06.11.2020 - 12.11.2020
On Yngve Benum
By Kristian Skylstad
Yngve Benum’s (b. 1984, Oslo) is an outsider artist. However, his lack of education hasn’t hurt him none. His background in Oslo’s graffiti community forms an important backbone in his artistic practice, but his work also clearly relates to the recent history of painting. He can see the writing on the wall.
He is free from the constraints, free from the doctrines, happily generated in the world of the arts as the world of the deadly. Benum stands firmly outside most trends, while still relating to the practice oriented around the strongest tendencies in arts the last hundred years. In his paintings, in his sculptures, the brainlessness of society is reflected into lampoons symbolizing a world which in an increasing speed wallows into apathy and lunacy. His sculptures and paintings are the world right now, reflections of a collective schizophrenia that disguises what’s real, what’s sincere, what’s solid, and thus truth.
In the work of Yngve Benum clownish aspects of culture and society is praised as much as it’s besieged, adored as much as it’s mourned. When his works come to life they represent the Garbage pail kids, the Muppets, characters from video games. But they are also the children of Picasso’s paintings, Francis Bacon’s portraits, the sculptures by Brancusi, rinsed by the mordancy of Duchamp. Here high culture becomes low culture. Here low culture becomes high as a kite. Here academic discussion loses relevance.
The result is a widely referential universe of in combination with a very particular artistic signature that draws on graffiti as well as various forms of recent expressionist and highly material art.
This is the mad hatter Yngve Benum.
On Ellen Grieg
By André Gali
Ellen Grieg (B. 1948, Oslo) is an artist who explores an abstract idiom in textile materials. In particular, she has worked with tapestries, whereas more recently she has become known for her heavy, coloured rope sculptures that hang freely in space. for a while, she focused largely in woven utility fabrics and became known for her colourful shawls. When art critics of my generation hear Griegs name, the exhibitions they are most like to remember are her solo show at Lynx (2015), her participation in the National Annual Autumn Exhibition (2016) or her solo show at Studio 17 in Stavanger (2016). At least, these are what spring to my mind - and exciting events they certainly were! There was something fresh and distinctive, playful and poetic about her work. Consequently, I was thrilled when she agreed to contribute a fine selection of works for the 7th Tallinn Applied Art Triennale in April 2017, where I was a chair-man of the jury.
As part of a generation of pioneers in textile arts, Grieg trained and established herself as an artist in the mid-1970s, during a period of turbulent politics, when textile art was a medium people associated with women’s liberation. Viewed as a predominantly women’s occupation, textile art was on the verge of transitioning from the field of industrial art and decorative design to the realm of contemporary fine art. although at the same time Norway’s textile industry was losing ground, the country’s textile artists were moving out of the ordinary shops and into the galleries and museums, where textiles could be displayed as autonomous creations, regardless of their function. (…)
Patterns, colours, textures and materiality are the fundamental parameters of Grieg’s work. Her Abstract idiom highlights materiality and creates an impression of immediacy and physical-visual intensity. The emphasis on abstraction in tapestry weaving and on sculptural qualities were both trends in the 1970s. for many Norwegian textile artists, Poland was a source of much inspiration, but whereas several of Grieg’s fellow students journeyed to that country after graduating in order to learn from the internationally renowned groups working with experimental textile art (sometimes referred to a the fiber art movement), Grieg herself went to Slovakia, where she spent a term at the Bratislava Academy of Art. From there she moved on to the School of Art and Design i Prague. Both institutions were marked by the dictatorships under which they existed, and there were clear guidelines on the kind of art one was allowed to create and on the subject matter that was considered valid. The challenge was to be political in a way that was subtle enough to avoid censorship. After concluding her studies, Grieg ser up her own studio at Frysja in Oslo, where she is still based today.
Grieg has said that it was Brit Fuglevaag who encouraged her to explore the possibilities of nylon rope. In recent years Grieg has added a new dimension - quite literally - to her use of rope as material and theme: she treats it as a sculpture. Many of her works take the form of colourful coils suspended from the ceiling, which progressively unravel the further down they hang. In some cases, the works are site-specific and relate in concrete ways to the surrounding architecture. In their volume, they occupy physical space, but in their use of colours such as yellow, orange, red they also dominate the visual space. they engage with their settings, reformulating and altering the day we experience them. Thanks to their colours you become aware of her sculptures long before encountering them close up.
Recent years have seen a renewal of interest in material-based art; textiles, ceramics, metal and glass. At the same time, interest in abstract idioms has also grown. it could be described as a reappraisal of the intellectual legacy of modernism, but the trend also represents a recognition of a form of perception that is distinct from the transcendental experience of art as described and cultivated in Kantian aesthetics.
