A reflection on ‘A LONG FORGOTTEN FUTURE‘, one of Espen Gangvik’s rare solo exhibitions, 2000.
Professor Øivind Storm Bjerke, University of Oslo.
The art of Espen Gangvik takes an intermediate position between reality and virtuality. His sculptures – usually made in metal or other materials that gives a feeling of solidity – are based on the manipulation of space with geometry and mathematics as the basic tools. He makes the shapes of his sculptures with the help of digital techniques. His work from the last six years are based on digital 3D models transformed into actual objects with the help of advanced technology or digital working drawings. The definite working drawings are not to be looked upon as the compelled result of a process purely based on the logic of mathematics, but as the result of interplay between the intuition of the artist and possibilities to create objects in the real with the help of digital tools.
If there is any quality of craftsmanship in the objects – and when you look at the objects you would suppose there is a lot – this quality is to be recognised as a simulacra of craft. The strength of Gangvik´s work is partly the ambiguity created by a conceptual artist partly performing as if he were an artisan.
In this manner he is definitely one of the few Norwegian artist who is at ease and move freely in the post-modern world. This is a position which is difficult to hold on to in Norway, where authenticity has been counted as the foremost quality to seek in the aspiring artist. In most cases the impression of the artist being authentic in his expression and endeavour, is a confusion of being sincere with being one-dimensional. Gangvik is a far to playful, humorous and ironic artist to be one – dimensional. Even when it comes to the question of subject, his art is ambiguous.
The sculptures of Gangvik can be interpreted as an unfolding of geometric shapes in time, where the shift from one shape into another creates the feeling of time being unfolded. This abstract quality of his sculptures can easily bring the spectator to the conclusion that the works of Gangvik is a branch of constructivism dealing with basic sculptural problems of defining the relations between space, solids and shapes to time. This is one of many possible and probable interpretations.
Another, and more intriguing interpretation takes its point of departure in the cartoon, especially science – fiction. There is a family resemblance between thought – up machines and robots and some of Gangviks sculptures. This family resemblance is underlined when Gangvik puts his figures into fictional landscapes in digital images. Landscapes that has more in common with cheap kitsch than high art, and belongs more in the head of a figure in a cartoon, than in the head of a serious constructivist and is to be recognised as part of the tongue – in – cheek quality of his work.
The aspect of kitsch is seminal to the art of Gangvik, and is part of what makes his art detached from artistic expressions based on manipulation of geometric form in the 1950´s and later, which is rendering shapes as pure visual elements devoid of any literal references. The aspect of kitsch in his work is probably a phenomena related to Gangvik being a part of the generation formed in the 1980´s and is definitely not a result of a lack of respect or interest in geometric art as an historical phenomena or a genre in modern art. The strength of his art is possibly precisely a deep respect of the tradition combined with the courage to make a personal statement.