Like the 1998 Tom Waits album, this exhibit is about beauty in decay, about things or beings that are crumbling or wasting away in sickness. These are dark motifs, but then again, could it be that what we perceive as gloom – conveyed through phenomena such as deterioration, decadence and loneliness – is nothing but the traces of a life lived?
Working in photography, painting and mixed media, the artists selected to represent Galleri Ramfjord at .NO in NYC portray various forms of disintegration – of the human body, mind and surroundings. The thematic and technical range reflects the variety in the artists’ backgrounds, genders and ages, and offers a remarkable snapshot of an alternative Norwegian contemporary art scene. The artists are either self-taught or trained at institutions abroad. To some extent, they represent a counter-culture against the theory-driven contemporary art currently prevailing at many culture venues in the Norwegian capital.
Common to all of these artists is their interest in figurative representation. Both Henrik Uldalen and Morten Tyholt place great emphasis on craft in their oil paintings, but each take a different technical tack: classical realism and trompe l’œil. While Uldalen probes the innate loneliness of humankind, Tyholt explores the relationships between objects and the people who owned and lived with them. Merete Løndal works in egg tempera and oil, creating thick surfaces consisting of several layers of paint. Her style is also figurative, but the subject matter reads as fragmented and partially blurred as color areas merge into one another like reflections in a window pane.
Reinhardt Søbye and Trygve Åsheim both use digital images as the point of departure for their narratives, reworking these initial collages with oils or acrylics. Their motifs represent various forms of decay – Åsheim’s deserted industrial landscapes bear witness to the worship of material growth of our present-day world, while Søbye depicts the corruption of society in human faces and bodies. Both artists have political elements in their work, but Søbye is particularly concerned with art’s role as a critical voice. His artistic practice is largely a philosophical contemplation of ethical and moral issues.
The photographic work on display is created by Ole Marius Jørgensen, Marie Kristiansen and Anja Niemi. Kristiansen references fashion photography and its decadent depictions of the female body. Jørgensen’s images were shot in a closed-down mental hospital, and the institution’s dilapidated, but untouched interiors become an unnerving remainder of what occurred in the building through the ages. Niemi captures a different kind of human decomposition – she calls into question the photographer’s presence by portraying herself as a transparent figure. To Niemi, the photograph’s absolute particuliarity holds special importance, and her motifs are always representations of random moments in time.