Material-based art gives the central role to the body and the senses, while in abstract art the focus is shifted from a narrative about reality, or a representation thereof, to reality itself - to the substance per se in the case of Ellen Grieg’s work. The structure of the rope, its colours and tactility become prominent - from the thick coils at the top down to the small tufts unravelling at the bottom. Even without touching her work, we sense what the threads would feel like to the touch. This relationship between the viewer’s body and the work is enhanced when the work protrudes into the space as a sculpture, thus allowing the viewer to move around it, experiencing it from different angles, but without ever taking the entirety in a single glance. Perception becomes drawn out in time, making the viewer aware of her own presence in the room, and of participating in a dialogue with the work. the viewer is no longer detached form the work (applying a meditative Kantian gaze), but is involved instead in creating a relationship to the work through her own sensing body.
Whether or not Grieg intends it, her rope also has a metaphorical quality. As everyone knows, a rope consists of a multiple of fibres spun together in a way that gives them strength and durability. This aspect allows us to read the rope as the metaphor for the strengt of the collective, for a society in which community is crucial. Where the fibres in Grieg’s work begin to unwind, we get a premonition of culture on the verge of losing its strength and robustness. It is not a reading I want to insist on, and neither do I mean to ascribe intentions to Grieg that she herself would not recognise. even so, it can be interesting to draw parallels between the current political climate and the one that dominated in the years when Grieg was a student. Although many things have changed since then, we have once again become aware of the need to resist conservative forces, to fight for the rights of women an minorities, and to strengthen solidarity. It is evident that art has a role to play here, with its ability to articulate and convey alternative models for how to think about the world and how we can act within it.
Lars Morell (b. 1980, NO) lives and works in Oslo.
Over the past few years, Lars Morell has created a complex and diverse body of work consisting of photographs, sculptures, and installations. Morell’s work has always encompassed and questioned the visible/invisible and what seems to be something that it is not. In numerous exhibitions nationally and internationally this iconography has been thoroughly developed, and in his recent works distorted shapes, which now “grow” over the canvas and in his bronze sculptures, are constructed from imagery in his previous works of paintings, sculptures and drawings. We see constructs that at first glance are reminiscent of branching root systems; we recognize the outlines of chains and hooks – and thus again objects that are used in illusion and deception. Morell develops these works out of figuration and sees them as distorted still lives, as a dilemma between abstraction and representational art.
Josefine Lyche (b.1973) works with painting, sculpture and installation. In her work, she explores the connection between abstract, post conceptual painting together with a kind of cosmic, psychedelic new age iconography. She can be described as a glitter minimalist - and the themes of escapism, natural phenomena as well as popular culture, is frequently present in her work. Lyche is insisting on the fact that what is beautiful can and should be taken seriously. The sublime moment of a beautiful sunset or northern lights is to her a moment of magic that she aspires to recreate within her works. Another important part of her sphere is the references to the supernatural, what you can only feel but not see. She has a strong visual signature, whether she is working with paintings, sculpture, installation or video.
She has exhibited at various galleries, artist run spaces and institutions. Selected solo exhibitions are QB Gallery, Oslo (2018, 2016), Noplace, Oslo (2015), Kunstnernes Hus «ONO», Oslo (2015), «Festspillene i Nordnorge» w. Anne Mette Hol and Ane Graff, Harstad (2011), Sørlandet Art Museum, Kristiansand (2009), Kunstnerforbundet, Oslo w. Ane Graff (2008), Gallery MGM, Oslo (2009, 2005) and Örebro Kunsthall (2007). Selected group shows are «Norsk Minimalisme», Blomqvist Oslo (2018), «Painting or Not», Kaviar Factory Henningsvær (2017-2018), Norwegian Sculpture Biennale, Vigelandsmuseet, Oslo (2015-2016, 2006), «Stir Heart – Urolig hjerte», The Museum of Contemporary Art, Oslo (2010), Gøteborg Kunsthall (2008), Carnegie Art Award (touring exhibition 2006), Henie Onstad Kunstsenter Oslo, Konstakademien Stockholm, Meilahti Art Museum,Helsinki, Reykjavik Art Museum, Centre Int’ld’artContemporain Château de Carros Nice, Royal College of Art London, Den Frie Udstilling Copenhagen.
KITCHEN STORIES — on Marthe Elise Stramrud
By Rhea Dall
There’s an unapologetic nearness in Norwegian artist Marthe Elise Stramrud’s (b. 1984, Kristiansand) approach to making stone- and earthenware. A direct and joyful presence, as when working a dough. Knowing things through doing. Meeting the material, listening in, attending to it. It’s a way of dealing with time. Not running after it. But being in it. With it.
Sociologist Richard Sennett’s 2008 book The Craftsman essentially sketches out how, as he states in his foreword, ”Making is thinking”—and what is lost in society when crafts disappear and the hand and head disconnect. While naming the “craftsman” could easily lead one to think from the perspective of the (male) laborer in the (wood or metal) workshop, in Stramrud’s new ceramic works—centered on vessels or mugs glazed in bright colors—the focus is the kitchen. Looking at it from the outside it almost feels too evident: that this place is the ultimate workshop or studio. It is, after all, almost every party’s epicenter. A place with a certain pull. A place where ideas are born. Stramrud’s new series of stone- and earthenware are all made for this space, dedicated to it, celebrating it. The series is a love letter: making utensils for the laborer in this particular workshop, caring for him/her/they/them as they care for others.
