nordenfjeldske kunstindustrimuseum + hannah ryggen

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This weekend I visited the Nordenfjeldske Kunstindustrimuseum, or the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design here in Trondheim. I really love museums, but for one reason or another when we moved to Tromsø in 2015 it took me around a year before I finally made it to any of Tromsø’s museums. I was determined not to let that happen in Trondheim, so on a rainy Sunday I ventured out to spend a couple of hours at NKIM.

The museum houses a permanent collection of art and artifacts, but I was especially interested in seeing the temporary exhibition they’re currently (co-)hosting, the Hannah Ryggen Triennial 2019: New Land (the other host of New Land is the Hannah Ryggen Center in Ørland). Hannah Ryggen was a textile artist born in Sweden who spent most of her life in Ørland, Norway, about an hour’s boat ride from Trondheim. She predominantly worked with tapestry weaving, and part of why I find her so interesting is that a lot of her work was very overtly political – she was born in 1894 and was coming of age and beginning to work in a time where fascism was on the rise, and much of her work could be considered social commentary against injustice. I had come across Ryggen’s name before but I hadn’t realized quite how political her work was until I went to the exhibition. (She was also trained in painting but was self-taught as a weaver, a fact about her which I enjoyed.)

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NKIM houses the largest collection of Ryggen’s works, but the exhibition itself brings together both works by Ryggen as well as contemporary works by other artists. The curator’s statement is well worth a read. I enjoyed seeing all the pieces, but two artists in particular stood out to me.

The first piece that stopped me in my tracks was Liquid, by Faig Ahmed, an Azerbaijani artist.

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It’s part of a series (you can see the pieces on his website), and there was another piece included in the exhibition, but this one really had an effect on me. The rugs are proper wool rugs, woven by hand and very traditional up until the point that they become incredibly distorted. I’ve never seen anything like it.

The other artist whose work really spoke to me was Alexandra Kehayoglou, an Argentinian artist. A series of pieces titled Prayer Rugs was her main contribution to the exhibition – primarily smaller pieces, as suggested by the name, and like Ahmed’s work, woolen rugs.

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The description provided in the catalogue puts it succinctly: “These tactile works are in memoriam of places that have been altered or destroyed forever. Some of them document environmental destruction, others depict lost landscapes that can never be experienced again.” The tufted rugs represent memories of Kehayoglou’s native landscapes, and to me the tactile nature of the pieces really drives home a sense of what is lost when we alter the landscape, intentionally or otherwise. It comes across in the small size of these pieces, but I imagine it’s even more impactful in one of her larger-scale pieces (just take a peek at this one on her website).

I’d encourage you to check out Kehayoglou’s website because her work is incredibly stunning.

Going back to Ryggen’s work, the piece housed in the museum that had the biggest impact on me was one called Vi lever på en stjerne, or “We live on a star.” The scale of the piece alone is overwhelming, but it was the story behind it that made me emotional. It was originally commissioned for the new government building in Oslo in 1958, the building that was until 2011 the location of the prime minister’s office (among other offices). This building was one of the targets of the terrorist attacks of July 22, 2011, an event that still feels vivid in my memory, though I only experienced it from afar, learning about it while watching the news in an American airport. 77 people died that day because of one right-wing extremist. Eight years on it is still difficult to fathom. The Ryggen tapestry was damaged in the bombing, but it has been stitched back together and now bears a scar, which I was able to examine up close, as it sits in the bottom portion of the tapestry.

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The scale of this piece is difficult to express through a photograph alone (in the museum it’s located in the landing of a large stairway), but this photo of the piece in situ in the government building probably gives a better idea:

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(Photo: Leif Ørnelund / Oslo Museum, via digitaltmuseum.no)

Perhaps this piece hit me the way it did because the 22/7 attacks have been on my mind as we approach the eighth anniversary (which is tomorrow, as it happens) and I had no idea the history of this piece so it caught me unaware. My very first visit to Norway was in November 2011, only months after the attacks, and I remember my friend Camilla walking me by the Government Quarter, where the damage was still visible, with many windows boarded up. The government has plans to demolish some of the existing buildings of the quarter and build new ones, but there will always be some things that bear the scars of the damage caused by that day, just as Norway itself carries them too.

