Some notes about
four Norwegian artists and
a German architect
The word space is described as unlimited three-dimensional expanse in which all objects exist. The etymology of the word comes from the Latin word spatium, which means "race-track", or "distance", "interval", "terrain".1 Since Ancient Greece, where space was defined as the infinite void in which atoms move, quite a number of theories on this topic have been evolved in fields of science and philosophy. But the most appealing in the context of contemporary art practice comes from the French philosopher Henri Lefebvre, who states that space is a social product, a complex social construction based on values, and the social production of meanings, which affects spatial practices and perceptions.
My recent experience has showed that many contemporary artists both in the Baltic countries and Scandinavia work with spatial elements and the idea of spatiality, not only for the sake of space itself, but also using it as a methodological tool in order to meet their own artistic needs. In this essay, I want to introduce five artists, whom I met in Norway, while being in residency at Hordaland Art centre, Bergen, autumn 2010. They are: Hilde Angel Danielsen, Eva Kun, Arne Ingvaldsen, Cato Løland (all from Norway) and Gabi Schillig (Germany). Although they all focus on three-dimensional artworks, which can be categorized as installations, objects, or even design and architecture, their artistic practices differ on many levels. In this essay, I do not want to seek for similarities in artists' works, but to draw attention to the fact that the presence and importance of space in their practices stems from different needs and contexts, but in all the cases, it can be used as a key notion through which the artistic practice and artwork is being perceived and interpreted.
Cato Løland. Red Repetition, 2010.
Photo: Cato Løland
Cato Løland. Red, Green and White Corner, 2010
Photo: Cato Løland
Cato Løland. The Misunderstanding, 2010.
Photo: Cato Løland
I have been interested in space since I started to explore the field of architecture, where space is a common term to understand and to explain architectural structures and its relationships. Thus, I want to use and emphasize the aspect of architecture and explain space through works related to it. In that respect, artistic practice of Hilde Angel Danielsen and Gabi Schillig caught my attention. Their artworks might serve as a good example when asking questions such as: how do we understand architecture; what do we expect from it; how does it relate to other fields of knowledge? Norwegian artist Hilde Angel Danielsen works at the intersection of architecture, craftsmanship and design. Her outsized objects/sculptures are often site-specific, made for certain places as a visual comment or dialogue with surroundings.
Arne Ingvaldsen. Turquoise. Trøndelag senter for samtidskunst,Trondheim, Norway, 2007.
Photo: Roar Øhlander
For example, a long-term project Transparent Brick Wall (2010) or the newest one Another Wall or a Football Score (2010). Both are made of bricks, which, by the touch of Hilde's hands, become transparent and light. Considering that handicraft in Norway has long traditions and has been fighting for its right to be called art, or at least to be recognized as a full-right medium within the field of contemporary art practice, the focus on craft in Hilde's works attains important meaning within the particular Norwegian art context. And this aspect has a greater connotation than building architectonic spatial structures (for example, The Transparent Brick Wall), which go into the realm of design.
Space mediation is a subject of interest for the German architect Gabi Schillig. Such notions as body, environment, performance, textile, etc., could serve for her as "tools", similar to clay or wool, to be used to build the system of space mediation. A sentence, taken from the first page of her catalogue, precisely describes her work: "My work is intrinsically motivated by the space of the human body, and cultivates a spectrum of projects that include the disciplines of architecture, fashion, design, performance and conceptual art by instrumentalising textile materiality within open spatial systems." 2
Gabi's works try to acknowledge that both architecture and space itself are not closed and static systems; they should be approached through the concept of change and multi-dimensional understanding, by acceptance of the dynamics and nomadism of contemporary human being. She produces garments as a starting point that serve an interface function between particular place (that might also be an architectural object) or surroundings and human body. The garment becomes an instrument, and the space can be experienced and perceived in an active way. Thus the way we think about architecture is being actively questioned: should architecture be an object constructed and designed by particular individual/architect, or should it more likely be a space built and inhabited by the society itself?
