Trond Ansten

The Long Tree in the Ocean

Finding the right piece of wood, brewing a beverage with juniper branches from the forest, creating new material combinations, reaping without ruining the ecosystem; all this presupposes a will to explore and a presence in nature. It also presupposes knowledge about traditions and materials and the acknowledgement that we cannot simply exploit and take what we want from nature, but that we are part of natural ecosystems. Trond Ansten’s artistic practice is themed on a deep presence in dialogue with animals, plants, trees and rocks. It is also about internal conversations with the materials he finds in his immediate environment, and with various traditions, crafts and knowledge that can show us the way forward.

With the exhibition ‘The Long Tree in the Ocean’, Ansten shows us the diverse potential for inspiration to be found in nature by virtue of being present in and dialoguing with it. Nature’s inherent mystery and magic are the starting points for his exploratory visual language, philosophizing and playful involvement with traditional crafts. He finds surprising ways to combine, among other things, nature’s fractal structures with elements from primeval Nordic architecture. An important part of the exhibition is a series of works from ‘The Gusso Project’. Here we are met by wall-hung circular forms with elements from the artist’s own trapping and gathering practice and which are encapsulated and abstracted with a reddish layer of ‘gusso’. This new material builds on earlier works with fish glue; this time the organic glue is combined with a new source of calcium from shellfish in the sea. The wall works appear as reliefs, and the catch materials are completely or partly covered. The circular forms also underscore something ritual at the same time as the materiality and process are exalted.

In the middle of the gallery space, Ansten invites us to enter the relational work KVEIKBAR. Here we cross the threshold of his laboratory, a place for wonderment and reflection, for new taste experiences and good stories. Trond’s habit of gathering food from nature, on nature’s own premises, can be traced to his childhood when he was introduced to hunting, fishing and gathering. He started carving at four years old, after which traditional crafts became his passion. Several wooden sculptures in the exhibition relate to elements from this lifeworld, simultaneously as he has developed them further into something ritualistic and magical, as if in a fairy tale.

In a separate installation we are able to position ourselves in-between seal skins from an Arctic Ocean hunting exhibition which Ansten participated in back in 2018. The stretched skins are the only extant objects from the Norwegian seal hunt that year; the remaining catch was destroyed. Norwegian seal hunting turns out to be linked to unspoken conditions, related to national positioning in a melting Arctic Ocean. At the same time as the world looks blindly at the hunting of seals, it is actually the way of life of our society that constitutes the real brutality; due to steadily increasing extreme weather, the baby seals face an uncertain future. In the exhibition the seal skins form a kind of spiral that draws us inwards, to a place where tactility, smells and sounds conjure an esoteric experience.

What is there of hidden knowledge that can lead us to relate to nature’s resources in ways that differ from those we currently practice? Ansten invites us on a journey in crafts and material processes, involving presence in nature, mystery, and an affirmation of life.

Trond Ansten is a visual artist and nature conservator based in Tromsø. He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Karlsruhe, Tromsø Academy of Contemporary Art and the University of Telemark. He has a background as a woodcarver, biologist and trapper. He has previously exhibited at Barents Spektakel (NO), CCA Gallery (Glasgow), Sami Centre for Contemporary Art (NO), Bergen Kunsthall (NO), Satellite Art Show/Art Basel – Miami, Lofoten International Art Festival (NO), Nordic Art Week-Estonia, The Arctic Arts Festival (NO), Museum Kunst der Westküste (DE), Nordnorsk Kunstmuseum (NO), Delai Film-festival (Moscow), Alternative Film Festival (Belgrade) and Grace Exhibition Space (NYC).

Trond Ansten’s exhibition project is produced through collaboration between North Norwegian Art Centre and Pikene på Broen. On 22 August 2024 it will travel further and take on a new form at Terminal B in Kirkenes.

The exhibition is supported by Regionale prosjektmidler (KiN), Kulturrådet, Fritt Ord, Norcem Brevik, Arctic Catch AS avd. Vardø, Halvors Tradisjonsfisk AS and Fordypningsrommet Fleinvær.

The exhibition is juried by North Norwegian Art Centre’s exhibition committee: Adriana Alves, Sigrid Høyforsslett Bjørbæk, Marianne Bjørnmyr and Torill Østby Haaland.

Photo Kjell Ove Storvik, North Norwegian Art Centre