The Philosopher’s Stone
Text by Karin Sunderø /Artlego.com / November 2016
Kristin Velle-George reminds us of Askeladden, a figure in Norwegian fairy tales, known for his talent of making use of whatever he finds, transforming it into marvels of wonders.
Velle-George is like that. Looking at a stone, a branch, an old swimming ring in the garden, old stockings… In all of them she recognizes materials suitable of transformation.
Velle-George´s works are not easily defined. The boundary between drawing and sculpture is floating. Her drawings may be combined with concrete, a fabric or wax, just as easily as drawn on a sheet of paper. She may also use thread or metal wire like drawing elements around an object, transforming a piece of artificial grass or a sponge into something unrecognisable and mysterious.
In her works no material range over others in value. We recognize each of the elements, but the totality of the various objects is still something new, something previously unseen. In this way Velle-George lifts the insignificant, the inconspicuous and translates it into interesting art objects.
A reference to alchemy is present in her art, and maybe strongest in one of her latest works, showcasing gold leaves in small bulbs of glass (picture).
Like an alchemist Velle-George try to detect correlations between substance and content. Her hands at work are like a Philosopher’s Stone, transforming base materials into gold. Like traditional alchemists Velle-George does not present to us the possibility of being rich by turning substance into gold, but rather the opposite: Showing us the value and magic of everyday objects.
In her exquisite material processing, Velle-George creates a world of wonder, continuously disturbing our senses. The result is a poetic, enigmatic art.
According to spiritual alchemy whoever managed to produce the Philosopher’s Stone will be enlightened, and enlightened we are.
Strongly composed exhibition
Trond Borgen for Stavanger Aftenblad, September 2014
Review of "Elpensita" at Bryne Art Assosiation, Norway
Kristin Velle-George debuts as a solo exhibitor, giving us a really good art experience at Bryne Art Society, which once again impresses me with its discerning selection of exhibitors.I leave this exhibition with a big smile, as well as quite uplifted. For here I have experienced a well-composed exhibition and an intelligent and sensitive use of materials. There is a very special use of these materials; my immediate reaction is wonder: drawing is combined with concrete, pig intestines, plaster, wax, sponge, glass and paper clips. Everyday items are transformed into a kind of magical realism in Velle-George’s hands. We recognize each element, but the totality of the various objects is still something new, something previously unseen. Something that rises from the mundane, that shatters the boundaries of the ordinary – but always in subdued form. In this way she lifts the insignificant, the inconspicuous and translates it into interesting art objects. Gypsum is used in part to cast recognizable objects, but also to create strange, independent forms; she often blurs the boundary between these two. The drawings are in a way just as floating, appearing on tracing paper, on walls, wood panels; they can just as easily be placed on the floor as anywhere else.
The boundary between drawing and sculpture is also floating; one of the objects, no. 12, is a piece of concrete on which she has drawn straight onto the material, in such a way that it may create associations of our own bowels, a kidney, perhaps, or a liver. Pig intestines are stuffed with more concrete and placed in a wooden box, as if what we see is not just a colon, but also two people embracing – in a bed, in a coffin? Concrete-filled pig intestines are also placed on a pedestal, like a trophy, with a simple, coloured thread appended as a kind of drawing element in space. In this way the exhibition expands the scope for drawing art, both in the individual object and in the whole exhibition, which in itself has the character of a large drawing in space. Here we see Velle-George’s sharp sense of exhibition composition: art crawls down from a lightweight wall and is placed under it; one work slides into another; two artworks support each other, several talk to each other across and through this space. She has made a boundary-breaking exhibition where the totality is greater than the sum of its individual parts. Each object is an interesting piece of art in itself, but together they also form a kind of Gesamtkunstwerk.
In all her exquisite material processing, Velle-George creates a world of wonder, continuously disturbing our senses. The result is a poetic, subtle art that whispers to me, that insists on a use of material and a sense of form which are extraordinary. In this way, the everyday and the art we find there is made more interesting, more enigmatic.
Adult drawings and all their children
Astrid Helen Windingstad for Contemporary Art Stavanger, September 2014
Review of "Elpensita" at Bryne Art Society, Norway
I feel enthusiastic after exploring Kristin Velle-Georges exhibition Elpensita at Bryne Art Association. It came as quite a surprise to me that the playful and mature exhibition is Velle-George's first solo exhibition. The name Elpensita comes from the language Esperanto and means, loosely translated, fabricated, intended or created. The Elpensita exhibition consists of drawings and objects, and is carefully thought through, both in its entirety and in the details. The drawings are characteristic and full of character. They can be found directly on the wall, on paper, and on some of the objects. Many of the items are found, others have been made by the artist herself. They are abstract in a way that they do not represent anything within themselves. They complement the drawings and give them a spatial dimension. The drawn works do not depend on the objects, but many of the objects on the other hand, depend on the drawings, and therefore seem immature in relation to the integrity of the proud and glorious drawings. This is a consequence of the artist’s conscious or unconscious choices.
