press release

Mari Slaattelid - Kystverket
May 23–August 11, 2019

This year’s Festival Artist at Bergen Kunsthall, Mari Slaattelid, is one of Norway’s most recognised painters. For almost three decades Slaatte­lid has insisted on the potential of painting, independently of changing trends and the shifting status of painting within artistic discourses. Without locking the medium into any particular formal idiom, she alternates with ease between figuration and abstraction, between expressive and conceptual painting, and the intersections of painting in relation to other art forms such as photography and literature.

Her exhibition Kystverket will consist almost exclusively of new works created especially for the galleries of Bergen Kunsthall. The title reflects the main motif in many of the new paintings: a coastal landscape with a lantern (navigation marker) and—in silhouette against the sky—an operator adjusting the light signal. With clear resonance in its geographical location on the coast of southwestern Norway, the exhibition can be seen as a site-specific response to the expectations and the format of the Festival Exhibition. Each work is led by a drive towards unimaginable and maximised colour combinations. The atmosphere of the landscape and the flickering of the light on the water surface are translated into unexpected and striking visual effect.

The motif—where an object in nature becomes an anthropomorphic signal emitter—is something she shares with colleagues from the history of art, such as August Strindberg and Peder Balke in Nordic painting. But Slaattelid’s treatment is first and foremost surprisingly singular from picture to picture, depicting the distinctive triangu­lar shape of the lantern, as an alien element in the landscape, in combination with the male figure placed high above ground level, as an iconic juxtaposition. The works reflect the painter’s gaze; ways of seeing not only the surroundings, but also ways of dealing with representation, and how the non-material act of perception can be translated into the tactile presence of a painted work. The gaze is a recurring theme in the exhibition, appearing both in the lantern motif, where a circle is inscribed in a triangle like an "all-seeing eye," and in a series of works depicting a human eye. The eye appears here as something bodily direct, and as an image of the indiv­i­dual gaze: the filter through which every one of us experiences the world.

Mari Slaattelid (b. 1960) studied at the academies of art in Bergen, Oslo and Düsseldorf. She lives and works in Oslo.

Curated by Axel Wieder and Steinar Sekkingstad.

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.

The exhibition is presented in collaboration with Kunstnernes Hus in Oslo, where a new version will be shown in 2020.

A new book, Templates, will be published in col­la­­boration with Kunstnernes Hus and Sternberg Press. The book includes new texts by Mari Slaattelid, Aleksi Manilla-Wildhagen and Steinar Sekkingstad.