The Magic of hands

Christine Hoem, Erindringer I-IV, 114x114x4cm. Foto: Anette Kristin Nyhaug/Christine Hoem

The Magic of hands

Art Textiles: Norway

En litauisk kunstkritker om det eksotiske ved Art Textiles: Norway, en reisende utstilling som først ble vist i Kaunas, Litauen i mai og juni 2006. Utstillingen reiser videre til Estland (Tartu), Latvia (Riga) og Bulgaria (Sofia) i 2007.

5. September 2006

Norske tekstilkunstneres styre hadde i lengre tid hatt et ønske om å presentere en større kollektiv utstilling utenfor Norge. Det ble etablert kontakt med Ciurlonis Museum i Kaunas i Litauen. Gøran Ohldieck (norsk kunstner bosatt i Litauen) og Egle Komkaite-Baltuskiene (utstillingsdirektør på M K Cirlonis Musem) var på atelierbesøk i Norge høsten 2005.
Styret i Norske tekstilkunstnere besluttet at alle som var interessert og arbeidet med tekstile uttrykk skulle få anledning til å søke om utstillingsdeltagelse. Komkaite, Ohldieck og organisasjonens kunstneriske råd fikk mandat til å velge ut kunstnere. Forutsetningen for å gjennomføre ustillingen var at man fikk ekstern støtte til prosjektet. Utstillingen ble støttet av Norsk kulturråd og Nordisk kulturfond. I forbindelse med utstillingsåpningen i Kaunas ble det arrangert et seminar hvor problemstillinger om tekstilkunst ble belyst og diskutert.
Utstillingen var juryert av Norske tekstilkunstneres kunstneriske råd.
118 kunstnere hadde søkt om å få delta. Samlet viste utstillingen 30 arbeider av 29 kunstnere.
Visningssted: Ciurlionis Museum, Kaunas, Litauen, 5. mai til 11. juni 2006
Utstillingen reiser videre til følgende steder:
Museum of Foreign Art, Riga, Latvia: 15. desember til 28. januar 07
Exhibition House,Tartu Museum,Tartu, Estland: 23. feb. til 25. mars 07
National Art Gallery, Sofia, Bulgaria: mai/juni 07

In the eyes of Lithuanians, Norway is still a rather exotic country. Despite the fact that more and more of our compatriots are going for holidays to the places where (as the stories go) fish bites extremely well and one can see a live whale; more and more Lithuanians spend their summers (and not only) working in the fields or factories; and the names of Liv Ullmann, Knut Hamsun and Herbjørg Wassmo are well familiar in Lithuania, the Norwegian mentality and art still remains an uncharted land. The scarce fiction books on our bookshelves conjure images of impressive fiords and mountains, severe climate and no less severe and complicated characters of the people. However, it should be acknowledged that Lithuanians find the Nordic countries quite attractive: mysterious, glimmering with snow, legends and stories, with murmuring branches of huge spruces, spatters of spindrift and gleaming scales of large salmon.
Such are the stereotypes. In reality everything probably looks a lot different. Thus each encounter with a real fragment of Norwegian reality is intriguing and charming. Contemporary Norwegian textile exhibited at the Mykolas Žilinskas Gallery in Kaunas has been exactly this kind of fragment arousing our curiosity. True, it would be rather difficult to form a broader impression about what is happening in contemporary Norwegian art judging solely from this fragment, but there are several features that run all through the exhibition, quite big and remarkable.

