The most impressive aspect of Lotte Konow Lunds exhibition at Henie Onstad Kunstsenter is her social engagement.
When I think of the word artist, I often think of a person who is somewhat removed from the world. Wether he is inside his artist studio or in a gallery surrounded by people by special invite only, there is somewhat unapproachable about the artist as a figure. This is an exaggeration, of course, but during my years as a journalist I’ve seen plenty of examples of artists who don’t want to talk about neither their work nor other aspects of society in the media. They remain, in a sense, mythical creatures. That isn’t the case with Norwegian artist Lotte Konow Lund, who again and again has proved that her place is in society, especially with those groups that live in the margins of it.
In the exhibition Hold everything dear at Henie Onstad Art Centre, which is her biggest to date, the thing that impresses me the most is Lotte Konow Lunds strong sense of justice and her compassion for others. Her drawing technique, which she has cultivated ever since graduating from the Academy of Art in Oslo, is easily recognizable, but is not what affects me the most. I didn’t really discover Lotto Konow Lund until I visited the exhibition We live upon a star at Henie Onstad two years ago, commemorating the brutal attacks at Utøya on July 22nd 2011. Here, Lund made an artwork in collaboration with her nine year old daughter titled 66 minutes – the time it took for the terrorist to kill 69 people. Together they made a room with all the tings Lunds daughter thought a person would need to lie still for 66 minutes: Toys, stuffed animals, books, cartoons and a comfortable bed.
One of the works that make the biggest impression at Henie Onstad is an artwork that is not dissimilar to this, depicting a prison cell. For nearly a decade, Lotte Konow Lund has taught drawing at Bredtveit women’s prison, and when the woodshop at Bredtveit was temporarily closed as a result of budget cutbacks Lund a carpenter who along with two inmates made a huge relief of a cell. It’s a highly moving reproduction of one of society’s most restrictive and most simply furnished rooms. It is also the only work in the exhibition that Lund did not create herself – she paid the inmates 120 kroners per hour – about 14 euros, for the job.
Another series of works which I looked at for a long time is a tribute to the Norwegian illustrator Dagny Tande Lid. In the summer of 2006 Lotte Konow Lund volunteered as a guard at the Natural History Museum in Oslo so that an exhibition with Lids botanical drawings could stay open. As “payment” she was given a new flower she could draw every day. These drawings contain a sense of curiosity and exploration that make them hugely engaging.
Exploration is in a sense the driving force behind all art, but just what artist chooses to explores varies of course. There is something highly sympathetic in the ability to look outside yourself and your own world when so much in our society these days seem to be about self presentation. It may seem strange to call the ability to interact with others and grasp their perspectives a strong artistic feature. But I don’t think so. I think it’s quite nice.
Hold everything dear by Lotte Konow Lund at Henie Onstad Kunstsenter until December 19th. Header photo: Nosebleed, 2015. Photo: Øystein Thorvaldsen / HOK