Friday, 17 June 2016

Ghosts at the Kloster

Deep Six
Weaving Ghosts is now on show at Halsnoy Kloster (monastery) on the island of Halsnoy in the Hardanger fjord in Norway, where it will remain on show until the 14th August.

The trip to set it up started badly for me, with striking railway workers in France preventing me from getting to the airport. This resulted in losing a day that had been planned for the installation and also meant that there was little time spare for me to explore the island.  In the end it didn't really matter because the house and gardens of the Kloster are so special there was no need to look further.

The gallery and my home for the week was in a rustic mansion built in 1841 set amongst the remaining stones of the original medieval monastery. It reeks history and according to the locals is haunted. The floorboards did creak occasionally but I have no doubt that was caused by the unusually warm weather with the sun shining out of a clear blue sky for six days solid, rather than phantoms. One of the locals told me that summer normally happens on a Tuesday in July!


There Were 15 to Feed at Midbrake and Fleiki
In the semi basement, which has low arched windows looking onto the garden, are four linked rooms providing the main gallery space with heavy wooden beams and rough cast whitewashed walls. The walls in the two main reception rooms on the ground floor are also used for exhibitions and are decorated with painted canvas panels in red and green.

HelenPetersen is the curator and manager of the house which is used for a photography residency and private events like weddings and conferences as well as being open to the public. It is filled with furniture from the museum collection and outside a lawn runs down to the  boathouse and stone jetty with a spectacular view of the mouth of the fjord. The house is surrounded by very tall ancient oaks, beech and ash. There has been very little modernisation in the house so it feels as though you are living in a very unprecious museum where you are allowed to sleep in the beds, sit on the chairs and eat at the tables.

It was interesting to set up the same exhibition in two very different spaces. The simple white box in the Shetland Museum  where everything could be pinned to the walls made the exhibition very easy to install  and I was very happy with how it looked there. But this is something totally different at Halsnoy, very domestic, small separated spaces, where nothing can be pinned to the walls, forcing me to re think how things could be presented. The effect it had on some of the pieces was dramatic, particularly Deep Six and Deep Sixty which came alive against the coloured walls of the Red and Green Room, I doubt if they could ever be hung in  better spaces.

Deep Sixty
Curating and installing my own work is becoming a habit that I enjoy. Each time I present it in a new location there are challenges and surprises that allow the work to be seen in a different way. In the Shetland Museum the space and lighting were a pleasure to work with but at the Kloster it is the fabric of the building and its demands that have added a new dimension. 

Footwarmas and Key of Sea
Peg Kishie
Being Shetlands' closest neighbour this region of Norway is also very appropriate for this particular body of work because there are many similarities between the two places. Not just latitude and climate or because they both have  Leirviks, but also because  they both lost a large part of their  basketry tradition when oil was discovered in the 1960's in the sea bed between the two places. 

My thanks go to Jane Catherin Saersten Junger of Sunnhordland Museum for inviting me to exhibit at the Kloster and to Helen Petersen who made me very welcome, working hard to make sure everything went to plan including gathering and washing materials from the beach for the workshop and open day. Also my gratitude to Oyvind Hjelmen who with Helen manages the photography residency at the Kloster and who helped me with the installation of my benign ghosts.

The fast ferry to Bergen made up for the trials of the outward journey. We definitely need one of these in Shetland to go from Yell to Lerwick... I might have to start a petition.