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Gardar Eide Einarsson / Torbjørn Rødland

A collaboration between STANDARD (OSLO) and Maaemo.

The human being is far from a perfect xerox copy machine. The seven paintings by Gardar Eide Einarsson, claiming the entire back wall of Maaemo, are evidence of that. Seemingly the same painting repeated over and over, each one has the same composition where two black triangles are stretching from either side of an otherwise entirely white canvas. Upon close inspection, however, one detects slight differences. Each of the paintings have random spills of black paint interrupting the carefully controlled composition of geometric shapes; drips that suggest that the paintings were done in a hurry or at least that they were done by a human being rather than a machine. Looking at the seven paintings one is reminded of the claim made by the philosopher Aristotle, that human beings are the same by nature but different by accident. The paintings are essentially the same, but made individual by what appear to be mistakes.

As prosaic (rather than poetic) as they may be, these spills address notions of artistic transgression that are key to the development of post-war painting. Particularly the establishment of a New York school of painting – during the 1950s and 1960s with artists such as Willem de Kooning, Joan Mitchell and Jackson Pollock – would have critics such as Harold Rosenberg making the claim that: “The gesture on the canvas was a gesture of liberation from value — political, aesthetic, moral.” When thinking of the latter, Jackson Pollock being the quintessential “action painter”, the artistic activity was one of ridding oneself of convention and loosing oneself and merging with the artwork in the making of it. Pollock, as documented in an iconic series of photos of the artist in his studio, would be seen smoking, listening to music, stepping onto the canvas laid down onto the floor while throwing paint straight from the bucket – getting rid of brushes and easels and the burden of tradition. But while Pollock created the myth of an artist whose language is complete spontaneous and unmediated, the spills in Einarsson’s paintings are as carefully added in “post-production” as the precise triangles themselves. Einarsson is less interested in style of Pollock and his contemporaries but rather looking at the iconography of the infrastructure supporting the mythology of this historical moment.

Looking at the seven paintings one is reminded of the claim made by the philosopher Aristotle, that human beings are the same by nature but different by accident

“The Good Times Are Over” - adding to Einarsson’s paintings, hung high up on the wall – is a relief in the shape of a speech bubble. The statement playing off the paintings while stemming from the comic book “Judge Dredd”. First published in England in 1977, “Judge Dredd” is set against the dystopic and gigantic Mega-City in the year of 2099. It portrays modern life as inhuman and undemocratic where uniformed judges combine the powers of police, judiciary and government. The quote that Einarsson has extracted renders a language of absolute certainty but one also resulting in a great sense of ambivalence: Who is the terrorist? Who is the patriot? Who is the criminal? Who is the hero? It addresses primary concerns in Einarsson’s production, that of administration of justice and a general unease with authority, as well as taking on a commentary capacity of our current socio-political environment.

It portrays modern life as inhuman and undemocratic where uniformed judges combine the powers of police, judiciary and government

While not attempting a serial repetition, the works of Torbjørn Rødland also play around with notions of doing, redoing and overdoing. The eight framed black and white photographs on display are double exposures stemming from the artist’s neighbourhood in Lauren Canyon in Los Angeles. While accepting a certain limit of control in the process, each work would be preceded by a sketch where Rødland tested out how two different tableaux could be combined and forced on top of each other. Working entirely analogue, favouring chance to a wilful digital manipulation, Rødland would then take one exposure, pull the film back to the same frame, and then do another exposure of another motif on top. The result is a merging of objects and landscapes – sometimes in stark contrast to each other and other times resulting in two ghostly layers co-existing and ever so slightly weaving together sceneries of the real and unreal. Rødland, better known for his colour photographs – landscapes, portraits and still lifes – where there is a clear reliance on staging people and objects, is here working with clear limitations of control. Accompanying the exhibition where these photographs initially were presented at STANDARD (OSLO) in 2011 was a text entitled “Sentences on Photography”, where Rødland would speak in favour of what he refers to as a “perverse photography”. For Rødland “perverse” has little to do with any moral outrage, but rather signifies that it is a photo that is not concerned with anything else but itself and is not marketing anything but its own complexities. When recently being questioned “What does an image consist of?”, Rødland responded: “Layers upon layers of perception and identification”. These double exposures are not so much about disruption as they are evidence of interruption being the very basis of image-making.

Written by Eivind Furnesvik, 2018