Else Leirvik - Unconscious and uncool
Galleri Opdahl, Stavanger
Challenges can be inspiring, but can also lead to frustration, or ignorance. Challenging exhibitions may have the same impact. The risk of frustration or ignorance can be reduced by how the artworks are presented or mediated. Gallery Opdahl present an exhibition by Else Leirvik that I find challenging, and may be inspiring to some, frustrating to some, and uninteresting to some.
The sculptures are of different form and materials, some with titles only stating the use of material, some stating the form, and some with vague directions to the content.
I am approaching this challenge in three steps:
1. The first impression - what I observe
2. With knowledge - after reading the exhibition text
3. Elimination - choosing one sculpture to focus on
I start by having a look at what I observe. A line stitched onto linen. A small pile of bricks, a concrete bended plate, a bedside table, a stripped closet, a stick, a ball, and noses in plaster. There is a minimalism in the use of material, colors, shapes, titles and descriptions. With this limited amount of information I am stuck, I do not have the creativity to get what this is about. I need to go on to the next step.
I read the text written about the exhibition. This is mostly about the writer's impression of the artist. But I also get some hints: The stick is inspired by the novelist Olav H. Hauge, the head by late actor Heath Ledger, some of the noses by Virginia Woolf, Gertrude Stein and Nicole Kidman. And the cupboard is a cast of movie maker Ingmar Bergman's bedside table. I assume that all the other works are also portraits, and start looking for clues. The stitched arches on the linen reminds me of the cover on the single "Imagine" by John Lennon. For some reason I associate the brick pile to writer Arne Garborg, thinking about the stone fences in his novels and native landscape. The remaining noses could be of Barbara Streisand and Louise Borgeouis as far as I know. Then it start getting difficult. The bended concrete tablet strikes me with the association to the 2001 space odyssey movie by Kubrick. And the empty closet I dedicate to Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami, don't ask me why. Am I putting too much into this? Probably. But it got me started being creative.
I head on to the next step. If I had to choose one of the works to focus on, which one would that be? I choose the cupboard of Ingmar Bergman.
What do I know about this? This is a copy of Bergman's bedside table, it probably held his notes and scripts. It looks like a regular IKEA-furniture, and maybe it was too. But on a closer look this is not made by plywood, it is cast in ceramic. It is transformed from any kind of cheap furniture to a carefully prepared sculpture. It is transformed from anybody's furniture to the furniture of an artist. Both the spirit of Else Leirvik and Ingmar Bergman lives in this sculpture. There are no paper notes on or under the table, but the drawer is shut for good. As nobody will ever know what Bergman could have written had he lived longer, we will not know what Leirvik has kept inside the drawer.
The exhibition gave me a challenge. I solved it in my way, there may be hundreds of other approaches. Had I heard the artist's or the curator's statement it would probably have been different. I started with ignorance and frustration, and ended up with being inspired.