Exhibition opening 14.03.2024, 18.00-20.00
The continuation of a series which Vibeke Slyngstad began in 2019, the five new paintings started at the end of summer 2023 and created for this solo exhibition at OSL Contemporary in Oslo in early spring 2024 appear full of promise for the arrival of the season. Associated with new life and the emergence of many flowers and plants following the winter months, spring also inspires thoughts of softer, warmer light, setting the scene and atmosphere for this new body of work.
Entitled Wild Weeds and numbered one to five in the sequence in which they were painted, Slyngstad’s series of canvases presents close-up depictions of undergrowth from ground level, as if from the viewpoint of creatures just born into this emerging world. The sunlight is so bright that it bleaches out some of the blades of grass and occasional flowers that have reached the faint horizons. The skies are almost pure white, though a gentle yellow permeates the atmosphere. Beyond a sense of this being golden, evening light, there is no intimation of time in these serene scenes of natural beauty.
Slyngstad’s series of paintings is replete with diverse varieties of plants and flowers, identifiable to gardeners and botanists from the larger-than-life scale of the works and the level of detail with which she has painstakingly rendered them; each painting takes several weeks to create. The artist regularly needs to step away from the canvas to be able to see the whole; working up-close for long periods can transform figurative, realist images such as these into pure abstractions. While the paintings require great concentration and focused effort, Slyngstad describes the process as meditative.
The title Wild Weeds perhaps strikes a surprising note. While the idea of ‘wild flowers’ evokes a romantic sense of nature undisturbed by human activity, ‘wild weeds’ is suggestive of less desirable plants; weeds are, of course, the things people try to remove from their gardens. It could, however, be argued that the term ‘rewilding’, which has entered public consciousness in recent years, has brought a more holistic attitude to the ecosystem. Slyngstad’s paintings certainly make the case that weeds can be just as beautiful as more popular species.
It is significant that the photographs taken by the artist as source material for these paintings were not of her native or local flora, as she has sometimes depicted in previous series; they were taken in Shuafat in East Jerusalem when visiting Norwegian friends whom she first travelled out to see some twenty years ago. Slyngstad explains how ‘this wilderness has been allowed to grow in this densely populated area because, for several generations, the Palestinian owners of the plot have been refused permission to develop it by the Israeli authorities.’ The wild weeds in the paintings thus take on the role of signifiers of a complex and disheartening political context. Standing in the field taking photographs, Slyngstad was struck by both this fraught and fragile coexistence and the beauty surrounding her. ‘In recent years,’ she comments, ‘my work has particularly focused on the “vulnerable landscape”, either in the form of politically problematic areas or in terms of nature.’ In the resulting paintings presented here, lying in what might have been the sunshine of an earthly garden of Eden, the viewer is invited to reflect on what humankind’s relationship is with the landscape, with the natural world and, indeed, with each other.
- Matt Price
Vibeke Slyngstad (born 1968) lives and works in Oslo. She studied at Oslo National Academy of the Arts. Slyngstad has exhibited extensively in Norwegian and Scandinavian institiutions. In 2009 she was represented at the Venice Biennial in the exhibition ‘The Collectors’, curated by Elmgreen & Dragset. She was part of the show Inside Outside Architecture at the the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Oslo and in 2017 saw her acclaimed solo exhibition ‘Color me Gone’ at Haugar Vestfold Kunstmuseum.
Slyngstad is prominently positioned among Norway’s contemporary figurative painters and is known for her psychologically poignant figures and interiors. Slyngstad’s painting style is anchored in Romanticism while referring equally to contemporary photography’s critical view on the impact of human existence.
Her work is represented in several private and public collections, amongst these The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Statoil Art Collection, Nordea Art Collection, Storebrand and Telenor Art Collection. Recent solo exhibitions include Kristiansand Kunsthall (2018) and OSL contemporary (2019).
Matt Price is a publisher, editor and writer based in London, and is particularly known for his work in the field of contemporary painting. As a writer he has been published in magazines such as frieze, Art Monthly, ArtReview, Flash Art and Modern Painters, and is a regular contributor to Art Quarterly. As an editor, he has worked for Hans Ulrich Obrist, as Managing Editor of Flash Art, Milan, as Deputy Editor at ArtReview, London, as publishing manager at Serpentine Galleries, London, and as a special projects editor at frieze, London. He has worked with a number of international trade publishers including Rizzoli, Hatje Cantz and Thames & Hudson, and was project editor of Phaidon’s flagship international anthologies of contemporary painting and drawing Vitamin P2 and Vitamin D2. Price authored the first two volumes of The Anomie Review of Contemporary British Painting, and is publishing the third volume in spring 2024.