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.