The exhibition has left me wanting to dig deeper into Hannah Ryggen’s work, and I’ll likely go see it again before it closes next month. I’d also like to make the trip to the Hannah Ryggen Center in Ørland. Perhaps I can share more about Ryggen and her work later on. If you’d like to read more in the meantime, I found this piece quite interesting.

noteworthy: nordic knitting & wool

I’ve been collecting some interesting links and resources in the past couple of months related to Norwegian wool and knitting and the Nordic wool scene more broadly – and I thought it’d be nice to share a few of them with you here.

First up: I wrote recently about the fantastic Bladet Garn, a new Norwegian (and Norwegian language) knitting mag that I’m super excited about. Another new Nordic magazine has joined the scene as of December, and those of you who aren’t Norwegian speakers may have already heard about it, because this one’s published in English: Laine Magazine, which is based in Finland (incidentally, “laine” is the French word for wool but apparently means “wave” in Finnish – I would be curious to hear more about the choice of name from the creators). Laine is dark but rich; luxurious and beautiful, like the last rays of sun coming through the trees of a forest in winter. I finally got a copy this week and while both the magazine and the patterns are gorgeous, the “& lifestyle” part of the “knit & lifestyle magazine” might get me the most excited: articles covering topics like a farm in western Finland dedicated to two domestic sheep breeds (pictured above), a feature on Helga Isager, a travel guide to Lisbon with its color and pattern inspiration, an interview with Stephen West, and some seriously delicious-looking recipes (chocolate cake with dried flowers and flaked sea salt, anyone?) – and that’s not even covering everything. In a way it’s much more like a book than a magazine, justifying the cost, which makes it somewhat of a luxury. But it is the perfect luxury for a long, slow weekend morning and I can’t wait to spend some more time with the articles. My favorite patterns from issue one include Piece of Silver by Veera Välimäki and Siv by Heid Alander, but you can check out all of the patterns on Ravelry here. Laine is set to be published twice a year, I believe, and you can keep up with them on Instagram, or find a stockist near you on their website.

Simone of Temple of Knit has started a new interview series on her blog called Nordic Makers, with the intent to share conversations with the people and the businesses shaping her “immediate fiber world” – or more specifically, the fiber community that spans the Nordic region (Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and to an extent, Greenland). Simone herself is a Dane living in southern Sweden, and her first interview of the series is with Louisa Bond, a Norwegian based in Oslo, whose blog Worn Values is a welcome addition to my daily blog reader. I highly recommend checking out Louisa’s blog as well as Simone’s, and Simone’s introduction post to her Nordic Makers series is a good one to read, too. Louisa’s recent posts on three ways to mend your knits and this guide to ethical shoes were both particularly interesting and useful.

Husfliden, the Norwegian Folk Art and Craft Association, is putting on a conference about Norwegian wool this April: Ullialt – Konferanse om norsk ull. This one is definitely for Norwegian speakers, and with my thesis work I doubt I’ll be able to go (sadly!), but it’s taking place April 20-23 in Stjørdal, just outside Trondheim (effectively right next to the Trondheim airport). The description roughly reads: “We invite the whole wool supply chain to come and join in as we build enthusiasm and knowledge about Norwegian wool – in industry, in design, in agriculture and handicrafts. How can Norwegians make better use of our own domestic wool?” It’s exactly the sort of thing I get excited about, so I hope this won’t be a one-off thing. Hat-tip to Norwegian wool hero Tone Tobiasson for the heads up.

These natural grey wool fabrics from Norway Cloth / Varp og Veft are making my heart flutter. The wool comes from Grey Trønder sheep (Grå Trøndersau) and both the yarn and the fabric are produced here in Norway. It’s almost enough to make me want to give sewing another proper try… But on a related note, if you want to get a feel for the wool from the Trønder sheep, Selbu Spinneri sells trøndersau yarns (although I don’t know what their international shipping policy is). In any case, this particular pattern is my favorite of the fabrics from Norway Cloth. They also sell finished objects made from the fabrics, like cushions.

There’s more to share, but I’ll save that for another day!