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munch adoptions U N N I A S K E L A N D

munch adoptions U N N I A S K E L A N D

In a series of spraycan paintings called “Munchadop‑ tions” Unni Askeland takes as a startpoint the work of the famous Norwegian artist. What does it signify to adopt the Norwegian master with the paint of the reality of suburban concrete? It’s like injecting a di‑ mension of todays world in the work of Munch. But it’s also to adopt a Kiss or a Scream into todays harsh and instant society, into our lives where history and perspective lose more and more ground. It’s like con‑ necting the instantaneousness of the hip‑hop kids graffiti, with the expression of the reflective. It’s also, and to a very high degree, to show respect for Munch, but simultaneously no respect at all to the institution‑ alization that has been constructed around his work. Jonas Stampe


munch adoptions U N N I A S K E L A N D

Born 1962 in Bergen, Norway, Unni Askeland is the enfant terrible of the contemporary, Norwegian art; shocking the politically correct establishment not merely with her works, but also with her sometimes bohemian, sometimes glamorous lifestyle. After a year in the Art School in Kabelvåg, Northern Norway, Askeland started at the Academy of Western Norway, Bergen (1983–84). In 1987 she entered the National Academy of Fine Arts where she graduated in 1992. At the Academy’s Graduate Exhibition Askeland showed “Waiting for Picasso,” a painting depicting herself in the company of artists such as Edvard Munch, Frida Kahlo, Lena Cronquist, and Francesco Clemente. Apart from the obvious lack of modesty the painting could also be read as a manifesto of her artistic ideals. Staging her own persona in her own works and within the art historical tradition has ever since been a central element in Askeland’s oeuvre, as seen in the “Munch Adoptions” project. Furthermore, the artist here demonstrate an awareness of her belonging to the expressionist tradition. Expressionist ideals dealing with personal, often erotic, experience, are present in most of her works. The 1980s saw a revival of these ideas with the so-called Neo-Expressionist movement. For Askeland, visits to New York studios of Brice Marden and Francesco Clemente were crucial to this development. With the “Obituaries” project around 2000, the artist turns from figurative to abstract painting. The project dealt with death, and the paintings had the shape of coffins, painted in subtle blue and violet hues. After a few years of abstract expressionist paintings, the artist once again turned to figurative painting and to art historical ideals. Munch Adoptions (2004) was a series of paraphrases of Edvard Munch’s famous “soul paintings” from the 1890s. Meddling with the nations master caused something of a scandal in the Norwegian milieu. However, Askeland’s pictures were not copies, but reinterpretations of Munch’s themes, such as love, sex, and agony. With the series “Desire and Destruction” and “Big Blonde” – the latter shown in New York in 2006 – Askeland depicts the icons of the 20th century, paraphrasing well-known portraits. Among femme fatals such as Marilyn Monroe, Mae West, and Courtney Love one also found, once again, the artist herself. Both in theme and style, these projects are obvious reference to the Pop art of Andy Warhol, demonstrating the artists affinity to the American tradition. The technique is photo-based serigraphy, the same medium she employs in her latest pictures. The exhibition “A Lot of Water Under the Bridge” (2008) features images inspired by the famous movie Casablanca, among others love scenes with Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart. When a series from this show was acquired by the National Museum of Art in Oslo, it stirred a new debate, not only about the artist, but also about the museum. In “Friezed,” Askeland turned to landscapes art. The series depict the surrounding Kløfta outside Oslo, where Askeland lives in her late 19th century house together with her artist husband Sverre Koren Bjertnæs, three of her four children, several cats, and a lap-dog. Though the artist’s person is no longer obviously present in these works, we know she is there somewhere, luring in the forest with her blonde hair and red lips. By Knut Ljøgodt

SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS 2011 2010 2008 2008 2008 2007 2006 2006 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2001 1999

National Museum Malta Close to Greatness, Heiberg Cummings & T. Meeker Contemporary Art, New York, USA Friezed, Heiberg Cummings & T. Meeker Contemporary Art, New York, USA Directors, Actors, Players and Millionaires (w/Bjarne Melgaard), Arena Vestfossen A Lot of Water Under the Bridge, Galleri Trafo, Asker, Norway Selected Works, Hå gamle prestegård, Rogaland, Norway Stills, 7011, Trondheim, Norway Big Blonde, Heiberg Cummings & T. Meeker Contemporary Art, New York, USA Desire and Destruction, Blomqvist Kunsthandel, Oslo Munch Adoptions, Art Singel 100, Amsterdam, Netherlands Munch Adoptions, Blomqvist Kunsthandel, Oslo, Norway Munch Adoptions, Gothenburg, Sweden Love Me Only Love Me Lonely, Bergen Kunstforening, Norway Cover Up, Galleri Christian Dam, Oslo. Norway No. 5, Bergen Kunstforening (w/Sverre K. Bjertnæs), Norway NAF, Oslo (w/Bjarne Melgaard), Norway

SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS 2008 2007 2005 2005 2004 2004 2004 2003 2003 2001 2001 2001 2001 2000 2000 2000 1992 1991 1987

Clusters, The Nordea collection, Henie-Onstad Kunstsenter, Norway Norske Bilder, Rådhuset, Oslo, Norway 18 at 27, Galleri 27, Oslo, Norway Reunion, Vestfossen, Norway Malernes tegninger, Blomqvist Kunsthandel, Norway Pin-up, HotRod, Oslo, Norway Sex and Flowers, HotRod, Oslo, Norway Tre unge normænd, (w/M. Viskum and Sverre K. Bjertnæs) Galleri Christian Dam, Copenhagen, Denmark Trondheim Kunstmuseum, Norway No. 5 Bergen Kunstforening, Norway Norske Bilder, Oslo, Norway Ideologia, Nordic biennale, Gothenburg, Sweden Schpaa, Bergen Kunstforening, Norway Schpaa, Den frie Udstilling, Copenhagen, Denmark Nekrologer, Drammen Museum (w/M. Viskum and Sverre Bjertnæs), Norway Tendencies, Galleri JMS, Oslo, Norway The Refused’s Exhibition, Oslo, Norway Gallery F15, Jeløya Moss, Norway Østlandsutstillingen, Norway

ACQUISITIONS 2008 2008 2005 2004 2004 2001 2001 2000 2000

The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design Christian Ringnes’ Restaurant, Big Blonde exhibit Rogaland Kunstmuseum The Art Museum of Northern Norway Ekebergrestauranten Arts Council Norway Nordea collection Ullensaker Kommune Jarl Borgens collection, Copenhagen