Stacks of bowls, hooks for hanging the kitchen towels, stables of cups, make up her artworks. Assembled in groupings, the piles align the singular strokes on each item turning them into faces, eyes, ears—or paint the picture of a jar. As a puzzle, the works come alive when becoming a collective, two plus two makes five, forming a larger creature or image. Meanwhile the singular artworks are made to be put to use. They are foreseen in service of soups, salads, i.e., carrying other things. To be used (and enjoyed) IRL. In the kitchen. It’s the avantgarde dream of making life and art melt together. At once an image (when stacked together) and a tool (when torn apart) these ceramic works create an ongoing rhythm of back and forth. Persistently connecting the zone of images and display with their real-world use. It’s political. It’s feminist.
And indeed, the kitchen is a place many a feminist artist has discussed. Starting from the 1980s and 1990s, the German heroine, Rosemarie Trockel, has continuously employed stove burners or hot plates in her image making. Looking from afar like a perfected abstract round shape on the wall, up close the visibly real hot plates reference the (female) workspace of the kitchen. They thus playfully parody minimal industrial artworks, such as the endless series of perfected boxes of Donald Judd, by pointing to the fact that most industries create things with a “function” that, in turn, reassert or facilitate our lives and their politics—the many hot plates, leading the mind to the kitchen (and it’s presupposed female labor). In another iconic example of “kitchen works,” the 1975 video piece Semiotics from the Kitchen by Martha Rosler, the grand dame of American feminist art caricatures the rules or semiotics of what a “traditional woman” should do and how to employ the kitchen.
There is no such mockery in Stramrud’s work. Like in many feminist waves after Rosler, the work functions actively as an agent against any tiresome or lonesome systematic work. Its criticality lies in how it turns the kitchen space into the belly of the beast, the epicenter of our parties, the palace of fertility and fruitfulness, the place for (Bacchus’) lush fete, the best place to be, and the place to work, not just a place for the hand but where the hand and head meet. Stramrud makes the kitchen a privileged space, and with this, its worker a privileged eye and mind. It is only the happy chef who will discover the full dancing glyphs and pictogram-like people populating the bottom of the bowls.
In the vivacious lightness of the colors and the naïve, almost unfinished clay shapes, Stramrud nods to peers like the recently deceased Betty Woodman. Through her yearlong labor with ceramics, Woodman created a whole theatre of the domestic, most of her artworks being somewhere between images and user items. Between flatness and depth. Coming from photography, these are questions deeply embedded in Stramrud’s work. As are also the generative concept of “developing” an image. As the analogue dark chamber moves the image from negative to positive, the kiln develops the colors and textures of the ceramic glaze, depending on resembling features such as chemic mixtures and time, as well as the (specific) temperatures. This is a process always including a certain element of chance. Firing is always out of control. Seemingly equally unruly, dancing across the vessels, motifs of stenciled flowers, legs, eyes, red lips, stripes, and trees make up narratives in all directions. Stramrud’s works can be read horizontally, left to right, on either bowl, when assembled across the cups or jars, upwards, downwards, and on the innards of the objects. Using a white base of porcelain slip, on which the strokes of water-drenched raw pigment become almost airy, watercolor-like in texture, she defies the often-dark undertone of the fired clay. Each object is a playful staging of a narrative, a place for a new trial, an impromptu sketch, a surface for immediacy and humor.
It’s also a piece for passing on. Each of her recent clay works can do something, support someone outside itself. In this sense, these works are generous creatures. Little warm beings. Little helpers. They aid you. Or aid them/him/her. Unlike much artwork, they are made with the world in mind. This generosity also applies to their process of making. If many a ceramicist works with her/his/their mixture of clay and glazing as if it was alchemy—birthed via secret manuscripts and rituals—Stramrud’s witchcraft is open source. It is undisclosed. Her book of recipes is for everyone to see. Every new clay piece gets a new number, with a description of its process. Her more than 800 ceramic items (and counting) make visible the ceaseless artistic work—the many hours of labor, often invisible in a conceptual practice—that manifests itself in the swirling number of items, most of them made to be held and to hold other things, to cross-pollinate, to give more than you can take. The “how to” is part of the work, neither hidden nor something individually owned. The molding hand is part of the piece. Whether clunky stencils, fingerprints, sgraffito, or raw brush-strokes, these traces tell us about the making. Not perfection. But process. As if an ecological drive to use “everything,” the small, ceramic hooks or hangers for kitchen towels were literally glazed by the end of the day with leftover slip still on the brus- hes—the “drying-off” deciding the abstract coloring on these tiny objects. Every little piece is part of a chain of development, a family tree or a growing cartel of polyamorous and seductive sprouts.