Nordic handwork is first of all associated with woollen sweaters. Hand-knit patterned sweaters and socks are obligatory for cold winters, and most probably they not only protect from cold, but also contribute to the formation of mentality. Handwork requires patience, concentration and respect for the craft. Patience, stamina and the ability to wait calmly are basic for the culture, in which handwork is indispensable. Textile is directly related with handwork – weaving, braiding, tying is used in many works; even today, when craft is giving way to concepts in this branch of art, handwork is still necessary and highly esteemed. A large part of the artists exhibit hand-woven tapestries; hand-stuffed male and female figures, a scowling stuffed dog like a hunting trophy on the wall, hand-sewn bags made from excellent silk anoraks, lace accessories – everything speaks of the artists’ respect for their trade. At the same time, I suppose, it shows the artists’ wisdom, as a conceptual work UTSTILLINGERwithout accomplishment often is a soap bubble that explodes from a more critical look or word. The theme of handwork is reflected most directly and suggestively in Kari Steihaug’s work: an unfinished knit picture of the Madonna, glimmering with greyish, tawny, whitish tones. Cosy and already somewhat dirty, though still unfinished, it looks as if it has already been used by the hands and looks of the house folk. However, the raw material heaped in a bag renders a paradoxical aspect to the Madonna: the picture is being knit from old socks. Elevating them from their casualness, or vice versa? Does this “ignoble” raw material debase sacrality, or are the banal socks elevated to a “more sacral” level? In both cases the most important things are mild sarcasm and handwork.

<p>Eline Medbøe, What goes up… 200x150x1,7cm.</p>

Eline Medbøe, What goes up… 200x150x1,7cm.

In the context of post-modernism that has permeated a large part of contemporary art, there is no place for hierarchy of materials, execution techniques, genres and fields. Everything is suitable for everything, and everything is possible. A work may never be created; it is enough to have its idea, as we all know perfectly well. However, is it possible that in these circumstances a wish to follow the tradition looks avant-garde rather than anachronistic? The tapestries by Kari Merete Paulsen, Ingun Skogholt and Else Marie Jacobsen, which have retained the warmth of their creators’ hands and their diligence, are valuable to a modernistic view as echoes of the links with the tradition of espaliers, while an adept of post-modernism may find the islets of tradition emerging in the world of ideas suspended in steaming air suddenly turning into oases of tranquillity and security. To quote freely the Gospel according to Matthew of the New Testament, “The last shall become the first”, and traditionalists shall become avant-gardists.

Textile is a grateful material for playing with space. The planned obligatory hanging, standing or lying of the work, and finally – its transposition into the virtual space makes the artists consider the spatial aspect already in the process of its creation. Norwegian artists handle the space in different ways: by placing stuffed “dolls” at the edge of the halls, which spy on unsuspecting audience like policemen; by building associations with op art in a two-side tapestry consisting of separate strips and changing its colour like a chameleon depending on the side from which you look at it; by constructing spatial structures from plastic line, coloured threads or… broken umbrellas; by working the miracles of virtuosic tangling of threads on video screens. The space in this exhibition is as if the inseparable “fifth dimension”, emerging in various shapes and giving life and movement to sometimes inexpressive threads, which is used masterfully and indulgingly by Norwegian artists.

For Lithuanian textile artists, experimentation is their daily bread. Works are created from hair, LEGO parts, coffee, noodles, soot, felt, cross-stitching on the lids of frying-pans, wickerwork; hand-made paper mass is combined with textile and threads. Ready-made objects, video installations etc. Textile gratefully accepts all experiments, at the same time retaining the boundaries of the genre. Norwegian artists also demonstrate virtuosity: video, installations, weaving, crocheting and embroidery go in line with each other, as different materials and techniques are daringly used. However, it is not the wish to shock the audience with technologies or radical ideas that is dominant in the exhibition. The backbone of all exhibited works is attention and respect for the chosen art form. Textile as an art that has retained the warmth of the hands, the patience of its creators and sparkling ideas – with a Norwegian touch (which in Lithuania is equal to the exotic).

<p>Liv Reidun Brakstad, performance, M. Zilikas Art Museum, Kaunas 5. mai 2006. Foto: Dag Hensten // Ingunn Skogholt, Forgreininger III, 130x105cm. Foto: Halvard Haugerud</p>

Liv Reidun Brakstad, performance, M. Zilikas Art Museum, Kaunas 5. mai 2006. Foto: Dag Hensten // Ingunn Skogholt, Forgreininger III, 130x105cm. Foto: Halvard Haugerud

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