jun. 2019|Press release
The Bergen International Festival Exhibition is one of Norway’s most important exhibitions of contemporary art, and is considered the most prestigious exhibition commission for a Norwegian artist in his or her home country. The Festival Exhibition has been shown at Bergen Kunsthall since 1953, selected and organized by Bergen Kunsthall.
Festspelkunstnar Mari Slaattelid meiner at kunst ikkje treng gni inn det du visste frå før. Og einsemda på atelieret vert ho meir og meir glad i.
Denne gangen har jeg forsøkt å lage henvendte malerier, sier Mari Slaattelid, med hemningsløs bruk av virkemidler. Jeg vil at møtet med bildet skal være minneverdig, at det skal vare lenge.
Årets festspillutstilling med Mari Slaattelid oppfyller alle de kriteriene som forventes av en god kunstutstilling. Det inkluderer også de problematiske sidene i kampen om maleriets relevans.
Festspillutstiller Mari Slaattelids bilder står i kontrast til kunst «som skal belære og oppdra». Hun argumenterer godt for at maleriet i seg selv kan romme det meste.
In Mari Slaattelid’s series Kystverket (2018-19) a number of variations on the same familiar scene are repeated in a large group of new paintings. The motif shows a landscape with a horizon line that divides the painting approximately at the middle and forms several layers inward in the picture. From the position of the viewer on firm ground we look out towards a fjord and an island beyond that meet in the sky.
On several occasions recently I have spent time with the pictures of Mari Slaattelid; sometimes with the artist in her studio, sometimes alone while she took a break. I have seen finished and unfinished pictures, pictures just begun and pictures almost done, just a few at a time. I have also been sent the new works, photographed so that I can look at them on the screen where I write.
You can stand behind it, in the lee of the lantern with its tiny opening, a blind spot that resembles an eye. Standing behind this green, sweeping gaze, turned towards the fjord, you can paint a coastal landscape. You can paint a lantern, the one with the green gaze. The only thing you can’t paint is the gaze.
"Ein kan ikkje stå der med ein pensel heile tida", skal Cy Twombly ha sagt. Han kunne ta fri frå malearbeidet i halvår om gongen, sikkert fordi han hadde råd til å la vere, men eg vil tru, òg i desperasjon over kva han skulle finne på. Det vanlegaste male-moduset trur eg må vere å nøle, å rett og slett ikkje vite kva ein skal gjere. På eit tidspunkt går ein likevel i gang. Maleri er, mellom andre ting, eit beslutningsorgan, ein stad for å ta avgjerder og ei flate for å vise resultatet.
Mari Slaattelid ønsker å male, ikke slik hun er, men slik hun må være for bildets skyld. Torsdag åpner hennes Festspillutstilling i Bergen Kunsthall.
In his essay on objective literature and Alain Robbe-Grillet, Roland Barthes describes the novel Jealousy as a liberation for its genre. In Barthes’ view, Robbe-Grillet transforms the novel into a purely visual experience that takes place in the world of material things, on the surface: “We no longer look at the world with the eyes of a confessor, of a doctor, or of God himself (all significant hypostases of the classical novelist), but with the eyes of a man walking in his city with no other horizon than the scene before him, no other power than that of his own eyes.” And the description of the banana plantation, in which Robbe-Grillet explains with minute and mathematical precision the rows of banana palms and their system of planting is perhaps the clearest example of what Barthes refers to as objective literature.
on. off lamp off. on.
2016 — Lengths of rough garden hessian almost entirely cover the long wall of Mari Slaattelid’s studio, one Saturday afternoon in mid-August. The hessian is heavy with paint, in some places diffuse, muted earth tones, in others rectangular fields of grey or red, with hard edges, leaving a narrow border of the greyish-brown fabric. Spread across the floor is an assortment of large canvases covered in vibrant primary colours. They were painted outdoors, lying on the ground. Diluted acrylic paints have been applied, sometimes in broad strokes, sometimes dripped or poured onto the canvases, where they form small pools before drying. In places the fabric has wrinkled and buckled due to moisture in the ground and the air, giving the pictures an organic, somewhat dishevelled look.
Painting is a medium full of contradictions. There’s picture, representation, materiality, colour and decoration, time, memory. Once in a while it plays out as a conflict between these elements, which balance on a knife edge between nothing and too much. It’s a medium that can seem fundamentally compromised – and which, perhaps for that very reason, sometimes finds itself at the centre of the most heated rhetoric the art world can experience, with the debate revolving around not just matters of art theory, but also how the medium is used. Whether that use affirms or negates the medium, it frequently seems to convey an element of calculation and cleverness.
