SOLID AIR MORILD KORFF LOFTHUS VISNES
SOLID AIR MORILD KORFF LOFTHUS VISNES CONTENTS 1. FOREWORDS CATHY LOMAX SWEET MELANCHOLIA 2. ESSAY BENJAMIN GREENMAN WORDS OF NATURE 3. TITLES 4. BIOGRAPHIES 5. THANK YOU&
SOLID AIR MORILD KORFF LOFTHUS VISNES
FOREWORDS CATHY LOMAX SWEET MELANCHOLIA
‘…the Juniper the underwood of the forest, exhales a wild perfume, mixed with a thousand nameless sweets, that soothing the heart, leave images in the memory which the imagination will ever hold dear.’ Mary Wollstonecraft’s description of Norway in A Short Residence in Sweden, Norway and Denmark (1796) Solid Air features Lars Korff Lofthus, Marianne Morild and Hanneline Visnes; three artists who come from the same western part of Norway but live and work between Norway, Scotland, England and Germany. There is a tradition of landscape painting in Norway which is sometimes called ‘mood painting’ a combination of the subjective and realist with a dash of the primitive that the Solid Air artists relate to and draw upon. Having never actually visited Norway, the country that lives in my imagination is mostly composed of images extracted from TV travelogues and the paintings of Edward Munch. My imagined Norway is a verdant country with an air of melancholia drifting through its icy fjords and snow topped forests. My Norwegians are strong, the men Vikings, the women heroines from Ibsen’s plays. The soundtrack that rings through the valleys and tangles with the trees is of course the jarring thrash of black metal. The way that we imagine a country that we either haven’t visited, or have only superficially travelled to as tourists, is in most cases of immense annoyance to the inhabitants. Cliché-laden England is green and pleasant, peopled by busby-hatted soldiers, aristocratic ladies and reverential working people. But although we are clearly not living in a episode of Downton Abbey it pains me to admit that these clichés are founded in some kind of reality, it’s just that they don’t tell the whole story (and maybe
this is what annoys us so much as we try and break free from the constraints of history). The opposite of the unknowing outsider looking in, is the exile thinking of home. A state of mind embodied in the Welsh word, Hiraeth, which describes a deep felt longing for ones homeland – both the good and the bad things about it. Although the Solid Air artists are often away from Norway they nevertheless use the memories of its landscape as the basis for their work. They cite ånd, a Norwegian word that suggests a connection or sense of belonging to a place, implying that there is some kind of transfer of spirit or breath. Although ånd can be seen as an overly romantic, old-fashioned concept it neatly sums up the deeply spiritual yet non-religious relationship to nature that many Norwegians feel. The way the Solid Air artists imagine and realise their homeland can be seen as ånd infused with hiraeth. Their work is more than a straightforward depiction, it is about the resonate soul of the landscape combined with a degree of European art school irony, the collapsing of high and low culture and the heightened awareness of the exile. Although still relatively unknown in Britain (aside from Munch), Norwegian painting has been gaining more exposure: Dreams of a Summer Night at The Hayward in 1986 featured Scandinavian painting at the turn of the century, Forests, Rocks, Torrents at the National Gallery in 2011 combined Norwegian and Swiss landscape painting and then of course there was this year’s Edward Munch The Modern Eye at Tate Modern. These artists were mostly working around the turn of the 19th century, a time when travellers expressed surprise at the ‘close conjunction between raw nature and urban culture – at the outcrops of rock which trust through the soil even in the centre of Stockholm and Christiania (Oslo), and at the proximity of
the cities to areas of uncultivated wilderness’ . Although today’s Norway is a successful, technologically sophisticated country, nature is still very close to its urban centres ensuring the continuing resonance of ånd. But despite the veneer of perfection, Norway has, as most Western countries do, its own tragedies and these seep into Solid Air. Marianne Morild uses bitumen, a dark pungent material with a direct link to Norway’s oil rich economy to harshly depict elements of landscape, Hanneline Visnes’ intricately decorative paintings blur the line between nature and culture while Lars Korff Lofthus paints simplified images that turn nature into a motif. In 1973 John Martyn dedicated his song Solid Air to his friend Nick Drake who suffered from depression; Drake died of an overdose eighteen months later. This is a fitting title for an exhibition that celebrates the powerful pull Norwegians feel to be amongst the near constant rain and long dark winters of their resonating homeland.
