Juan Antonio Bernier´s introduction to:
¿Mi pequeño soñador, abríras la ventana a veces?
Sala 4, Real Jardin Botanico de Córdoba
We are nature, because the mind
It's a part of the nature of things
The title of Anders Gronlien's new exhibition comes, clarifyingly, from two stupendous songs: “Little dreamer, by Future Islands and “Windows”, by Angel Olsen. In both these songs and in the work of the Norwegian artist, there is an invocation to dream and to “open your eyes”, as well as an acute sensation that these are human faculties that we have possessed at some previous moment, only to lose them later.
Perhaps what Gronlien intends is precisely this: to point out a fracture in our relationship as a species with the natural bosom that we inhabit and from which we derive. The indication of this fracture cannot but refer us to the origins of Romanticism, a historical moment in which some young people (I am thinking of Germany and the Jena Circle, poets like Novalis and philosophers like Schelling) began to warn us of the risks and dangers of the (mis)called “progress”.
In this sense, Anders Grønlien may be considered a contemporary "neo-romantic". This is confirmed by the selection of his motifs, mostly drawn from nature: landscapes, animals, plant scenes... His pictorial approaches are truly beautiful and evocative, they denote an endearing tenderness and love for nature and great psychological impact on the observer. However, this tenderness contrasts with the almost constant presence of a disturbing element, usually coming from human technology or at least from its trace of aggression.
This is the case in “Forest Fire”, in “Off-grid power station” or the disturbing “Laser beam in a lake”. In the latter, on a watery and wooded landscape, presented through the sfumato so dear to the author, a ray of light that does not come from the sun or the stars, but from human technology, breaks out with outstanding clarity. In this way, what normally descends from above is not, on this occasion, a sign of divine power or nature, but a reminder of the inversion of hierarchies to which man aspires in his desire to dominate. The Light of the Enlightenment may end up becoming, as the early romantics warned, an emitter of darkness. It is worth agreeing here, with Goya, that "the dream of reason produces monsters.»
Is that why we find the arrogance of the fox so nice that in scorzo it seems to reflect, as if it knew something more than we do? The “Foxhole”, presented in another work with which it forms a diptych, acquires almost human constructive qualities. In this way, what is natural is endowed with a reason that we intuit is superior to ours: nature looks at us, instead of us looking at it; gaining intelligence, if it has ever lacked it.
Also, perhaps, for this reason in Grønlien's works there is something of an accusation, a call to our responsibility, an invitation to reflect on our interference. And as a memory: today more than ever it is necessary to lean out the window to look again: to dream outside. Hence, the works in which the natural space is not shown adulterated by the human hand carry titles as significant as "Hypnagogia" (state of mild hallucination on the threshold between wakefulness and sleep) or "Sedative sceneries»
It is easy to establish the analogy between windows and paintings, as well as between "the hand of man" and the hand of the artist. This time in a positive sense. It is the artist who intends to wake us from sleep (behind closed doors) and enter, paradoxical as it may seem, (perhaps through a window) into the (true) dream. That kind of dream that we forget in the morning very easily, and to which we belong, perhaps more than to our consciousness. Hence the hypnagogic, sedative and dreamlike character that surrounds the set of works gathered in this exhibition.
Finally, I would like to recall the words of Friedrich Schelling, belonging to his Writings on the Philosophy of Nature (1797), which Anders' plastic work seems to corroborate in practice, helping to eliminate the fracture to which he alluded at the beginning: “ I do not admit the existence of two different worlds, but only and absolutely one in which everything is included, even what in common consciousness is opposed as nature and spirit.
As a poet, I feel particularly close to these Gronlien works. For example, when they wrote “Nature, / you are not to blame / for poverty / for our imagination”, which they intended to be incriminating verses, or “The congregation of trees / is our popular jury”.
Sleep and wakefulness, nature and man, Grønlien reminds us, are only and absolutely one.
Juan Antonio Bernier
Córdoba, april 2023
Lumír Nykl on:
Don´t go chasing waterfalls
at Futura Centre for Contemporary art
Is it possible to fulfill dreams by your will, is it worth to chase for a sense in a devastatingly changing world? Is it better to withdraw into a subjective world, flee into the arms of nature and turn into your own inner world? Anders Grønlien could be:
– a forest troll with a noisy feedbacking guitar on crouching on a raft in the middle of a pond in the Prachov Rocks next to a tea house?
