Bjarne Melgaard Elisabeth and Me Bjarne Melgaard Elisabeth and Me

Bjarne Melgaard Elisabeth and Me

9 December 2020—18 February 2021
Paris Marais
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In these troubled times Elisabeth seems like the best of companions when lockdowns and isolation is such a new part of our common experience.

– Bjarne Melgaard, 2020

 

Elisabeth and Me is a new exhibition of paintings by Norwegian artist Bjarne Melgaard inspired by the life and work of Elizabeth Wurtzel (1967– 2020), the author of Prozac Nation. Independent, radical and non-consensual, Bjarne Melgaard is known for his provocative approach to art, dealing with social, political and ideological issues. His new paintings reflect the psychological and social consequences of the current pandemic, such as depression and isolation. They are displayed on specially designed wallpapers referencing Elizabeth Wurtzel’s life and writings for a site-specific installation. 

 

Elisabeth and Me, 2020 Oil paint on canvas 65 x 54 cm (25,59 x 21,26 in) Bjarne Melgaard never met...

Elisabeth and Me, 2020 
Oil paint on canvas
65 x 54 cm (25,59 x 21,26 in)

Bjarne Melgaard never met Elizabeth Wurtzel in person but felt connected to ‘the uneasiness, the unpleasantness of her writing’. Recently, he discovered that they had not only common roots in the Nordic culture, but also the same psychotherapist. Wurtzel’s defiant style finds an echo in Melgaard’s paintings, which present subversive and free gestures rendered in vivid colours with impasto paint left raw.

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Cat/Dog Walk, 2020 Oil paint on canvas Diptych: 60 × 50 cm (23.62 × 19.69 in) each For Melgaard Cat/Dog...

Cat/Dog Walk, 2020 
Oil paint on canvas
Diptych: 60 × 50 cm (23.62 × 19.69 in) each

For Melgaard Cat/Dog Walk impersonates our current life experiences as we ‘walk over ourselves starring in our own everyday drama’. Throughout his career, Melgaard has created his own cast of characters inspired by Norse mythology, but also popular culture. His characters are often hybrids, both fictional and real, human and animal, male and female, breaking binary codes and embodying gender fluidity.

Elisabeth and Me, 2020 Oil paint on canvas 60 x 80 cm (23.62 x 31.5 in) Referred to as ‘the...

Elisabeth and Me, 2020 
Oil paint on canvas
60 x 80 cm (23.62 x 31.5 in)

Referred to as ‘the most famous Norwegian artist since Munch’ (The New York Times), Melgaard similarly explores destructive desire and angst through ‘unmediated creativity’ but also by installing a feeling of unease with playful staging and a dash of humour. 

Untitled, 2020 Oil paint on canvas 56 x 46 cm (22,05 x 18,11 in) In Untitled, 2020, the ‘cat-walk’ is...

Untitled, 2020 
Oil paint on canvas
56 x 46 cm (22,05 x 18,11 in)

In Untitled, 2020, the ‘cat-walk’ is a nod to the artist’s interest in fashion. Melgaard works across the arts in painting, installation, fashion, video, literature and, more recently, virtual reality.

Atmospheric image
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Untitled, 2020 Oil paint on canvas 73 x 60 cm (28,74 x 23,62 in) Melgaard’s rapid brushstrokes indicate an urge...

Untitled, 2020 
Oil paint on canvas
73 x 60 cm (28,74 x 23,62 in)

Melgaard’s rapid brushstrokes indicate an urge to express himself without any restrictions, to capture a relevant feeling about the here and now. The trembling, zigzag lines energise the paintings, while also suggesting the effect of medication or drugs, alluding to Wurtzel’s lucid account of a depressed and psychopharmaceutical-dependent generation.

That is all I want in life: for this pain to seem purposeful.

– Elizabeth Wurtzel, 1994

Untitled, 2020 Oil paint on canvas 61 x 50 cm (24,02 x 19,69 in) In Untitled, 2020 Elizabeth’s head is...

Untitled, 2020 
Oil paint on canvas
61 x 50 cm (24,02 x 19,69 in)

In Untitled, 2020 Elizabeth’s head is heavy, occupying most of the canvas; she is bodiless, resting on two cartoon-like feet as if to convey the burden and pain of her psyche. Heads are repeated within the canvas creating a hallucinogenic effect, while the word ‘damaged’ inscribed in the upper section of the painting resonates with the pain expressed by Wurtzel in her writing and the sadness of her recent passing.

The brushstroke is in direct connection with my psyche and it comes out on the canvas with a kind of urgency and necessity.

– Bjarne Melgaard, 2020

 

Untitled, 2020 Oil paint on canvas 46 x 38 cm (18,11 x 14,96 in) For Melgaard ‘the act of painting...

Untitled, 2020 
Oil paint on canvas
46 x 38 cm (18,11 x 14,96 in)

For Melgaard ‘the act of painting begins and ends with sensuality’. The visible brushstrokes that enclose multiple colours and the impasto paint create a haptic quality, as well as an optical experience.

 

Atmospheric image
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Untitled, 2020 
Oil paint on canvas
46 x 38 cm (18,11 x 14,96 in)

With characteristic punk energy, Melgaard subverts his own painting in a vandalistic manner, while also adding a layer of humour. 

Humour has been, in part of my life, my only companion.

– Bjarne Melgaard, 2020

 

Bjarne Melgaard

Bjarne Melgaard

'I think the so-called subversive culture that is described in some of my works is a part of the common culture. It's just that it is not visible. Things that people surround themselves with on a daily basis in the media suddenly become much more provoking when they are treated in art.'

 

Bjarne Melgaard first developed his neo-expressionistic, gestural style of painting in the mid-1990s, often addressing marginal and subcultural phenomena to raise provocative and critical questions about society. He explores the darker side of humanity, such as self-destructive tendencies, deviant sexuality or fringe religious beliefs, pushing the boundaries of acceptability in order to probe social, political and ideological issues. His distinct iconography is influenced by Norse mythology, but also draws from popular culture, with references as diverse as the Pink Panther, Planet of the Apes, Symbolist painter Edvard Munch and author Elizabeth Wurtzel. His work across disciplines and media encompasses painting, sculpture, installation, fashion, literature, architecture, curating and video, as well as augmented and virtual reality.

 

Melgaard's expressive, vividly coloured canvases are populated by hybrid human and animal characters, executed in thickly encrusted oil paint against a bright, often monochromatic ground. Many of these works also incorporate Norwegian or English phrases as a counterpoint to the imagery. The result is an intimately introspective body of work, filled with 'personal archetypes' that reveal the artist's sustained investigation into and ultimate 'embrace of male sexuality' as a riotous celebration tinged with angst. Although he does not consider himself an explicitly political artist, his work is rooted in an early identification with queer politics and identity from the 1970s and 1980s. He also engages with Munch's legacy in Norway, addressing similarly profound themes including sexuality, desire, alienation and death, although transformed into Melgaard's own idiosyncratic idiom.

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