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Site-specific artworks for The Norwegian University of Life Science.

 

Text by Anne Karin Jortveit

artist and author / for KORO Norway

 

The Animal Kingdom and the Ocean

Danish textile artist Grethe Sørensen has extensive experience with textile projects for the public sector. Her work builds on the European Gobelin and tapestry tradition which she interprets through contemporary digital weaving technology and production. Grethe Sørensen has created large jacquard-woven friezes in a light and neutral colour scheme. All motifs are derived from images in the archives of The Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU), and the titles concretely describe which aspects of nature the artist has selected. At the heart of her project is a dynamic interplay between past and present, between textiles then and now, and between the history of architecture and contemporary learning activities. Not least, she thematises the relationship between humans and animals. It is an invitation to deeper reflection on the span between the enormous forces of nature, such as ocean waves, and nature’s smaller creatures, such as butterflies. Grethe Sørensen has gathered elements at micro and macro levels and created equality between greater and smaller elements such as amoebae, enzymes, goats and geese. A fish’s eye, monumental and fixed, looks straight at us and is placed next to a dramatic ocean wave. Large skeleton collections are set in contrast with an owl. The serious but calm gaze of the bird touches us, it really sees, as if both it and the fish eye become a connection to the enormous environmental challenges we face.

 

The friezes are composed as collages and this gives the artist freedom to mix and combine different motifs in ways not bound by their literal, real-world modes of connection. Grethe Sørensen’s friezes have also incorporated elements from architecture in a finely-tuned way. The colour stripes in the weavings correspond with rafters in the roof. The stripes create soft transitions in the compositions and they embed the works in the spaces for which they have been created. The four incorporated QR codes are a salient feature. They feature as a recognisable element brought in from our digital everyday life and they stand out from the rest of the composition. The square shapes mirror the original ornaments on the walls but are not merely designed as ornaments. Behind each code is information about the work and processes. In this way, they open the door to an underlying dimension of the visual experience itself.