Consciously or unconsciously?
Many artists in the early 1900s practiced automatism. Automatism is about creating art outside of conscious control in order to express the unconscious, and was inspired by Freud and Jung whom performed their first psycho-analysis experiments with automatic drawing about that same time. In automatic drawing the hand moves "randomly" across the paper and is largely free from rational control. Automatic drawing can reveal something of the psyche that would otherwise have remained suppressed. Velle-George’s drawings are not automatic drawings, but they bring something from the subconscious to the paper. They have a seemingly intuitive starting point, but are characterized by conscious exact repetitions of the intuitive line. These works have organic forms that create abstract patterns and have a more biomorphic idiom. The surreal biomorphic expression is basically about creating a work of art without conscious control, resulting often in abstract compositions which feature elements resembling organisms. These works of art exist on the borderline between the conscious and the unconscious. We can see the same dimension in Velle-George’s drawings, and it is precisely this dimension which makes them so interesting.
Some of the organic forms which occur in the drawings are seen in many of the objects. One of the first objects we encounter in the exhibition, is a casting of a container in plaster and concrete which invites a sea of associations, quite literally. I feel strong associations to marine biology: plants, animals and organisms in the ocean. The shape, as well as the bright orange and beige colour, resembles a jellyfish. Velle-George grew up on the west coast, and is occupied with objects that she finds in her local environments. This is reflected in the material and the shape of the objects, like the piece of wood from a boat in the garden, or a wasp nest she found hanging on a stroller stored at home. Through drawing on the wood she has given it a new expression. She has also attached a branch to the timber, on which there is a coiled wire hanging with plastic beads which have been melted in an oven. This is primarily playing with material. The "found objects" are given a new context and the object's new role is designed to promote subjective material associations. In this way, the objects have no further meaning in themselves, at least not for me, but serve as a visual trigger. The juxtaposition of objects, materials and technique creates coherence in expression, whilst the visual trigger goes off in all directions.
Imagination or knowledge?
Velle-George is concerned with the relationship between objective and subjective "truths", and between imagination and knowledge. Specifically how our observation and perception are, consciously or unconsciously, filtered through personal experience. She shares this phenomenological approach with Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975) who stated: "I, the sculptor, am the landscape. I am the shape and i am the hollowness, the thrust and the contour ". There are several reasons why I think of Hepworth. One is that she has been the subject of local discussion, but mainly because Hepworth’s clean, yet vibrant organic forms are sculptural works inspired by the landscape in the north of England, where she grew up. Many of Velle-George’s objects originate from her local environment and become a part of her drawings, a part of her perception, a part of her.
The relationship between knowledge and imagination, and the contradiction inherent in this relationship is particularly evident in one of the objects consisting of several smaller items. They are cut out of a book and have shapes that remind me of small insects; mostly because they seem so circumspect in their appearance, attached one by one with pins to the wall. Among all the words you can read on them are words such as: spiritualist, visible world, scientific, spirits, unknown, hypotheses and conditions. In this way, the artwork discusses the relationship between what is visible and what is not visible, or between knowledge and imagination. This is one of the few sculptural works in the exhibition which can stand alone, without being dependent upon a relationship with the drawings or the exhibition as a whole.
The word elpensita comes from esperanto, a constructed politically neutral world language, which has become a curiosity today. The exhibition Elpensita is arranged around the relationship between the drawings and the objects. In an agile and smart way, Velle-George marries the drawn works and the objects through tangible associations. In this way, she facilitates a meeting between the conscious and the subconscious, the visible and the not visible. In the premises of Bryne Art Associatio all the mature drawings have found their place, while the objects have found a place to play, and I find myself thinking that I cannot wait to see them grow up!
Alkemikunst og vitenskap
Gunnhild Moe, kurator og redaktør
The great men of science are supreme artists.
- Martin H. Fischer
I had discoverd, early in my researshes, that their doctrine was no mere chemical fantasy, but a philosophy they applied to the world, to the elements, and to man himself.
- W.B Yeats, Rosa Alchemicia
I utstillingen Scientia viser Erik Sødin sitt arbeid med å dyrke frem superplanten Azolla. Tanja Busse lager vin med eiketre som ingrediens og Kristin Velle-George jobber forskningsbasert i sitt arbeid med matvarer, men resultatene kan man ikke spise- bare undre seg over som et ledd i en vitenskaplig metamorphosis.
