Blondie In the Forest
Åpning torsdag 14. mai kl. 19.00 ved Bjarte Hjelmeland.
Unni Askeland is the enfant terrible of the contemporary, norwegian art; shocking the politically correct establishment nor merly with her works, but also with her- sometimes behemian, sometimes glamorous lifestyle.
Unni Askeland is born in Bergen in 1962. After a year in the Art School in Kabelvåg, Askeland started at the Academy of Western Norway, Bergen (1983-84). In 1987 she entered the National Academy of Fine Arts where she graduated in 1992.
At the Academys Graduate Exhibition Askeland showed Waiting for Picasso, a painting depicting herself in the company of artists such as Edvard Munch, Frida Kahlo, Lena Cronquist and Francesco Clemente. Apart from the obvious lack of modesty the picture could also be read as a manifesto of her artistic ideals. Staging her own persona in her own works and within the art historical tradition has ever since been a central element in Askelands ouevre, as seen in the Munch adaptions project. Furthermore, the artist here demonstrate an awareness of her belonging to the expressionist tradition. Expressionist ideals dealing with personal, often erotic, experience, are present in most of her works. The 1980s saw a revival of these ideas with the so-called Neo-Expressionist movement. For Askeland visits to New York studios of Brice Marden and Francesco Clemente were crucial to this developement.
With the Obituaries project around 2000, the artist turnes from figurative to abstract painting. The project dealt with death, and the paintings had the shape of coffins, painted in subtle blue and violet hues. After a few years of abstract expressionist paintings, the artist once again turned to figurative painting and to art historical ideals. Munch Adoptions (2004) was a series of paraphrases of Edvard Munchs famous "soul paintings" from the 1890s.
Medding with the nations master caused something of a scandal in the norwegian milieu. However, Askelands pictures were not copies, but reinterpretations of Munchs themes, such as love, sex and agony.
With the series Desire and Destruction and Big Blonde - the latter shown in New York in 2006 - Askeland depicted the icons of the 20 th century, paraphrasing well-known portraits. Among femme fatals such as Marilyn Moneroe, Mae West and Courtny Love one also found, once again, the artist herself. Both in theme and style, these projects were obvious reference to the Pop art of Andy Warhoel, demonstrating the artists affinity to the American tradition. the technique was photo-based serigraphy, the same medium she employs in her latest pictures.
The exhibition A Lot of Water Under the Bridge (2008) featured images inspired by the famous movie Casablanca, among others love scenes with Ingerid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart. When a series from this was acquired by the National Museum of Art in Oslo, it stirred a new debate, not only about the artist, but also about the museum.
In her current exhibition, Friezed, Askeland has turned to landscapes art. The series depict the surrounding Kløfta outside Oslo, where Askeland lives in her late 19th century house together with her artist husband Sverre Koren Bjertnæs, three of her four children, several cats and a lap-dog. Though the artistis person is no longer obviously present in these works, we know she is there somewhere, luring in the forest with her blonde hair and red lips.
By Knut Ljøgodt