Finally I'm ready to add some spice here, by introducing art and artists that I go completely double-wow! about. I actually intended to, and looked forward to, pointing you to other artists - great contemporary artists that you'd normally discover only by chance.
Even if I do keep in touch with artist friends in Norway, our chats don't always cover every corner of the art scene. So, I must admit that I probably miss out on a lot of important exhibitions and news.
Like this extraordinary textile artist - Inger Johanne Rasmussen from Norway - she nearly escaped my attention!
Fortunately I had to visit this winter-cold place recently and was meeting with long-missed friends from student days. We had three short hours to catch up and cover news and not-news from our respective fields of art. The conversation raced and bounced like a chased rabbit.
It was great. Textile-art came up a lot and my friend Hege just happened to have the most beautiful art catalogue in her bag. No time for reading, but I had to have it! Later, at home with time to read and absorb, I realised this was sharing-material.
I wanted everyone to see Inger Johanne's art!
Let me just say; to me, these images represent a synthesis of childhood memories, the comfort of wool, or protection by felt, women's amazing craftiness, large scale patterns dwarfing me, painterly colour-use, recycling of material and patterns - and still textile art at the very best.
Below, you can see Inger Johanne at work and read her own words (green text) about how the carpets evolve. Then, some of her thoughts on patterns. Further down in red; more from the exhibition catalogue "Retelling".
About making carpets
"All my carpets are made of felted wool; mostly military-issue foot cloth. The material is dyed and cut to size; The pieces are placed side-by-side and glued with the adhesive and stabilising interfacing Vliselin. Thereafter all the bits and pieces are sewn together by hand, as with appliqué: I like sewing most of all.
When I sew; I look forward to being finished so that I can start designing a new carpet. Therefore I sew very fast and take paraphernalia with me wherever I go. I'm an impatient draftsman because I can't wait to see the colours in the material.
Often I start cutting into newly dyed, half-dry material because I just can't wait till it dries completely. Cutting the material is great fun but sort of daunting, because it's easy to ruin a lot of material in no time; and it always turns out slightly different than I anticipated.
I cut quickly because I'm impatient to glue the pieces together and see how it looks. I can't get a proper impression of the whole thing before all pieces for the carpet are cut, so it's always a rush job. Sometimes I have to re-do this stage several times, and that's a pain because I'm always looking forward to sewing again. That's how it is."
"Patterns can be read in a number of ways - according to which culture it stems from; which era and which temperament. What do you meet in a pattern's colours and rhythms?
You can follow some patterns as though they were a supple movement. Some stiffen their necks, or stumble along. Some allow you to slumber in lightness and dreams. Some can be played with; others can be counted and ordered. You can dance with some patterns, or laugh. Some cause you to shrivel with bad memories. Others are so reliable and familiar that you think - here it is good to sit, as among friends."
Excerpts from the cataloue text; Else-Brit Kroneberg shows how IJR's work explores not just the familiarity of traditional patterns but also the connotations of familiar household objects and textiles. She ends the text with an analysis of the the carpet below:
BETWEEN THE ORDINARY AND THE ELEVATED
By Else-Brit Kroneberg, curator at Soerlandets Kunstmuseum, Kristiansand
"...'Magnetic Home' (2005) is another work thematizing domestic life. Here, Rasmussen makes a variation on the traditional red-and-white-checkered kitchen pattern. Along the textile's mid axis, the pattern disintegrates around seven "magnetic" points. Here the pattern is sucked into a vortex where various objects are portrayed - e.g., a house, a door, a chair and a bed. All the objects befit a home. The pattern seems to hold onto the objects, but also to disappear into them, as a reciprocal relation of belonging.
"Magnetic home" also creates a connection with the viewer. At the seventh station a mirror is represented. The mirror's ability to reflect its environment binds the one who looks in the mirror to a picture. Here the viewer is bound, pictorially, also to the home and safety."
I'm still a little surprised at how strongly I reacted to these images. Mind you, I have not seen the carpets 'live', only in photos. Even that touched me deeply. In fact, the whole project fascinates me; the size of the carpets impress me, the magnitude of stitches. The thought of taking this on!
Then, I'm just thrilled by the story behind the foot rags - and that they turned up practically at her doorstep (at least at a friends doorstep). All the work behind the hand-dyed cloth is something I can appreciate too, having dabbled in the field. Enlarging familiar patterns could have been a no-brainer, but not with Inger Johann's ingenuity and feeling.
But the best part - she's mastering colour like a painter. Although restrained by the somewhat slow process of cutting, she's still making it work like generous, spontaneous splashes of colour - that's what really gets me! Chapeau!
Later, I learned that visitors to her exhibition at Soerlandets Kunstmuseum, had expressed similar reactions. - Feeling really moved, even to tears! Clearly I'm not the only one feeling the whole childhood and a little more, welling up.
IJR has more exhibitions coming up.
The exhibition at Norsk Folkemuseum, "Nothing disappears", will show works related to recycling. All exhibitions take place in Norway, so if you plan a travel there in near future you can treat yourself to some visual goodies.
Photo by Renato Langfeldt