‘A Study’ – the BA graduating class at the Academy of Fine Art in Oslo

In the Function of the Studio (1971), Daniel Buren examined what he called ‘the hazardous passage’ from studio to gallery. As curator for the graduating class of 3BA at the Oslo Academy of Fine Art, this text is based solely on studio-visits, conducted prior to this ‘hazardous’ journey from production to presentation. The studio visit provides the backdrop for this text on the artists’ practices. The artist’s studio has been the focus of greater scrutiny in recent years. Two anthologies – The Studio – Documents of Contemporary Art (2012) edited by Jens Hoffmann and The Studio Reader (2010) edited by Michelle Grabner and Mary Jane Jacob are testaments to a renewed surge of interest in this site of artistic production and occasionally of display.

For art students the studio plays a slightly different role than for professional artists – it is a temporary place of study, not a personal one – and often it is supplemented by the home or apartment, which acts an extension, sometimes a replacement for the studio that the art school assigns them. This class of BA students were the first to be located in the campus of the Oslo National Academy of the Arts, and the teething problems that such large-scale move entails, have affected them, perhaps more than any other class, particularly in relation to feeling settled in their studios throughout their three years of study. It is, therefore, perhaps not remarkable that this group of 18 students have extended the idea of study – as well as its physical construct – in their respective practices. The idea of ‘a study’, therefore, became the point of departure for this catalogue text, which is organised around different instantiations and permutations of the term – from the art historical notion of a preliminary ‘study’ as a precursor to a work of art, via the scientific methodology of a close examination in the form of a ‘case study’ and the notion of self-study as an expanded, performative category – to the actual architectural construction of ‘a study’ or a studio.

In a Room of One’s Own (1929), Virginia Woolf asserts the need for a separate place – a study – that can enable creative expression, and many of the artists in this group deal in some way with this notion of creating a room of one’s own.


Lise Steingrim takes in he paintings an almost lexical approach to her various objects of study. Finding patters in everyday life from electricity masts and cooling systems to mounds of rubbish and slabs of meat, she has the eye of a keen cartographer, mapping diverse visual material. Deliberately eschewing the urban motifs that characterise many of her contemporaries, Steingrim’s in-depth studies of trees and rural landscapes drive her work from initially encyclopaedic illustration – via a flatness and tight geometry that references and celebrates Mondrian – into abstraction.

As the students of 3BA leave their place of study and the work leaves the studio, one can only wish them the best on their – and the works’ – ‘hazardous journey’. To engage in predictions on the future would be futile. We can only follow the journeys of these 18 artists with interest, having a hunch that they will go far, albeit, thankfully, circuitously. As Buren commented when he revisited his 1971 text on the studio in 2007 and was asked to speculate on how his artistic career might have been different: “I prefer not to think about it!”

Natalie Hope O’Donnell. February 2013

Natalie Hope O’Donnell (born 1979 in Norway) is a PhD candidate in the research project Place and Displacement: Exhibiting Architecture. She studied Modern History and Politics at Jesus College, Oxford (2002) and History of Art at the University of Oslo (2009). She also holds a PGDL/LPC postgraduate degree in Law and graduated from the Royal College of Art with an MA in Curating Contemporary Art in 2008. She conducted doctoral research on curatorial practices at the London Consortium under the supervision of Mark Cousins at the Architecture Association.

She has worked for the Norwegian National Touring Exhibitions, the DSV Network in Oslo, and the Whitechapel Art Gallery in London. Curated projects include: Tris Vonna-Michell performance (London, 2008); Of This Tale I Cannot Guarantee a Single Word exhibition, Royal College of Art, London, 2008); Chelpa Ferro performance (SPACE, London, 2007); On – Off Poltergeist exhibition (Mezkalito, Hollybush Gardens, London, 2007); An A – Z of Doubt exhibition (Serpentine, London 2007).

O’Donnell is co-curator of the forthcoming Pushwagner exhibition, which opens in the summer of 2012 at Milton Keynes Gallery. She has written catalogue essays and articles for Artslant, ICE, Artvehicle and e-flux journal. Her research at AHO concerns curatorial practices in relation to art and architecture, and approaches to exhibition design and audience engagement.