The art of taking a walk with Lise Steingrim
By Maj Hasager
The art of taking a walk is examined in Anke Glebers book by the same name, and investigates the observing figure of European modernity: the flâneur – the city stroller. Walter Benjamin was one of the first to coin the term as a valuable figure in his significant Arcades Project, where he portrays the urban explorer or the “gentleman stroller of the city” as Charles Baudelaire described him – a man who perfected the observational walk through his surroundings and the changing cityscapes transformed by industrialism in the 19th Century. The walking was only for the sake of strolling and exploring – not to get from one place to the other at a certain pace.
In the sixties the artists of the Land art movement left the cities and took their art praxis to sites far away from urban life. This was a rejection of the commercialisation of art and the idea of the gallery or museum as the only sites to present art. It led a group of artists to remote areas where walking sometimes was the only way to encounter the artwork in person. Richard Long was one of the artists that left the city and walked into the landscape, leaving traces or marks as he progressed – this became a significant part of his practice. Similar to the flâneur, the walking artist drifts through the landscapes to register and portray what they come across, though the two sites; the city and the wild nature, call for different reflections.
In Lise Steingrim’s work, traces of both the flâneur and the walking artist is to be found – explored in the shape of a female body, an artist wandering out of her studio, through the city and into nature – as a contemporary experience. She sets off without a fixed direction and collects her experiences through registrations, which are later translated and interpreted through her hand onto the fabric, canvas or whichever material that serves as the base for her subjective maps and abstract reminiscences of time, landscape and movement.
In Lise Steingrim’s recent exhibition at Øvre Fossum Gård – an old Norwegian farm that once was located far away from the city of Oslo but modern life has caught up with it and it is now surrounded by urban life, the work shown explores and reflects upon the site of the exhibition space through subtle mechanisms. Steingrim casually hangs her paintings at the entrance and in the basement as if her draped hanging paintings were forgotten fabrics or workers’ clothes from a past when this farm was still functioning as such and the place was still close to nature.
The work Hanging, Painting is presented as three pieces of hung and draped canvas at the main entrance of the exhibition space, which functions as painted objects. Hanging, Painting is pitched against a pale yellow tone on the wall, which frames the hung canvas by the colour palette of the space. On a surface level they differ from the works Hanging, Painting, Walking presented in the basement in their reading of artistic gesture, both in terms of brush strokes and concept.
The work Hanging, Painting, Walking placed in a corner of the entrance to the basement does not make a fuss out of itself at first sight but almost blends into the interior space of the farmhouse. Five pieces of reworked linen or fabric, bringing associations to a material that is close to the body, are hung next to each other on a clothes rack where paint has dripped down on each of them by the hand of the artist leaving traces of a past event.
By dividing her works between two locations in the old farmhouse, both closely linked to the site, she asks the audience to join her on a walk between two points that lead to a new layer in narration of the works, connected by the walk and their material quality.
In a corner next to the hanging paintings lies a diary with descriptions from a journey on foot. In this diary Lise Steingrim addresses the retreat from the studio and maps out a walk, which stretches over several days. The connection between the two elements situated in this specific setting creates a fictional narrative – where the walking artist after a long walk hangs her coat on the clothes rack, and the traces from what she has experienced while walking are somehow stuck on the fabric. If unfolded, the paintings would reveal new and undiscovered paths or alternative maps over potential routes to walk.
The paintings draw upon techniques from American Abstract Expressionism with a site-specific dimension, which in itself would be seen as a hybrid gesture in two simultaneous movements, historically seen as opposed to each other. She furthermore challenges the conventional ideas around paintings, by letting them hang in the shape that follows the structure of canvas or fabric instead of having them stretched.
Lise Steingrim’s artistic method is pending between the undefined walks in the wilderness and the defined spatial aspect of working in a studio and both elements play a significant role in her process. In her two works Hanging, Painting and Hanging, Painting, Walking, presented in this exhibition, she is leaving both the studio and the white cube exhibition setting behind in order to expand the bodily experience as a wanderer and the site-specific nature of her process.
 Anke Gleber, The Art of Taking a Walk, Princeton University Press, 1999.
 Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project, Ed. Rolf Tiedemann. Trans. Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin, New York: Belknap Press, 2002.
 Charles Baudelaire, “The Painter of Modern Life,” in The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays(Arts & Letters), Phaidon Press; 2 edition, 1995.
Maj Hasager is a Danish artist based in Copenhagen, Denmark. She studied photography and fine art in Denmark, Sweden and the UK, earning an MFA from Malmö Art Academy, Sweden.
Et liv kan se så lett ut
Monica Holmen – Prosjektkoordinator Akershus kunstsenter
Med utgangspunkt i velbrukte og forkastede tekstiler som ulltepper, putetrekk, lerret, laken og fleecepledd, skaper Lise Steingrim verk som befinner seg et sted mellom skulptur, maleri og tekstil. Sentralt for hennes verk er en bearbeidelse av materialer og en bevisst holdning til prosessen frem mot ferdig verk, samt de brukte tekstilenes iboende historier.
De mange ulike tekstilene er bearbeidet på ulike måter, ofte med typiske tekstile og maleriske teknikker, så som bretting, knyting, farging og maling. Materialene hun benytter seg av er lite glamorøse, de er slitte og hullete. Men gjennom bearbeidelsesprosessen forsøker Steingrim å tillegge materialene noe mer og vise frem den egenartede skjønnheten som kan være til stede til det slitte og tilsynelatende verdiløse. Steingrim behandler alle materialene som om de skulle være av et tradisjonelt sett langt mer verdifullt og høyere ansett materiale. Konsekvensen av bearbeidelsesprosessen er en rekke abstrakte men organiske elementer, som står like godt hver for seg som sammen i ulike komposisjoner.
Selv om Steingrim gjennom materialfokuset trekker veksler på en mer håndverksmessig tradisjon, så er også en formalistisk tankegang underliggende i hennes praksis. Gjennom en opptatthet av flaten og en utforskning av det typisk maleriske, også knytter hun seg an til en mer abstrakt maleritradisjon. I senere arbeider har prosessen tatt mer over for selve representasjonen, hvor det hele starter med en fascinasjon for overflaten – det sanselige, teksturen, farger, lys- og skyggevirkninger eller mønster i en overflate som finnes i tekstilen, et maleri, et ornament eller arkitektoniske detaljer – før det ender opp med abstrakte verk som i seg selv også fungerer som utgangspunkt for kommende verk.
Denne relasjonen verkene i mellom kommer også til uttrykk i utstillingen i Bærum kulturhus, hvor flere av verkene bokstavelig talt henger sammen. Bearbeidede tekstiler har dannet utgangspunktet for fotografier. Videre er det stedsspesifikke også en vesentlig side ved Steingrims verk, og i Bærum kulturhus vil man kunne se verket Rull meg sammen og bær meg videre, et 16 meter langt maleri, som stadig bearbeides og som dermed under utstillingen befinner seg på et av flere kommende stadier i en bearbeidelsesprosess.
Utstillingen vises i perioden 11. desember 2013–20. januar 2014.
Lise Steingrim (f. 1969) er bosatt på Nesodden. Steingrim er utdannet fra Einar Granum Kunstfagskole (2010) og Statens Kunstakademi i Oslo (2013). Steingrim har hatt blant annet utstilling på One Night Only, UKS (2012), Galleri Vanntårnet (2013), og Østlandsutstillingen (2013).
Utstillingen er kuratert av Akershus Kunstsenter ved Monica Holmen.
‘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.