Oslo, Norway. June 2013.
So here is another type of ‘segment’ which, pun intended I suppose, is called ‘Monumental’, highlighting (duh) monuments and other such epic things. The first place I wanted to share is Frogner Park in Oslo, Norway. The park houses the iconic works of Gustav Vigeland, whose works I’ve seen a few times online or in magazines but never really responded to until I was able to see the sculptures in person. I’ve always been more inclined towards classical sculpture–the Michelangelos and Berninis–rather than the overly modern or trying-too-hard-to-be modern works that sometimes bring into question the presence of talent behind the work (I just do not get putting a stone circle on a stone square and calling it art–it certainly isn’t of the same caliber as the renaissance greats). Don’t get me wrong, though; I don’t generalise and think this of all modernist art. But you have to admit that there is a lot of serious crap out there, and sometimes you just long for the good ol’ renaissance and the golden age of art.
But back to the works of Gustav Vigeland. They aren’t exactly classical in style–no tumble of curls or big round bosoms on the ladies, or David-esque forms on the men. Contrary to the idealistic/romantic style of the Italian masters, Vigeland’s sculptures were surprisingly realistic and, I don’t know how else to put it, human. His style of realism is a great example of how modern sculpture can be; sort of a nod to the classic but with the raw imperfection of being a person in this world.
We’re so used to the perfect, Grecian gods and goddesses made of marble and looking so pristine, that Gustav Vigeland’s realism is a refreshingly haunting style. The works (particularly those in Frogner Park) depict moments in real life that are charged with emotion and vulnerability.
We see real people (and not perfect gods and models) in the midst of family life, performing tasks, and in different stages of life from birth to death.
A lot of the sculptures were like beautiful contemporary dances captured in mid-movement.
The weathered bronze also lends the sculptures a beautiful, raw texture and quality to them that makes the effect even more striking in contrast to the pristine white marbles of old.
And of course, the gorgeous monolith–which also depicts life and death. When you look at it up close, it really is an almost eerie, gruesome scene. It’s kind of sick and twisted, which is just my cup of tea.
Quiet, emotive moments frozen in time, almost.
Joy, disappointment, love, frustration–complex emotions so beautifully portrayed.
Seeing all these sculptures up close was really very powerful and engaging. I could spend a whole day just staring at the different vignettes, seeing their stories unfold in my head.
This park, more than any other museum or exhibit, really changed my mind about modern sculpture. I guess I just got frustrated with the stone circles and ‘abstract’ (aka trying-to-be-deep) squares that I had almost turned away completely from the entire movement. Sometimes it just takes the right piece (or park) to move you enough and to get you to reconsider.