Stories

Darkness Burns Bright - Artwork by Christian Houge

Words: Esben Holmboe Bang

The visual expression of the restaurant is something that is very important for the totality of the experience here at Maaemo. We want something that transports the guests into our universe that gives us a reference point to the cuisine and identity of the food.

Some weeks ago we told you about the artwork of Danny Larsen that we display in our kitchen. In the actual dining room of the restaurant we change the artwork throughout the year, not only to reflect nature and the changing Norwegian seasons, but also to create a dynamic backdrop to the dining room that can grow with us as a restaurant instead of having a static environment.

The artwork of Norwegian photographer Christian Houge creates a reflective darkness that has roots in old Norwegian culture and Norse myths. We’ve worked with Christian before and there’s a strong parallel in how we both work and look at the world. Even though we express ourselves through different mediums, there’s an understanding and energy that is common to both us. Christian’s work has a strong emotional impact and lies in the grey area between the rough and the polished, and I have more than once been profoundly moved by the very emotional expression of his work.

Here are some words from Christian:

“Even with all our technology and development, we are still an important part of something greater than ourselves; something natural and pure beyond culture and technology. This was the starting point that was sustainable for millions of years before the evolution of the human species on Earth. This nature within us is still very much present beneath the veil of culture.

"Even with all our technology and development, we are still an important part of something greater than ourselves; something natural and pure beyond culture and technology. This was the starting point that was sustainable for millions of years before the evolution of the human species on Earth" Christian Houge

After completing my ‘Shadow Within’ series in 2013, I wanted to further explore my affinity for wolves and how I was connected to the theme. The driving force behind the ‘Darkness Burns Bright’ project was to create a link between technology and the natural, between culture and nature with the wolf acting as the driving force and impulse. Through the evolutionary process of the photographic series this exploration and understanding evolved into a series of installations and a short film.

I eventually found the right organic materials and techniques that were symbolically linked to the prevalent theme. The canvases were composed of square-cut cow skins sewn together and put through a complicated uv-printing process. Later, they were cut to pieces again, burned and severed by flame and knife alike, before being partially sewn back together using cords of leather and rope. Symbolic organic materials such as beeswax, blood, ash and gold were also used in the works.

The wolf has played a central role in many cultures around the world, often portrayed as the sacred and respected animal; the ultimate insightful leader, or as the dreaded beast – a manifestation of the devil himself. The Old Norse wolf, Vargr, had a central role in Norse mythology with characters like the Fenris Wolf playing an important role in the storytelling and identity of Norwegian culture. 

Other strong characters, such as Mowgli in Kipling’s The Jungle Book or the brothers Romulus and Remus from Rome’s foundation myth, are nurtured and reared by wolves. This plays upon the loving and caring nature of the wolves, which these beasts also represent in addition to being feared predators. Little Red Riding Hood was initially conceived by Charles Perrault in the 1600’s, but did not become an important figure until the writings of the Grimm brothers in the 1900’s. The original tale being deemed too erotic, bloody and full of complex symbolism and metaphors.

The wolf has survived solely upon fear and adaptability in a way few other animals have endured. Since the oldest cave paintings were made 32,000 years ago, in Lascaux, France, animals have played a vital role in art and culture, and wolves are often depicted with respect and deep roots in man’s identity.”

Read more about Christian and take a look at his other impressive artworks on his website.