Norwegian art in an Italian palace

If you’re on holiday in northern Italy in the summer you have a unique opportunity to experience some of Norway’s most exciting young artists in a unique environment.

When I visited the studio of Ann Iren Buan in Oslo City Hall during Oslo Open earlier this year, she had a cardboard model of a room standing on a table. Even in such a small format it was obvious that the room was not typical Norwegian, but generously decorated and quite opulent. It was a room in an Italian palace, she explained to me, one of the oldest and most magnificent buildings in the northern Italian city of Brescia. Together with the Norwegian artists Marte Eknæs, Ane Graff, Tiril Hasselknippe, Johanne Hestvold, Ane Mette Hol, Marianne Hurum and Toril Johannessen was Buan invited to participate in the exhibition Form Matters, Matter Forms in Apalazzogallery this summer, the gallery housed in the ancient palace. Now she was in the process of creating a new work for this spectacular room.

Ann Iren Buan often works with paper in large formats, such as here. Still, 2016. Photo: Andrea Rossetti.

– My ideas often come as a reaction to the exhibition space, which is why it was especially exciting to develop a sculpture for a palace from the 17th century, says Buan.

– The room is covered with colorful and flowery frescoes on the ceiling and on the walls, it also has a terracotta floor. I wanted to make a sculpture with a strong presence that simultaneously created a dialogue with its surroundings. It has a deep green-blue color that contrasts with the frescoes and hangs from the rosette of the ceiling.

Looking at Ann Iren Buan’s  work feels a bit like entering a deep and dark dungeon. As you look closer, the light from the windows reveals a blue-green color and a rough texture.

– I think of the sculpture as a ghost that’s been hanging here for centuries, she says.

(Sigh), 2016 og (U), 2016 by Johanne Hestvold. Photo: Andrea Rossetti.

– The entire building is characterized by huge amounts of decorations, says artist Johanne Hestvold, who has also created new artworks for the exhibition.

– In the room where my artworks hang there are huge golden portals and frescoes. Plumbing pipes and car windshields which I use in my art provide a contrast to the heavy decorations, but relate more to items like electrical outlets and lights in the room.

Angel Pubes (liberated corners) by Marte Eknæs, 2016. Photo: Andrea Rossetti.

Marte Eknæs’ works Angel Pubes almost looks as if it is made of marble and picked down from somewhere in the palace. In reality it is created by aluminium plates with a burnished surface and part of a larger series of sculptures and wall based works.
– I’ve seen this type of surface on architectural metal surfaces in different cityscapes. It’s a very simple form of decoration that still fascinates me: Form and Function flow into each other with an unpredictable results, says Eknæs before she explains the yellow “sausages” located beside the sculpture.

– The yellow item is a “chemical sock”,  which is usually filled with a highly absorbent fabric. It is used as a cleaning tool for rain or spills in malls, subway stations and similar spaces. I have replaced the contents with sand and turned it into a into a connection between aluminum structures.

Pants Look, Deliciosa og Liquorice by Marianne Hurum, 2015. Photo: Andrea Rossetti.

There are several things that make the exhibition in Apalazzogallery special: One is that in a sense, all of Norway occupy these rooms, as the artists come from all over the country: Harstad, Bodø, Stjørdal, Bergen, Elverum Arendal and Oslo. The second is the relationship between the highly contemporary works and the historic rooms they occupy.

– When I came to inspect the gallery I was immediately struck by the ceiling. The height is ten meters and the room that I had at my disposal has previously been a ballroom. It allowed me to take my work even further, says Tiril Hasselknippe, who has three steel sculptures hanging from the ceiling, which constitutes a striking contrast to the surroundings.

Tiril Hasselknippe’s balcony sculptures allude to a post-apocalyptic time, where civilization has collapsed in both a practical and allegorical sense. Balcony (scudi e lance), Balcony (evil), Balcony (angeli arrotandati), 2016. Photo: Andreas Rossetti.

Ane Graff also based her work on room itself when making her bronze sculptures.

– It was interesting for me to relate to a different color scale than I usually do in a normal gallery, she says.

– Apalazzo’s premises are characterized by red floors and daylight that border more on yellow than blue. The floor is reflected in the walls and gives the rooms a warm, reddish glare. I chose to work with copper, which also has a warm color.

Ane Graff has used both bare copper plates and matte copper castings in her work in Apalazzogallery. While the base tables shine, the small sculptures have a far more rustic touch. The Body Of The delocalized and The Chrysalis Stage, 2016. Photo: Rosspec The Body Of The Delocalized and The Chrysalis Stage, 2016. Photo: Rosspec

Apalazzogallery was founded in 2008 as a contemporary art institution in Brescia, occupying 500 square meters in Palazzo Cigola Fenaroli. The gallery represents a wide range of both younger and older artists, and is keen to bring art from all over the world to an Italian audience.

– I have followed the work of Ane Graff for quite some time and it was through her that I became more and more interested in the Norwegian art scene, says Erica Fenaroli, director of the gallery.

– The selection for the exhibition was made through studio visits and a lot of travels Norway, and of course based on the gallery’s profile.

– All the artists here are women, is that deliberate?

– No, it wasn’t something we planned from the beginning, that happened quite naturally.

Form Matters, Matter Forms at Apalazzogallery until September 10th.

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