Beers gallery will showcase Sverre Bjertnæs’ first UK solo show next month, opening on 25 May and running until 1 July. Bjertnæs, who made his mark as a young figurative painter has been a celebrated star of Norway’s art scene for over a decade. Bjertnæs frequently works
in portraiture, although in the last five years, has incorporated sculpture, furniture, lm and theatrical productions into his shows.
Bjertnæs' first solo exhibition was at the Norwegian gallery Anarchist Fraction in 2000. During this time Bjertnæs developed a close personal and creative relationship with its director, Bjarne Melgaard, a famously antagonistic provocateur described as the most famous Norwegian artist since Edvard Munch.
A close collaborative friendship with Melgaard was formed and in turn led to A Projective Identification, Bjertnæs' first international solo exhibition at White Columns Gallery, New York, in 2012. Curated by Melgaard and named one of the 10 best exhibitions in New York in 2012 by the New York Times, the gallery walls were covered in bold colours and patterns and featured portraits that traced a variety of subjects, from Jesus Christ to the artist's wife.
In this way, Bjertnæs’ exhibitions morphed into immersive sensory narratives, ’gesamtkunstwerks’ – where the artworks connect as a whole to deliver their message, with Beers gallery to serve as a multi-sensory canvas, with walls painted different colours. This curated style of exhibition - rooms brimming to the edge with paintings, drawings, films and wooden and sculpture has become Bjertnæs' trademark. “I’ve grown more and more interested in the dialogue that exists between different pieces in a show”, he says by way of a one sentence explanation, wanting his shows to exist as a whole experience, rather than mere paintings on a wall. Sverre’s shows aren’t merely collections of individual artworks, but experiences in which all pieces are to be viewed as one cohesive installation.
As such, ‘Silent Conditions’ will function as a Wunderkammer-like collection of works in wildly differing forms - the product of collaborations between other artists (including Melgaard) and himself. Among the multiple features in the show is the new lm ‘Memories of Us’, a collaboration with Norwegian dramatic writer Arne Lygre. Bjertnæs created a sculpture, Lygre then scripted a play which was staged at Sverre’s show in Galleri Bandstrup, Oslo. This lm is the documentation of that performance. Other elements include a wooden Chaise Longue, a carpet made by Bjertnæs, ceramics made especially for the show by his mother, Randi Koren Bjertnes.
As Bjertnæs’ painting serves as the bedrock of his artistic practice, oil on canvas works will form a large part of this show. One of these is a collaboration with Belgian artist Christer Glein for which both artists worked interchangeably upon the same canvas. This sense of relinquishing a degree of artistic ownership and license from a work marks a change in Sverre’s approach to artmaking. “I’ve started to believe in a more emotional approach to art,’ he says, ‘for me, it’s the only way I can truly connect to any artwork.” Other paintings in the show include ‘Sculpture by the Sea I’ and ‘Baptism’. These continue Bjertnæs’ explorations into figurative abstraction, wherein organic figures, often somewhat creature-like in their appearance, reside in landscapes littered with geometric shapes and forms. Each painting grows organically throughout the image-making process, sometimes stemming from loose thoughts arriving from another artwork or personal experience.