coaster cab. The rigid central perspective of the footage reflects the character of the medium itself, thereby presenting a departure from the artist‘s earlier work, which featured compositions from several video images from several cameras and with slightly differing perspectives of the same object in one frame. Both however reflect aspects of the 19th century construct of cinematic central perspective, that establishes exactly one very specific sense of structural order, based on one authoritative focal point, where of the eye of the beholder and that of the artist overlap and become one, and the structural order takes on ideological proportions.
The roots of this singular perspective definitely lie in religious ideas, that also inform the work of Aksel Høgenhaug. A wall separating the viewer from a voice chanting hardly comprehensible texts with presumably religious contents. The wall acts like a theatrical manifestation of the distance between a sinner and the promise of paradise in the afterlife. This idea of an overwhelming absence towering over a profane presence reflects not only the artist‘s research in the acoustics of temples and prayers, but also a concern with notions of the monumental.
Also monumental in scale, the recent sculptures of Pernille Meidell only present a small part of her activities. Meidell also excels as a musician, composer and poet, and has combined these facets in her works in the past. For her current piece, she uses a standard tool in carpentry, a lathe, to create serial forms, that are composed to precariously tall structures. Reminiscent of totem poles, and inspired by the “primstav”, wooden calendar sticks from norse mythology with a winter and a summer side and symbols burnt into the wood, these also conjure up the image of a sculptural icon of modernity, Constantin Brancusi‘s Infinite Column, as if offering a different sense of infinity.
A similarly subtle sense of humor is traceable in the sculptures of Lene Baadsvig Ørmen, even if these establish a strong sense of presence, bearing the traces of the artist‘s hands. Far from giving her work an existentialist edge, this intense manual treatment reveals an idea of sculpture as a physically probing process of gestural articulation and, in the true sense of the word, manifestation of form in space, as if inventing a parallel language of her own. Her current sculptures in plaster emphasize corporeal qualities, also by expanse, reflecting the human body, without explicitly rendering it, while resorting to what may appear as deceivingly simple forms. Yet her sculptures are complex and remain oddly resistant against interpretation, as much as to assuming authority. It‘s rather as if they insist on their autonomy and the strength of their sculptural qualities.
The sculptural installations and paperworks by Martin Saether pit formal conventions of the representation of artworks against a set of standardized visual aesthetics, as if in an attempt of liberating them from any original functionality. A group of recent works not only involves one of the lesser regarded instruments of the craft, the passe-partout cutter, but apparently turns the hierarchy of importance (and the chronological order of the production) of an artwork and its presentation on its head. As when mats are cut first, and then are printed and drawn on. It‘s like a trick that insists on formal rigor by its own playful subversion, as if presenting the question of what comes first, the artwork or its presentation and the politics behind these.
Tor Sølve Thidesen constructs often precarious, sometimes nonsensical structures out of what appears to be haphazard materials and found objects or materials of everyday life. He also places them in space in an improvised manner. As if suggesting the existence of a will of their own, the individual work play with the contrast of their improvised looks, and the absurdist but nevertheless existentialist symbolism that they may evoke. Here we see concepts of morality and purity questioned, by overtly simplistic but inherently complex poetic strategies, surrounding and questioning artistic strategies of (dis)composition, (im)balance, (des)illusion and (dis)functionality. The humor and absurdity in these works is a means toward a poetic realism, that may portray life as absurd, thereby hitting closer to home.
An absurdist version of home is also what Dima Hourani creates, by setting up a proposal for the military checkpoint of Qalandia, en route between Jerusalem and Ramallah, and infamous for clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinian protesters. Her Qalandia Lounge reinterprets the site as a drive-thru restaurant. It could be regarded not only as a sarcastic statement on the seemingly unending volatility in the middle east, but also as a piece of visual memory projected into the future, into an era of upcoming and inevitable future of consumerism. In this sense the themed drive-thru could be seen as a piece of a critical visual archeology of our time, or is it already a part of an inventory of western civilization? The carnivalesque strategy of metamorphosis not as much twists the site into the fictional, but makes reality present itself. It resists political pathos, instead creating a distance, that leaves the viewer in an ambiguous if not paradoxical situation.
Like the work of Anders Bang, who in his sculptural installations weaves together strands from diverse cultural and historical narratives of the manipulation of nature and market relations, this is not a cool kind of post-Duchampian approach, that portrays every reality as a mixed bag of pretexts for a moralizing context-art discourse. As Bang said, it‘s about “the transformation of matter, and the hybrid realities, that are possible in that meeting.” His recent research on cultural mobility has been as fluid, moving from early Jeff Koons Equilibrium pieces in water tanks, to the dog whelk, a northern Atlantic relative of the murex sea snails, that were used to produce the extremely expensive tyrian purple dye for the ancient roman emperors‘ robes, and to the growing and migrating population of King Crabs along Norway‘s coast lines, once introduced to the Barents sea on Soviet dictator Josef Stalin‘s orders. What the work will look like I don‘t know, and I doubt the artist does, but, in his own words: „Intuition appeals to me.“ Here and now this may not be a battle cry – or even a call to the arms. But it is a vote of confidence. And the beginning of a story. It may not turn into a novel, but it could be interesting.