Sjödin, Busse og Velle driver med en form for alkymi der verkene kan ses som både forskningsresultater og kunst. Alkymi var forsøk på å nå det magiske, og troren på dette opphøyede kan nås av oss dødelige ved å ta i bruk jordens elementer. Da gull ble sett på som det edleste av metaller ble hovedmålet for alkymistene å forsøke å lage gull. Hva som blir sett på som det mest verdifulle av gjenstander har forandret seg gjennom historien, olje vil nok av mange ses på som nåtidens gull, men jeg tror at det finnes to typer gull i dagens samfunn. Alkymistenes vitenskaplige forsøk var ikke bare forankret i kjemi, men også i religion og filosofi. I vårt samfunn søker vi fremdeles etter det magiske, som kanskje i dag defineres bedre som det spirituelle, og kunst er kanskje den viktigste arenaen for dette. Samtidig er det også, for noen, en økonomisk arena av astronomiske dimensjoner.
Et tegn på hva som anses som mest verdifullt i et samfunn er om det oppstår krig i kampen om mer av det. I følge flere forskere vil det være vann og mat, ikke olje som vil stå i fokus i fremtidens kriger. Dyrket mark kommer til å være mer verdifullt enn det er i dag og kunnskapen om dyrking av mat vil være enda viktigere. Ordet Scientia kommer av latin og betyr jeg vet, eller kunnskap. I kunsten, i forskning og i livet, må vi se oss tilbake, se fremover og som en evig alkymist – jakte på det magiske som vil gjøre grus om til gull.
Tilbake til fellesskapet
Sigrun Hodne for Stavanger Aftenblad, Juni 2011
Anmeldelse "Scientia" med Erik Sjödin, Tanya Busse, Kristin Velle på Rogaland kunstsenter, Stavanger
For å si det enkelt; utstillingen Scientia tematiserer økologi. I utstillingen ser vi verk av tre kunstnere som arbeider med tematikken på hver sin måte.
Erik Sjödin forsker på verdens raskest voksende plante, Azolla. Planten er svært næringsrik, men lite benyttet som mat. Sjödin ønsker å introduserer planten som en matvare på verdensmarkedet. I utstillingen har han satt opp tre kar med planter i, slik at publikum selv kan studere veksten. Tanya Busse lager vin av eik. Mens mange av oss forbinder eik med fat og tønner til oppbevaring av bl.a. vin, lar Busse eika inngå som en ingrediens i selve vinen. Hennes del av utstillingen består av en rekke vinballonger med gjærende innhold. Mens Sjödin og Busse er opptatt av å gi oss mat og drikke, ser Kristin Velle på hva som skjer med den maten som ikke blir spist, hennes fokus er blant annet rettet mot livet som finner sted i en forråtnelsesprosess.
Begrepet økologi ble i sin tid introdusert av den tyske zoologen, legen, filosofen og kunstneren Ernst Haeckel. Med økologi menes en vitenskapelig studie av forhold mellom levende organismer og deres miljø. Med miljø menes i denne sammenheng en rekke faktorer; så som andre organismer, klima, topografi etc. Alle de tre kunstnerne i denne utstillingen studerer forholdet mellom mennesker og natur. Altså kan vi si at økologi er en fellesnevner, og med dette forstå de tre som typiske representanter for en sentral tendens innen samtidskunsten – økologi spiller en stor rolle for mange kunstnere nå.
Hvis vi så går fra det spesifikke i denne utstillingen til samtidskunsten som sådan, kan det være på tide å stille noen grunnleggende spørsmål om hvilken type estetikk vi har med å gjøre. Kanskje kan vi forstå den økologiske vendingen innen billedkunsten som en form for anti‑modernisme? Mens modernismen har handlet om et brudd mellom subjektet og verden, tar store deler av den samtidige kunsten i dag verden tilbake, ser på seg selv som en del av verden, som en helhet – ikke som et monadisk fragment avsondret fra alt og alle. I ytterste konsekvens er/var kommunikasjon og forståelse en umulighet for modernismen, men i den nye kunsten er fellesskapet igjen blitt en mulighet. Ikke dermed sagt at det er mulig å snu en dårlig utvikling til noe godt på et globalt plan, for vi blir mer enn ofte presentert for de grusomste skrekkscenarier, bilder av en framtid hvor alt går til helvete. Men i skyggen av inferno synes det å vokse fram et nytt håp knyttet til et større felleskap, til en enhet av mennesker og natur.
I en utstilling som Scientia får kunstner og verk nye roller, kunstneren som genial skaper trer tilbake og åpner opp et rom for skapende refleksjon som publikum kan ta del i – om man vil. Vendingen tilbake til det kollektive oppleves som viktig, interessant og nødvendig.