Video interviews (in Norwegian only) with both artists can be found here.
It was Friday, and a gallery in a small town in Northern Norway was going to open an exhibition. But something had happened that was apparently beyond people’s control. Many thought it involved the placement of the space. It lay hidden in a large mass of a buildings between a chain hotel and an art shop, with old and new buildings gathered in an unknown way. Nonetheless, it looked as if the exhibition space had recently begun to live its own life.
In the exhibition Bad Luck and Bunches two craft artists have been invited to enter into artistic dialog with each other and their physical surroundings (in the form of the North Norwegian Art Centre’s obstinate gallery). Philipp Spillmann chooses the medium of jewelry, while Lillian Tørlen produces integrated installations where she works with specific elements and characteristics of the architecture of the gallery space. The artists share an exploratory and untrammeled relation to form and materials, and a sidelong vision of their surroundings. In varied ways the works in the exhibition take upon themselves unfortunate situations that can result from human negligence. For Spillmann this revolves around approaches to problems outside the gallery’s four walls, but at the same time his jewelry pieces form part of a scenography in which Tørlen has set the premise. In a mix of truth and fiction, the gallery of North Norwegian Art Centre has become an exhibition space where something has gone wron.
Lillian Tørlen has worked with a commonly ignored part of the gallery space: the ceiling. Starting from a true story connected with the construction of the space, she has created what appears to be a water leak. Typically remaining after leaks are unpleasant memories about unlucky events we would like to stop focusing on. With Tørlen’s imaginative approach the stains almost become painterly frescoes, while the suspended ceiling – a necessary evil for hiding technical installations in the building – becomes emphasized. As an artist Tørlen is concerned with the uncontrollable elements that attend those human creations, the buildings that shelter us. At NNKS (North Norwegian Art Centre) the organic and sometimes skinlike stains on the ceiling hint at a living presence in the architecture. The work locates itself in a border zone between the beautiful and the repulsive, and raises to awareness some unlucky and droll characteristics of the space.
A related ambivalence marks Philipp Spillmann’s series of sculpture-like jewels. In his reworking of found discarded materials he approaches a kind of cartoonlike language. New meaning and new value have arisen in what might be characterized as visual wordplay. The humorous expression contrasts with the serious content: the overconsumption, pollution, and extraction of natural resources are central. Some of the brooches convincingly represent everyday misfortunes; they can be seen as a way of bringing the accidents front and center, just as they serve to reveal human negligence. In other works the material itself – plastic garbage from the ocean in Lofoten – is closely linked with the theme. In the scenography of the exhibition the witty jewels are mounted and protected in a museum-like way. Is it enough to protect them against the uncontrollable surroundings?
Phillip Spillmann lives and works in Kautokeino, Norway. He was educated as a goldsmith in Zürich. In recent years he has participated in a series of exhibitions, including the traveling show “I Craft, I Travel Light” (2016/2017), the 2014 and 2016 annual exhibitions of Norsk Kunsthåndverkere (Norwegian Association for Arts and Crafts), and the 2018 Nordnorsken (Den Nordnorske Kunstutstillingen – The North Norwegian Art Exhibition), in which he was awarded the jury prize.
Lillian Tørlen lives and works in Oslo. Her education is from Central St. Martin’s College of Art & Design in London and Kunsthøgskolen i Oslo (Oslo National Academy of the Arts). She has had solo shows at Galleri Format (2016) and Møre og Romsdal Kunstsenter (Møre and Romsdal Art Center) in 2015, and has participated in a series of projects and group exhibitions in Norway and abroad.
Curator of the exhibition is Torill Østby Haaland