To mark the 200th anniversary of syttende mai (May 17, Norway’s Constitution Day), ASI is partnering with the Royal Norwegian Honorary Consulate to commission and premiere the work of contemporary artist Ian Ward Garlant in North America. Garlant’s sculptural reliefs celebrate and illustrate the principles that the peaceful separation of Norway and Sweden embodies – a monument to love, mutual acceptance and compassion. Love Norway X opens at the American Swedish Institute on May 10, 2014 and runs through October 19, 2014.
Born in 1962 to an English father and Norwegian mother, Garlant left an illustrious career in London’s top fashion houses, including the men's clothiers Aquascutum and Hardy Amies, to dedicate his life to making art full time on Norway’s Hardanger fjord. Working with and within the landscape, Garlant’s creative process involves burning, bathing and scraping pre- used wood, asphalt and sand of the fjord to create new sculptural interpretations of ancient earthly monuments. His work has been embraced and co-created with community members from Hatlestrand, Norway, a small village on the edge of the Hardangerfjord. Together with local craftsmen, Garlant has found new ways to use readily available materials, some traditional and others high tech. Utilizing an array of quotations, words, symbols and patterns, culled from both the ancient and the modern, the pieces reflects mankind's continued hopes and wishes to create the best of all possible worlds – a testiment to love.
Presented in the historic Turnblad Mansion Galleries, Love Norway X is comprised of two sculptural reliefs: " The Construction of Love", based on the Norwegian National Flag, measuring 14’ by 11.5’ and composed of 47 wooden box frames, each carrying a single symbol, attached to a freestanding "baffled" wall. The second, "Virgil's Column / A Golden Ideal", is a contemporary version of a freestanding runestone or dolman.
Interestingly, whilst in modern Western culture it has become common practice to finish personal correspondence with the word 'love ', in Norwegian it remains difficult to use that single word without issuing a more serious imperative - 'to love' . Thus the phrase ' Love Norway ' contains an instruction to do so, an entirely appropriate attitude for those whose task was the construction of the country's constitution.
“I aim to avoid the sentimental, once size fits all, ego based love found in our current consumer culture and emphasize instead the much older and more collective qualities of compassion, mutual acceptance and spiritual love,” says Garlant.
‘X’ is a letter that is simultaneously the ancient runic symbol for gift, a contemporary symbol for a kiss and the traditional way in which any person anywhere is able to make a choice, cast a vote or even sign their name. While Love Norway X celebrates the foundation of the Norwegian constitution and demonstrates the skill and ingenuity of Norwegians, it is borderless and timeless.
“Garlant’s work in Love Norway X speaks to the universal human experience, that no matter where or when we have been living, we have all been searching for the same thing, we are all woven from the same thread. There is something innately comforting in harnessing the design and creativity of the past in an entirely new way,” said Scott Pollock, ASI’s Director of Exhibits, Collections and Programs.
ANCIENT INSPIRATION FOR A MODERN AGE
Stylistic choices for Garlant’s work borrow from Viking runes found in Norway, kufic text from Arabia, horyig seal script from Tibet, and iching hexagrams from China. These methods of writing have crossed over at various points in time: runic graffiti is to be found in the Church of Hagai Sophia in Constantinople, kufic text is to be found on silver coins in Viking graves and oriental seals and symbols are distributed all along the trades routes used by Vikings, Arabs and Mongol tribes alike, connecting Northern Europe to the Far East. Garlant combines these together to form a 'tapestry' illustrating a common message that transcends language.
To illustrate the historical connections Garlant draws from, select pieces from ASI’s own collection and the collection of the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum of Decorah, Iowa are presented in the exhibit.
The exhibition is produced by the American Swedish Institute, with support from the Royal Norwegian Honorary Consulate and in partnership with Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum. Love Norway X is made possible through the generous support of the Anne Ray Charitable Trust and the American Scandinavian Foundation.
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