Exhibitions

Exhibition Hall

ERIK WESSEL - Oppløpsside (Home Stretch)

On display in the Exhibition Hall, 7 May–25 Sep 2022 

 

On entering Oppløpsside (Home Stretch) you cross the threshold of a highly distinctive visual universe. Erik Wessel’s artistic life stretches across more than six decades, and it is represented here in more than sixty works from 1963 up to the present. There are many features of his visual universe that can be traced all the way back to his education in the 1960s at the Norwegian National Academy of Craft and Art Industry and later at the Academy of Fine Art. He was also influenced by his experiences during the one term he studied in Seville, and by his later teaching experience and his collaborations with artists affiliated to Trondheim’s Gruppe 5. 
 

The image is at the core of Wessel’s artistic practice. This is evident in his focus on sensuality, continuity, and depth. These three aspects of his art are explored by him in different ways, but common to each is how his attention to them arises from the formal qualities of his works. In other words, the picture can be regarded as being separate from the world: a picture for the picture’s sake. And since the picture is capable of carrying itself, without having to stretch towards something concrete beyond the parameters of the work, it also permits viewers a generous amount of space for their own interpretations. Their ideas, feelings, and thoughts meet Wessel’s own on an equal footing.    
 

These are works that exhibit the strength of an artist who has remained faithful to his own expression. Works from 1963 could quite easily have been created in 2020. This does not mean that there was no room for development in Wessel’s career, it is instead a reflection of the fact that Wessel refined a close affinity to his working methods, a reverence for the expression in itself, as if it was a self-fulfilling entity. In fact, throughout his career Wessel has continually evolved and challenged his language, to such an extent that the viewer who enters the artist’s visual universe will feel that it seems familiar, but also foreign and enticing. 
 

Although Wessel is not known for working thematically or dividing his activity into well-defined projects, there are two obvious themes at the heart of Oppløpsside: the cathedral in Seville and corrida de toros – Spanish bullfighting. He has collected his bullfighting prints into what he calls his «Corrida Variations». The source of his fascination with bullfighting is not the desire to explore the spectacle as such, but the opportunity it affords him to explore existential ideas – following in the footsteps of artists such as Picasso and Goya before him.
 

For the viewer, it is intriguing to reflect on how these themes connect with the broader lines of Wessel’s career, taking their place in the whole – and it is this powerful and concise expression that is the distinctive marker of his creative output. He allows viewers space to formulate their own interpretations: some works have obvious references that are readily observed and understood, while in others the viewers are left to themselves to find a path.  
 

Not only is this typical of Wessel’s output, one could also say it was typical of many artists of his generation. Nevertheless, there is an idiosyncratic essence to Erik Wessel – a distinctive way of producing art and talking about art – that distinguishes him from his contemporaries. It is the result of a life of travel and observation.