Text by Jarle Strømodden
In my beginning is my end. In succession
Houses rise and fall, crumble, are extended,
Are removed, destroyed, restored, or in their place
Is an open field, or a factory, or a by-pass.
This is how T.S. Eliot opens his poem “East Coker”.
Elise Storsveen (b. 1969) does not work with houses or factories, what she shows us is the beginning. Or more precisely; what exists prior to our concept of a beginning. Because everything has a beginning and everything has an end, as well as something that lies in between.
Storsveen has created three textile works for three of the museum’s exhibition rooms, which together give form to the title Heat Waves. At first, the word might lead us to think of climate change, but in this context, it is about climate on a micro level, more specifically menopause. Her own physical experiences are central to the works in the exhibition. In the title work Heat Waves Storsveen attempts, among other things, to illustrate the extremely personal experiences that hot flashes generate.
The work titled Labour measures 9 metres in length and can be seen as a frieze. In this way Storsveen positions herself in art history, in a tradition that dates all the way back to the Parthenon Frieze. We are also familiar with the frieze as motif from both Munch and Vigeland. Munch worked on The Frieze of Life, which is not a frieze per se, but a series of paintings that depict several of life’s various phases. Vigeland dealt with the same motif, though perhaps less noticeably. On the exterior of one of the pools that make up the Fountain in the Vigeland Park is a sequence of 60 bronze reliefs that depict human figures in various life situations – concerning life and death. What is also interesting in Storsveen’s work, when we view her in light of this tradition, is that she is anti-heroic.
The colours, shapes and forms in Storsveen's art represent a distinctive universe. The works in this exhibition are inspired by Vigeland's classic figurative sculptures, but the distance is still great. Rather, there is a line going back to the expressionism of the early 20th century and to a time when figures appeared in a more rudimentary form. Colour-wise, she is one of "Les Fauves" ("The wild ones") and the figures are taken from a pre-historic era.
The personal interest in birth which Storsveen currently demonstrates also finds its counterpart in Vigeland, although in a significantly less expressive form. At the Children’s Circle in Vigeland Park we find an example of the sculpture The Foetus. This is the beginning before the beginning. The Bridge, together with the Children’s Circle, illustrates what we humans are inescapably a part of, conception, birth, life and death. This is not true for everyone, however. The Lutheran church views this as a linear path; the trajectory from conception, to birth, life and then death. For others, with a different approach to faith and life, death is also a form of deliverance, in other words, a passage into a new and different life.
Storsveen does not provide any answer to these questions but places us in a historical context and shows how the generations succeed one another throughout time.
Eliot’s “East Coker” ends like this:
In my end is my beginning