– a kneeling ritualist dressed in a costume made from a fabric used in the Catholic paralithurgic processions in Cordoba, covered with a print, in which the (pre)islamic ornaments overlap in the free symmetry?
– a neo-romantic painter and sculptor with a subjective imagination, working intuitively but with a sense of mystical meanings, perceiving nature in a melancholic manner and transmitting its image onto the canvas with a sentimental effort to re-present the “hieroglyphic” language of nature?*
The early romantic image of nature as the world of spirit and symbols that a human revives for himself is hidden in every misty color spot. Many years ago, art was supposed to blend with nature in one, but instead, nature was exploited by western painting, just as nature had been transformed into resources in favor of a logic based on industrialisation and market.
The early modern attempts to search for a new comprehensible allegory in the sense of the intuitably understood natural signs of the image have, in the recent art, been shown to be confident in the general comprehensibility of mass-spread commercial codes and corporate meaning formulas. Artists such as Anders Grønlien flee from this position to the vision of universally communicative sense of nature.
The meaning of Aries’ skull at the foot of a half-clothed hunter with a javelin lies somewhere between the self-irony of astronomical memes and the sacrificing of obsolete masculinity on the altar of irreversible future-to-be. Understanding the parable of a tree of life with roots in a meeting point of four rivers can only be as fragmentary as a keyhole in the shape of a Moorish arch.
The colonial heritage of the uprooting of ancient cultural patterns overshadows the possibility of understanding the mythological elements otherwise present across cultures. A similarly picturesque forest scene with a fox and a cave can be interpreted as a sophisticated visual commentary on the Renaissance heritage of Plato’s philosophy, as well as the doom metal joke about stoner’s crib.
Stylishly related neo-pagan costumes and props are then preserved as an exposition of the Ethnographic Museum situated in a walking distance from the gallery, including a refined sound design installation of field recordings of rain and intermittent flow of the stream.
The symbolic meanings seem as mysterious as the water flowing from the marine fjord to the inland.
The corner stone is a relief-based ritual of fertility being done by sprinkling with a cone. It puts into motion the whole intertwined structure of
incarnate meanings: The value of paternity and desire for proximity and the cycle of procreation, birth, education, loss and alienation. The suppressed and overwhelmingconsciousness of the swift changes that spark over the horizon of a privileged Northwest perspective. Detained catastrophes and displaced inequalities invade the world with a strenght of waterfall that knocks our face to wet Andalusian tiles mirroring Norwegian landscape. Meditation in front of the gates of the Garden of Eden varies with the rift of the ritual javelin in the indictment of the world of fences that divide mankind as sadness over the existence of the boundaries that we stand between ourselves by not being able to see the consequences of our actions in good faith to change for the better.
Text from catalogue for New Black Romanticism
by Jens Asthoff:
The work of the Norwegian artist Anders Grønlien ranges from painting and drawing to complex
installations combining sculpture, sound and light effects, and special-effects makeup. His installations sometimes serve as backdrops to performances, most recently in Spirit World Rising (2016),
a co-production with Anežka Hošková.
Grønlien’s versatile approach is marked by continuous narratives whose imagery is inspired by romantic and fantasy tropes.
Grønlien himself cites a wide range of references, from art history and lm to mythology, folklore,
science-fiction, archaeology, mysticism and occultism. ‘Actually, I see all of these topics as existing in the one and same visual realm, as I let my referential material come to me intuitively from a free form of interest and research’, he explains. One of his most elaborate productions was the piece Artemis Refuge (2010). In Greek mythology, Artemis – the goddess of hunting, the forest and the moon – is a wild and free-spirited character.
Her attributes are the bow and arrow, which she shoots at mortals to bring disease upon them. Grønlien’s work offers a quasi-cinematic interpretation of the myth:
spectators face a chapel that seems to come straight out of a science- fiction film; an octagonal door opens up on the naked Artemis lying wounded on the ground, hit by her own arrow. The figure is sacralised by a spotlight and gently framed by ivy. Pathos and seamless aestheticisation here combine into a strange mixture where irony and drama become indistinguishable.
A similarly affective stance is at play in Grønlien’s paintings, for instance in The Valley of the Vapors (2015), one in a recent series of blurry landscapes reminiscent of pastel paintings, which shows a waterfall in the style of Joseph Anton Koch rushing through an anthroposophical world of colour.