Cathy Lomax is an artist, writer and curator. After completing her MA in Fine Art at Central St Martins in 2003 she set up Transition Gallery in east London. She also edits and publishes the art and culture magazines, Arty and Garageland. Alongside Transition, Lomax is a practising artist. Her work often takes the form of groups of paintings, which chart a curious contemporary longing for something unobtainable. Her recent exhibitions include Tainted Love, Down Stairs, Herefordshire (2012), The Count of Monte Cristo, Phoenix, Exeter (2011), Jerwood Drawing Prize (2010) and The Secret of England’s Greatness, HangART-7, Saltzburg, Austria (2010).
SOLID AIR MORILD KORFF LOFTHUS VISNES
ESSAY BENJAMIN GREENMAN WORDS OF NATURE
The word ‘nature’ invites a plethora of meanings and associations. It is for this reason not an easy word to use, and in some important respects not even a desirable one. It has been accepted as an article of faith by some that the contemporary, post-industrial world is characterised by a fundamental departure from nature in its original sense. To be human is to be in and of a humanly produced world. This can be characterised following Jean-Luc Nancy amongst others as a condition of ‘immanentism.’1 Not only has the natural world been humanised, from the most basic agriculture of ancient societies through to the infrastructure of the modern world - the roads, tunnels, and electric pylons that traverse the landscape - but the very way that we understand it has been altered. It is today an object of mathematical and scientific analysis, its meaning ever expanding with the advances of the techno-sciences. It is a space that is mapped and modeled, from cartography to satellite imaging, and its properties provide the ‘raw materials’ for chemical and industrial processes. However, this view may rival one in which the natural world provides us with a sense of place and identity. In the arts, where one might expect these concerns to pertain, what one understands as ‘nature’ has also been historically transformed. What would appear, for example, as an evident relationship between art and nature, that of the notion of the landscape, whether as a genre of depiction, the physical re-formation of land in the art of landscape gardening or the framing of nature as the picturesque, only occurs, one may contend, with the advent of a modern, secularised world. In this respect, to use the word nature is to discuss an accrued set of meanings rather than what one may wish to designate
using the word, that is, a sense of place and identity or, alternatively, and importantly to what I am saying here, its strangeness and otherness to human intentions and purposes. A humanised nature is, one could argue, simply its cultural significance. To this extent, it is as magisterial or absurd, defiant or humorous as ‘human nature’ itself. To pursue an art that lays claim or takes up the experience of the natural world, therefore, requires mining the meanings, values and associations that define our understanding of it. It is also likely that in the arts we would draw on other discourses on nature - moral, ecological, technological - rather than a discourse specific to the arts, namely, (philosophical) aesthetics. In the past decade there has been a rehabilitation of the status of aesthetics in the arts, as much through Arthur Danto’s so-called ‘return to beauty’ as Jacques Rancière’s restoration of the political dimension of the subject. Posed in these broader terms it is poignant to remember what role the idea of nature has played in the history of this discourse. Theodor Adorno in his late work stressed the importance that in the founding text of modern aesthetics, Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Judgment, first published in 1790, the pre-eminent concern was with natural rather than artistic beauty. Adorno understood the subsequent turn to the work of art in aesthetic theory as participating in the societal repression of nature in the advancement of material culture. According to this view, art and the work of art do not simply take up nature. Instead, art strives to fulfill the promise held out in nature. At the same time, however, the artwork itself bears the trace of repressed nature as an irreconcilable wound. Far less a matter of nostalgia this perspective provides both a basis for social
