3 December

Here are three exhibitions that took art historian and contributor to Kunstkritikk Eirik Zeiner-Henriksen's breath away in 2021.

Hans Ragnar Mathisen, Kartografen, 2021. Installation view, Oslo Kunstforening. Photo: Tor S. Ulstein.

Hans Ragnar Mathisen (Keviselie), The Cartographer, Oslo Kunstforening, Oslo

I spent this year almost entirely in Oslo. Nevertheless, most of my claustrophobia dissipated when I entered Hans Ragnar Mathisen’s world of reindeer herds, sacred landmarks, borderless maps, and reproductions of older Sámi art back in May. His in-depth exploration of Sámi cartography demonstrates a distinct and close affinity with nature while also showcasing how the development of the modern map actively coincided with the colonisation of Sápmi. In addition, his colourful woodcuts possess a vibrant power most painters can only dream of. Very refreshing, and one of those exhibitions that shakes you out of your rut and takes you down new pathways.

Ivan Galuzin, Uendelig april, 2021. Installation view, Noplace. Photo: Damian Heinisch.

Ivan Galuzin, Uendelig April, Noplace, Oslo

Life’s sadness is often best portrayed with a dash of humour. Ivan Galuzin’s series of ink drawings depict two poor jumping jacks and scenes from their frugal everyday lives: she dressed up as a traditional housekeeper; he in braces, a small hat and a constantly terrified expression. She does housework and attends to the stove, while he is surrounded by tools and implements without quite knowing what to do or where to turn, his joints pulled and bent in all directions. With such a simple approach, you can encompass every mood from apathy and despair to laughter and nostalgia in one and the same small-scale series.

Germain Ngoma, Fragmental Memories, 2021. Installation view, Tenthaus, Oslo. Photo: Øystein Thorvaldsen.

Germain Ngoma, Fragmental Memories, Tenthaus, Oslo

Germain Ngoma’s show gave my respiratory system trouble; more simply put, it took my breath away. A fantastic sculpture of found Styrofoam packaging dominated the room while three smaller sculptures consisting of a brick, a mushroom, and a honeycomb stuck in a wax base were every bit as captivating. A Warburgian wall of found images, also covered in yellow wax, reminded me of what such compilations of images can do: politics and history, yes, but ever so subtle and open. Indeed, Ngoma handles images with the same mastery he applies to other material.

Eirik Zeiner-Henriksen (b. 1993) is a writer and art historian with a master’s degree from the University of Oslo. He is one of Kunstkritikk’s regular contributors.

For this year’s contributions to the Advent Calendar, see here.