Jaro Varga Curator on Spirit World Rising, Galerie Kostka
The accession to the gallery reminds one of entering a sacred arena where a rite is taking place. The artist is the one who commands the whole rite, determines its dynamics and in uences the overall atmosphere in the room. The gallery visitors become participants of the rite upon entering the site. An unconscious connection arises between them and the artist – a two-way dialogue in which a ritual full moon occurs. It is the experience of participation and uncon- scious union – “participation mystique”.
The artist initiating the rite activates the archetypal pattern, sub- stitutes a clergyman or a shaman and by means of a performance gets in touch with unconscious contents, which he mediates to the participants by means of visual gestures, images and sounds.
If consciousness is the prime principle of being and if our psyche is in reciprocal relationship with the whole existence and the overall cosmic principle, then the unconscious connection activated by the rite can facilitate experience which we nd represented in di erent spiritual and mystical traditions, such as Buddhism, Taoism, Su sm, Christian mysticism, the Quaballa and other spiritual systems.
The site-speci c installation Spirit World Rising (named after Dan- iel Johnston’s song) at the Kostka (Cube) Gallery presents a ritual scene, consisting of the visual database of Anežka Hošková and Anders Grønlien, collectors of symbols and spiritually charged motives. It is a gesamtkunstwerk connecting two artists and various media
– installation, statue, music, performance and documentation. More so it is a connection between space and time, form and meaning, life and matter or the conscious and the subconscious.
Anežka Hošková (Czechia) represents the mystical associational painting and drawing and the post-internet aesthetics. Her psychedelic style compositions are often the outcome of connecting mystical and religious symbols, expressive appearance and strikingly reduced artistic expression. Anežka Hošková is the cofounder and active member of A.M.180 Collective.
Anders Grønlien (Norway) often connects and newly interprets selected elements from art history, cinema, mythology, occultism, folklore, archaeology or science ction. He gives new expression to these motives by means of site-speci c installations charged with an unexpected narrative experience and new interpretations of visu- al culture and symbolism.
Michal Novotný curator, on Spirit World Rising II
If there is one thing that art can do, it is to bring uncertainty.
All the rest is probably much discussable, but if I have one argument for the existence of art, it is to disrupt the frames and scenarios we perceive the world around.
That’s why it would be wrong to say that the liturgy of Anežka Hošková and Anders Grønlinen is in fact only a formal appropriation of the religious symbolism involved. But it would also be wrong to say that the performance and installation are clearly meant as a spiritual opening for the visitors.
I would rather claim that the event and the settings are entirely serious and in the core real, as much as entirely ironical and staged.
And not only those two possibilities, but including all the possible stages in between them. And precisely this uncertainty, the unwillingness to take a clear stance - on the contrary the accentuation of simultaneously undermining statements - is what makes all the strength of the resulting artwork.
Nowadays it is anyway impossible to say something absolutely serious, without this being, at least in potential, received as entirely ironical.
A key is never the statement itself, but always the “genre” in which we find it. Without genres we would be never able to process those quantum of information we are exposed to. Finding the points of reference and understanding in which genre we are right now, is also something we are probably the most sophisticated in the history. Maybe we are also the most time bound, most conscious about how everything is embedded in time, from which era it comes or refers to. By genre meaning of course not only a movie genre, but any kind of cultural situations, whether material or not, as any utterance, gesture or object immediately brings long line of associations.
So the only way out is to deal with something so un-doubtful as the “truth that is revealed,” so unbelievable nowadays. And further supplemented with a range of religious symbolism, each of them so emotionally and in itself contradictorily loaded with associations, that at first it feels like a complete unreadable chaos. In this experimental syncretic seance, however with almost cartoon like character of the stage set, the two masters of ceremony further tears the newcomer into pieces.
Anežka in her Apolinian dream state, an artist becoming herself a sculpture, the merging with beautiful illusion. Anders ingesting the narcotic drink, capers and sings, the coming of the spring, destroys the individuality with the mystical feeling of unity. The merging with the energy of life, the wall against the actuality.
But maybe in all that something else appears. Like if the heaviness of each part and the tension between all, made together a heaviness that became finally totally light and liberating. All the weight creates a new gravitational field curving the circulating objects.
One concept that burdened the thinking of the last two centuries was the idea of the eternal truth and its accessibility to human mind. And nothing has been probably more criticised in the last century. So of course after all, we have a beer and go home. But when the truth was performed, for that time, we may believed it. Not former nor the latter, also not just them together, but rather a certain bend, a stretch, the third reading.