critique as well as an attentiveness to the shifting significance invested in the natural world. Particular to Adornoâ€™s historico-philosophical perspective was the assertion that art alone as an autonomous activity keeps open these possibilities. Although one may hold in doubt this aspect of the philosopherâ€™s argument, it is interesting to see how debates today in and around art echo these earlier contentions. The subsumption of nature in the material character of the artwork has been brought to the fore in more recent discussions about artistic media and the condition of inter-mediality. One also finds related themes in the discourse on the embodied subject as a central term in art practice that equally recalls these older arguments, signaling the persisting relevance of a broad aesthetic account and its capacity to critically discern our contemporary condition.2 Within this broad context, one can interpret the title of this exhibition as suggesting a commitment. It expresses a desire to make tangible the intangible, to give substance to an underlying or pervasive condition. Equally, it invites a sense of paradox, not unlike Rene Magritteâ€™s visual conundrums of air, mass and flight posed in paintings such as The Glass Key (1959) and The Idol (1965). The exhibition brings together the work of three artists - Marianne Morild, Lars Korff Lofthus and Hanneline Visnes - who share a common cultural heritage. All three artists grew up in the West of Norway and in various ways their work refers to or draws upon the natural world of their experience, which equally recalls through a pictorial tradition a national narrative and identity. In this respect, the stakes in their work is to see in this commonality both the generative possibilities for making art and also a testing of the resonances within
a history of cultural meaning. This is expressed for all three artists in the Norwegian word ånd. This word is often translated into English as ‘ghost’ or ‘spirit.’ However, it has a more fundamental sense in its original usage that brings together notions of ‘breath,’ ‘spirit’ and ‘intelligence.’ One can, for instance, speak of an individual’s ånd just as one can describe a place as having this quality. Thus, in its breadth of meaning one can understand both the encompassing and incisive character that is sought in the individual works and the different practices. These works seek to articulate to the senses or to signifying across the spectrum of its connotations from the most physical to the most intangible its shared meaning. The sense of detachment and belonging, obduracy and commonality, that are part of our contemporary discourse on nature, are at work here. It is also notable in this respect that all three artists have or do re-work these themes and experience through a geographical distance, which introduces another dimension into the immediacy of experience and the mediation of cultural meaning. What also appears in these distances and interstices are real questions about what a pictorial tradition - for instance, that embodied in the work of Nikolai Astrup or Lars Hertervig - can articulate for us today. Returning to the origins of aesthetic theory, what Adorno sought to recall in Kant’s original insight into natural beauty was nature’s otherness. It is useful to remind ourselves that at the moment in which Kant gave philosophical significance to the aesthetic apprehension of nature, Europe was witnessing the formation of a new political agency, the ‘people,’ and the birth of the modern
nation state. These were the nascent elements of Romanticism that were to give form to national narratives throughout Europe. Kant’s critical philosophy focused on the founding principles of knowledge and action, and it is in relation to these that he gave aesthetic pleasure and displeasure a corresponding and equally significant role. Importantly, for Kant the aesthetic apprehension of nature that elicits pleasure in ourselves provides us with a sense of ‘favour.’3 This has several meanings in the general framework of his philosophy. Significantly, though, this experience does not tell us what nature is in itself but instead characterises our relation to and capacity to respond to it. This contingent experience, for which there is no reason, is nothing more or less than the beneficence that is given with a responsiveness. In this respect, to keep naming and articulating a relation, on the occassion of this exhibition through the word ånd, performs a broader critical reflection on what it is to make art today and what meanings sustain that engagement.
Dr Benjamin Greenman is an art historian who lives in Glasgow. He teaches at Glasgow School of Art and the Open University in Scotland. His research interests are in aesthetic theory and modern and contemporary art. In recent years he has written articles on the politics of aesthetic theory and on the interpretation of American performance art in the 1960s and 70s.
