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Norwegian artist at international exhibition in Manchester

 Date:30/06/2007 - 12/08/2007
 Type:Culture, Contemporary Art
 Location:England, Manchester

‘To the Left of the Rising Sun’, an international show of sculpture, performance, video, puppetry and drawing by seven artists, including Norwegian Knut Henrik Henriksen, will take place at the Castlefield Gallery in Manchester.

In addition to Henriksen, the participating artists at the exhibition, curated by Stockholm-based curator Cecilia Andersson, are Bryan Davies and Dan Robinson (UK), Ben Frost (AU/IS), James Ireland (UK), Dariusz Kowalski (PL/AT), William Morris (UK), and Barbro Westling and Peter Johansson (SE). The exhibition will combine newly commissioned and existing work and include sculpture, performance, video, puppetry and drawing.

The Story of Sigurd the Volsung and the Fall of the Niblungs, William Morris most ambitious poem influenced by the anonymous thirteenth century Icelandic Volsung Saga, will be on loan from John Rylands Library and can be seen as the starting point for the exhibition. The poem, featuring Sigurd the dragon slayer takes us to glacial terrain providing an unforgettable sense of place, but simultaneously takes us beyond our particular geography to encompass universal and timeless fables. Morris’s poem, as well as many other myths and legends, is steeped in references to nature and mankind’s relationship to the natural world, as much of the work in this show alludes to.

In the late 19th and early 20th century explorers played an important role in contributing to our understanding of the ‘North’. With photographic documentation and scientific research, accompanied by written and oral accounts, they shaped ideas of a place that relatively few people had visited, it functioned as a myth generator and there are countless tales of elves, trolls and witches. In older mythology, the entrance to Hell was supposedly located in the ‘North’. Not until the late 19th-century were such myths slowly dispelled, and replaced by notions of the ‘North’ as a region of beauty and splendour. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein for example, dreamt of the North Pole as a scene of beauty and great pleasure.

Towards the end of the 19th Century, opportunity for travel increased and this became evident through artists’ depiction of landscape and their interest in specific geographical location. Such work fed a romantic sensibility and consequently contributed to the formation of national identities.

In Britain the Arts and Craft movement celebrated the tradition of individual design and craftsmanship as a reaction against the industrial revolution. One of its founder’s, William Morris, was profoundly influenced by the ‘North’. His visits to Iceland and his engagement with its close-knit society, its myths and legends, influenced his design work and contributed to his socialist ideals.

The work in this exhibition can be seen to question what it means when the notion of land has an association with a culture, and not necessarily with a country. In postcolonial times when geographical maps are redefined and travel accounts re-written, what kind of imagery does the North evoke? At a time when geographical location has little bearing on the art produced in that location, when communities effortlessly take shape virtually, how is location-specificity expressed? Taking into consideration the continued need to represent internal sentiments and to challenge universal powers, myth still plays an important role within contemporary art discourse.

To the Left of the Rising Sun
30 June - 12 August
Castlefield Gallery
2 Hewitt Street, Knott Mill
Manchester M15 4GB
Opening hours: Wednesday – Sunday, 1.00-6.00pm
Phone: 0161 832 8034




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Works by Knut Henrik Henriksen (top), Barbro Westling and Peter Johansson (centre) and Dariusz Kowalski (bottom) are being exhibited at the Castlefield Gallery in Manchester.

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