The British poet J.H. Prynne once gave an extraordinary lecture, as part of a symposium at the Tate in London, on Willem de Kooning’s 1963 painting Rosy-Fingered Dawn at Louse Point. Subsequently transcribed and published, the talk is a kind of verbal performance, a feat of rhetorical virtuosity, in which the poet tests language’s capacity to do justice to painterly abstraction – a development treated by Prynne, a fellow modernist, with almost metaphysical dignity.
Mari Slaattelid (født 1960) er en sentral størrelse innen norsk maleri de siste tjue årene eller så. Slaattelids begavelse er av det visuelt sjenerøse slaget, og hennes billedmessig rike utstilling Unlike a symbol på Galleri Standard bør sees av et større publikum enn den innerste krets av spesielt interesserte.
mar. 2018|Press release
STANDARD (OSLO) is proud to present a solo exhibition of new works by Mari Slaattelid. The show, entitled “Unlike a Symbol”, gathers a group of new paintings that may vary in terms of formal point of departure but repeatedly return to an interest in the basic structures of language and how language categories limit and determine cognitive categories.
Plutselig åpner Mari Slaattelid utstilling på Standard (Oslo). Uten at det skal være til forkleinelse for verken Slaattelid eller Standard, må man kunne påpeke at det av flere grunner ikke er en åpenbar allianse. Slaattelid, født 1960, har vært en markant figur i det norske maleriet siden iallfall midten av nittitallet, og har frem til nå vært representert av Galleri K. Standards grunnlegger, Eivind Furnesvik, har hatt for vane å bygge opp kunstnerne sine selv. At han nå tar inn et såpass etablert navn, må regnes som en (lokal)historisk (mini)begivenhet. Men samarbeidet med Slaattelid signaliserer òg konsolideringen av Standards vending vekk fra nykonseptualismen (i vid forstand), mot et mer – man kunne forsøksvis kalle det – sensitivt maleri.
Mari Slaattelid viser seg fra sin beste side i sin første utstilling i Galleri K på tre år. Den er sjeldent fargesterk til henne å være, men inspirasjonen fra Malevitsj’ sorte kvadrat er fortsatt med. Der finnes det en religiøs dimensjon.
“The pure heart; on the soul’s bravery in the struggle for the purity of the heart.”
The quotation, a book title, is borrowed from John Cassian’s (ca. 360–433) writings on the purity of the heart and the struggle against the eight vices. According to Cassian, a pure heart is a crucial precondition for the most important of all the virtues, discretio, the ability to sort important from unimportant and avoid exaggeration. Discretio was thought to be for the soul what the eye is for the body: a source of light and illumination.
The subject of Mari Slaattelid's painted-on photographs is a light switch found in the artist's studio. A ubiquitous functional object, made to be easily recognized when fumbling about in the dark for the immutable clarity of electric light: It’s large central surface welcoming palms and fingers with a familiar click. This one is also unique: Covered with smears of artist’s paint, it visibly carries the history of a subconscious action repeatedly taken while performing a more focused task; that of making pictures.
It can resemble the beautiful people who gather at exhibition openings and biennials, the roaming eyes and eye-catchers, ladies in bloom along the walls – wallflowers, as in the dancehalls sixty years ago. The passive aspect of paintings has always fascinated me. Only a few command your attention. The others don’t steal your time, but look in another direction.
Written in large letters on one of the paintings in the top-lit hall at Kunstnerforbundet is the word NON-FOOD. As if stamped twice onto the upper left corner, the terse term reaches out to us as we enter the venerable exhibition space. In addition to this, the picture consists of an accumulation of semi-recognizable forms or geometric structures; stars and artists' easels lying on their sides or floating in space. For those who know Mari Slaattelid's recent work, these shapes and the other visual devices that occur in the exhibition amount to a distinctive artistic signature. Easels, flags, lace patterns, indeterminate painted blobs and repetitive, graphically flat landscapes are all features that Slaattelid uses as symbols and signs in a discussion she has been pursuing for the past two decades about the role of painting in art, about the force and meaning of images, and, quite simply, about what a picture is.
… in cultural production, a recalcitrant little vacuum in the great culture that surrounds it. Culture is always meaningful, whether high, low, good or not so good. Culture generates cooperation, unity. Art, on the other hand, is in itself neither good nor bad, but passes us by, or sticks with us. Paintings are difficult to grasp, despite the fact that they hang quietly on a wall. If art lacks purpose and meaning, what is this thing in the middle of the wall that demands our attention?