SOLID AIR MORILD KORFF LOFTHUS VISNES
1: (Cover)Detail of “Morild” by Hanneline Visnes 2-3: Detail of “Springnight in the garden, after Astrup” by Hanneline Visnes 4-5: “Springnight in the garden, after Astrup” Oil paint on fiberboard ca 35 x 40 cm by Hanneline Visnes 2012 8-9: “Inflight”, Bitumen and oil on wood, 111 x 122 cm, by Marianne Morild 2012 12-13: “Rosepainting (rosemaling)”, watercolour on paper ca 37 x 42 cm by Hanneline Visnes 2012 15: “Wall and tree”, acrylic and pencil on paper, 65 x 50 cm, by Lars Korff Lofthus 2012 19: “Lost”, Bitumen and oil on wood, 40 x 50 cm, by Marianne Morild 2012 20-21: “Landscape, after Hertervig”, watercolour and gouache on paper ca 24x 34 cm by Hanneline Visnes 2012 22: “Black forest”, ink on paper, 65 x 50 cm, by Lars Korff Lofthus 2012 26-27: “Morild”, watercolour, gouache, acrylic, gesso, and oil paint on paper ca 24 x
34 cm, by Hanneline Visnes 2012 28-29: “Tunnel” (blue), ink on paper, 65 x 50 cm, by Lars Korff Lofthus 2012 30: “Atomic”, watercolour and gouache on paper ca 26 x 36 cm by Hanneline Visnes 2012 31: Detail of “Atomic”, by Hanneline Visnes 2012 34-35: “Painted Roses” (detail), Bitumen and acrylic on wood, 30.5 x38 cm, by Marianne Morild 2012 38: “Hunting Scene”, Bitumen and oil on wood, 54.5 x 111cm, by Marianne Morild 2012 39: “Hunting Scene” (detail), by Marianne Morild 2012 40: “Neon birch in Storm”, acrylic and neon daylight pigment on paper 24 x 17 cm, by Lars Korff Lofthus 2009 41: “Tunnel”, oil and acrylic on canvas 180 x 150 cm, by Lars Korff Lofthus 2012 43: “Inflight”(detail), by Marianne Morild 2012 44-45: Detail of “Borrowed garden”, by Hanneline Visnes 2012 46-47: “Borrowed garden”, oil paint on fiberboard, ca 45 x 55 cm by Hanneline Visnes 2012
SOLID AIR MORILD KORFF LOFTHUS VISNES
In her paintings Hanneline Visnes has a longstanding preoccupation with repitition, mass, pattern and luminosity. She merges motifs from decorative objects like Persian carpets, Chineese laquered boxes, with marble sculptures, as well as imagery from historical paintings and memory - Through timeconsuming and laborious processes these are condensed into small scale paintings that are intended as dizzying and intense objects. Born in Bergen ,Visnes has lived in Glasgow since 1993 she went to that city to study at Glasgow school of art, where she now works as a lecturer in painting and printmaking. Visnes work has been exhibited widely in the UK and Norway, as well as internationally, her work is represented in major collections such as MOMA and UBS.
Marianne Morild’s work focuses on the ambiguous relationship between our ideas of beauty in nature and our perception of how we use landscape to sustain our way of life. In her recent work she uses bitumen, a crude oil derivative, to paint landscape scenes from the specific places where this material, crude oil, is found and extracted, and Morild examines how we are connected to places through our different uses of the land. Marianne Morild has been selected for the Future Map ’12 exhibition at the Lethaby Gallery in Jan. ’13, and was selected for the Threadneedle Prize Exhibition in 2009 and 2012. Other recent exhibitions include Transition Gallery and Jealous Gallery. Morild has also written for Garageland Art Magazine and is a contributing editor of måg magazine. She will be graduating from her MA in Fine Art at Central Saint Martins College of Art in June 2013. Lars Korff Lofthus’ production focuses on sculpture and painting, but also in the field of text, video and installations. He graduated from the Bergen National Acadmy of the Arts with a MA degree. He has also studied at the Royal Danish Art Acadmy and Nordic Art School in Kokkola, Finland. His work can be characterized as an ongoing investigation of geographical identity and contradictory elements from a strict farm-upbringing and the following breakup from this environment. His work has been exhibited both in Norway and abroad in artist-run spaces as well as in institutions and commercial galleries.
SOLID AIR MORILD KORFF LOFTHUS VISNES
THE ARTISTS WISHES TO THANK TRANSITION GALLERY, CATHY LOMAX, AUDHILD DALSTRØM, NABROAD, BENJAMIN GREENMAN, ANNA PETERS AT RODNEY POINT AND SIRI AARONSEN AT THE NORWEGIAN EMBASSY IN LONDON.
THIS CATALOGUE WAS PUBLISHED BY NABROAD IN CONJUNCTION WITH THE EXHIBITION «SOLID AIR» AT TRANSITION GALLERY LONDON, DECEMBER 2012 WWW.SOLID-AIR.NET ALL RIGHTS TO IMAGES RESERVED BY THE ARTISTS ALL RIGHTS TO THE TEXTS RESERVED BY CATHY LOMAX AND BENJAMIN GREENMAN PHOTOS OF HANNELINE VISNES WORK BY STEPHEN JACKSON DESIGNED BY RODNEY POINT NABROAD.LONDON