BIG EXHIBITION IN MANY WAYS - BY CHARLENE VELLA
â€˜Friezedâ€¦Continuedâ€™ is not only an unusual exhibition, it is also of appreciably good quality. My hope is that it promises well for the 2012 National Museum of Fine Arts schedule of exhibitions.
While the main focus in one series is the human being rendered at close proximity, the human figure is conspicuously unimportant in the other
- Charlene Vella
First, a word about the artist. She is new to me, and I guess to many others in Malta. Unni Askeland is a Norwegian with an exciting artistic biography and portfolio.
Some of the works on display present a winter wonderland at its finest, interpreted in a manner that is subjectively personal.
The Friezed paintings are nostalgic reminiscences of Scandinavia. In this lies their appeal. In an island where the sun and its warmth are the norm, snow-clad landscapes have a poetic appeal. One reason may be that they remind us of Christmas.
Somehow, I am reminded of Brueghel the Elderâ€™s 16th century winter scenes (which are, however, peopled scenes). These have a timeless quality about them.
It may be the unfamiliar factor that makes wintery scenes that much more desirable.
The three â€˜Friezedâ€™ exhibits are made up of 11 acrylic scenes composed on 20 different linen supports.
They are pictorial silhouetted landscape images frozen in action, rendered minimalistically. Their appeal is pleasingly decorative.
The uniformly square paintings (90 x 90 cm) used in the different â€˜friezesâ€™, together form a composition that despite the varied imagery portrayed, create an attractive unified whole.
Some paintings are composed of one consistent scene, yet it is often the case that one painting displays a landscape that continues on the adjacent painting.
In spite of the collage effect, each component can exist individually and is not wholly dependent on its companion piece. Together they make an artistically exciting whole. Imagination is here at its wonderful best.
Askeland firmly believes that â€œart must also entertainâ€. This exhibition does just that.
The â€˜Friezedâ€™ exhibits are only part of the exhibition. They are complimented by several prints from Askelandâ€™s â€˜Big Big Bigâ€™ series.
I found the (rather cheeky) stencilled quotations set on images of women on square silk screen artistâ€™s proof prints of special interest. Several platinum blonde beauties wearing bright red lipstick from popular culture are recognisable.
These popular culture inspired prints include quotes such as â€œWomanâ€™s natural role is to be a pillar of the familyâ€ juxtaposed with another that states: â€œIs that a gun in your pocket or are you just happy to see meâ€.
Such statements evoke a fun, carefree character, and one that does not take life, or established social norms, too seriously. In fact, Askeland uses them whimsically.
The sexual element is playfully interpreted, and one of them blatantly highlights only the word â€˜sexâ€™.
Particularly memorable is an image of Marilyn Monroe with the quote: â€œItâ€™s not true that I had nothing on. I had the radio on.â€
The decision to have the â€˜Big Big Bigâ€™ series of silk screen prints in a joint exhibition with the â€˜Friezedâ€™ paintings is a provoking one for the many contrasts it creates.
There is a contrast in the medium used, in the subjects portrayed, and in the nature of the works.
It is also remarkable for the fact that while the main focus in one series is the human being rendered at close proximity, the human figure is conspicuously unimportant in the other. This duality renders the exhibition and the artist that much more interesting.
â€˜Friezedâ€¦Continuedâ€™ is open in the Loggia of the National Museum of Fine Arts in South Street, Valletta, until March 27. Limited edition prints from the â€˜Big Big Bigâ€™ collection can also be viewed at the curatorâ€™s gallery â€“ Christine X Art (Artitude) Gallery in Sliema.