The exhibition Ideelle problem (Ideal Problems) is shot through with an intense visual linguistics in which I have lost my way, for these paintings affect each other; they are interlinked like a series of doors. All you can do is follow them. Open one, pass through it, unlock the next, and so on.
According to Mari Slaattelid, this means two things: that a good painting is sensed first and foremost in the emotional register - and that a good painting is very rare. In saying this, she indirectly reveals her own turn of mind. The notion that a great work of art comes along only rarely approaches latent melancholy. At the same time she works precisely towards achieving that painting. In that sense she binds herself with the romantics. We are seeing the contours of purposeful endeavour.
Mari Slaattelid is a master of colour. Even where the light is repulsed by darkness, as in Sleepless, a subtle scheme of blue-grey and green tones unfolds across the surface of the picture. Colour is fundamental to the world of Slaattelid’s pictures. So too is narrative.
A poetics, when it is interesting, is never general. An artist, by taking consequent leaps from one work to another (style in a broad sense), can be interpreted as subject to commands of her own making, without acknowledging them as such. Mari Slaattelid can consider these:
The text can be habit-forming. It is hooked on art. The art is hung up on the wall. It gives the impression of being harder to impress than it is.
… is the title of a text by Mari Slaattelid from 1999. The phrase is also characteristic of the reflective attitude that guides her artistic activity – and of the surprising shifts and twists that typically mark our experience of her work.
One can choose to approach Mari Slaattelid’s art from a strictly painterly perspective. She studies all possible variations of the joint effects of colour, form and material. Her works are visual lessons in the command of painting. They can be admired for their systematic study of the function of visual perception, and something new is always to be found in them. Slaattelid’s subtle studies of colour are in a direct relation to the light in which they are seen. The forms offer series of associations, and the material raises a desire to touch the works. Briefly put, Slaattelid is the bearer of a long tradition of studying and investigating the possibilities of abstraction.
I looked at many paintings. Some firsthand, and some as slides. We were to find a suitable image for the book jacket of the play Austria. Which is about the meeting between Ludvig Wittgenstein and Agnes, a fictitious character with background in the philosopher’s experiences in Norway, as described by both Ibsen and myself. In Norwegian weather. The Norwegian landscape.
A photographic landscape silhouette is sharply delineated in a number of Mari Slaattelid’s images, often seeming to have been stamped with blacking or photo emulsion on metal plates. The black and white nubs of the silhouette are typically photographic - the result of technical efforts and disruptions in the direct connection between reality and image. The reality character of the photograph institutes a horizon in the picture - not only a visual horizon, but the actual horizon. The horizon’s visual weight is a prime element in the painting. It may be overpainted by a thin membrane of paint or by compact strokes, appear positive or negative, rendered lovingly or drafted indifferently.
jan. 1999|Press release
Mari Slaattelid receives the Carnegie Award of 500,000 Swedish crowns for two works with a visual beauty that spans the entire history of painting, from the marking of body with paint to the late modernist monochrome. Slaattelid’s artistic strength is demonstrated through her having gathered this tremendous stretch in one idea and thus giving it contemporary form.
1. — In a series of Templates or Stampings from 1996 (I stick to the former, less literal translation of ‘stempel’) in each picture the same landscape photograph has been painted off from a projection, leaving the land silhouetted on a bright neutral ground . The horizon line is a figurative clue, suggesting a field between two groups of trees. But whatever the photograph may show the paintings refer to no definate place. A spectator may be puzzled by these pictures, for their visual intererest is on a first pass quite modest and in key with the low specificity of the landscape, yet to a patient observer the repeated tracings of a dull horizon appear (I claim) subtle and profound. Can criticism help us to understand this, and hence to a fuller perception of the paintings?
4 x 4 paintings on square plexiglass panels come into existence as they are received and handed on. The handprints along the edges, front and back, both constitute the pictures and form frames. A frame is to be handled. As opposed to a painting, which is not to be touched, a frame is the ornamental elaboration of a painting's materiality. From within, the empty image points at the frame and assigns it a dual role – tactile and optical.
“We must get the visual, and in particular the mirroring metaphors out of our speech altogether.”
– Richard Rorty in Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, 1979
“As a child, I used to copy entire books or passages from books to send to my girlfriend. I could have sent her books, but instead I sent her copies, written by hand, of books that I liked. Had I sent her books, I would have been sending her literature. This could not have been my intention. My intention was rather to say that I liked her, by sending her copies of books or passages from books that I enjoyed, copied in my own handwriting. By sending her these copies, I sent her something literal.”
– Emmanuel Hocquard (from Ma vie privée)