The works by artists Arne Ingvaldsen and Cato Løland can be approached from a different perspective. They usually use space as already fixed material and reflect on it and inhabit it with their art, or use it as part of their artworks. Arne Ingvaldsen's working field is very broad as he makes not only site-specific artworks, like land-art, but also huge geometrical structures in "closed" spaces, like the white cube.
Hilde Angel Danielsen. Another wall or a football score. Vistula river in Warsaw, Poland, 2010.
Photos: Hilde. A. Danielsen
Eva Kun. Light Forms. Bomuldsfabriken in Arendal, Norway, 2000. Photo: Dannevig Foto AS
Some of his works are made in collaboration with his wife, a Hungarian installation artist Eva Kun, whose works can also be characterised in terms of space. Both Arne's and Eva's artworks become time and site-defined projects, because they can't be placed in another place and situation retaining the same structure and meaning, and the presence of the works remain only in documentation. If Eva Kun's installations are being described as modernistic, then Arne Ingvaldsen's are postmodern. His oversized, geometrical figures (for example, Turquoise, 2007; The X, 2007) deconstruct a particular place and space, break it and subordinate it to the fixed structure. These principles work similar to architecture, which anticipates the modes of space perception. Although Arne's works can be analysed in the context of sculpture, they simultaneously become architecture, and in that way they can be called an antithesis to the modernistic sculpture. As the Norwegian art critic Ingvill Henmo puts it: "Arne Ingvaldsen's spatial sculpture can appear to occupy a place between the categories "sculpture" (non-architecture and non-landscape) and "axiomatic structures" (between architecture and non-architecture). (..) The angles relate to an existing architectural space, and investigate the architecture's basic character, in this case by being on a sliding scale between sculpture and architecture." 3
Gabi Schillig. Public Receptors. New York, 2009.
Photos: Gabi Schillig
Cato Løland's works are basically witty comments on those spatial elements that usually are not used, or are being forgotten, which is not exactly a "negative space", but more like a space between. For example, in the galleries, the elements like pillars, the corners, or even the bottom of the pillar are considered to be peripheral to the main function of the architectonic environment. Cato, in contrary, works especially with these "local" things; he is interested in recycling already existing objects/elements of the space. It becomes a very vital and non-ambitious gesture of reflecting about the spatiality around us.
Taking into account that most of the artists mentioned above deal with site-specific or site-defined art, I want to indicate that their artworks are being produced for "local spaces" (in a very broad sense), but at the same time they "speak" in internationally used language, which provides a common vocabulary of artistic notions. The methodological way of doing that is by blurring boundaries – an interconnection between different fields and strategies has become a common value, or even a working style. And that could also serve as a specific spatial platform for different fields to meet and exchange their knowledge.
1 Space // Concise Routledge Encyclopedia of Phylosophy. – London, NY: Routledge, 2000, P.853 2 Schillig Gabi, Mediating Space. Soft Geometries, Textile Structures, Body Architecture. – Stuttgart: Akademie Schloss Solitude, merz&solitude Reihe Projektiv, 2009, P.5 3 Henmo Ingvill, A Spatial Memory // Arne Ingvaldsen: To Grønne Vinklar. – Hamar: Hedmark Kunstsenter, 2000, P.6
is an independent curator and art historian, based in Riga. She has previously curated/co-curated such projects as: Regard: Subversive Actions in Normative Space (Moderna Museet, Stockholm, 2010) and Candy Bomber – Young Latvian Painting (Latvian National Art museum, Riga, 2007/2008). Rudovska holds an MA in the Arts from the Art Academy of Latvia and a BA in pedagogy of visual art from the University of Latvia. She completed Curatorlab curatorial studies at Konstfack University College of Arts, Crafts and Design in Stockholm, and started her PhD thesis at the Art Academy of Latvia. In autumn 2010, she was in residency at the Hordaland Art Centre, Bergen. See also her text "A Few Words About the Latest Developments in Latvian Painting" in Epifanio 10/2009.