Bjarne Melgaard’s new exhibition is both sexy and dorky

Ellie June Goodman, Dazed , 1 March 2018, Link

In a new two-part show, the artist challenges his own work and invites Elise By Olsen to help shine a light on Oslo’s underground

In Australian-born, Oslo-based Bjarne Melgaard’s latest exhibition – a two-part show called Bodyparty (Substance Paintings) – the artist offers an introspective view of the duality within his own artistic practice, linking the past and present by revisiting completed paintings six months later and painting a new layer over them. Alongside this is a digital concept exhibition that Melgaard has co-curated on Instagram with Elise by Olsen – on until 15 March – which gives an intimate view of the loneliness that Melgaard feels as an artist and how this emotion influences his work.

Staying true to his style of frantic, colourful works that deal with sexuality and self-destruction, Melgaard’s Bodyparty (Substance Paintings) features 14 new paintings that reflect on the complex relationship that he has with his past and present. While the paintings remain playful, they show what Melgaard means by “Bodyparty”, that is, an allusion to the body and its “sexy” physicality. Bright alien-like cartoon characters cuddle each other, some crying, some having sex, in an exploration of male sexuality, traditional notions of masculinity and isolation.

The impetus for revisiting them with a fresh layer of paint comes from a desire to create works which combine a sharp blend of varying styles. The title’s second part, “Substance Paintings”, is scrawled alongside poetry that features on a number of paintings throughout the exhibition. Described as “his ‘dorky’ analysis of the making of the works themselves”, these are said to represent the effects of both the conscious and unconscious mind on the artistic process, particularly in regards to the passing of time. The more phallic and emotional figures were added further down the line after Melgaard left New York and returned to Oslo. These darker characters have a depth that is not present in the original cartoons, show a change in perspective that can only come with the passing of time and a shift in personality.

The digital show, Life Killed My Chihuahua, on Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac’s Instagram shines a light onto Melgaard's creative practice. Curated in partnership with publisher Elise By Olsen, the takeover will also showcase the emerging counterculture of Oslo, where both Melgaard and Olsen hail from.

Over three weeks, the pair will use the platform to showcase talent from the city's underground scene which span a range of disciplines. Contributions include sculpture by Veronica Bruce and Karoline Bakken Lund, photography by Maria Pasenau, and paintings by Charlie Roberts. 

Life Killed My Chihuahua harnesses Instagram to share and promote the work of Oslo's up-and-coming creatives. Hand-picked by Melgaard and Olsen to be shown, it chronicles the contemporary counterculture of Oslo in which Melgaard is so immersed and continues Olsen's tradition of publicising underground talent. 

In parallel to Bodyparty (Substance Paintings), Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac is hosting a solo-show of appropriation artist Sturtevant's work. Entitled Vice Versa, the exhibition is the first show of the late artist's work in the UK since 2013. The show documents the artist's concept of ‘repetition’, challenging the idea of appropriation and authorship in her early Warhol pop-art reproductions and mounts a trajectory throughout her career, including her later film and digital works. 

With the introversion of Bodyparty (Substance Paintings) and the extroversion of Life Killed My Chihuahua, the shows each reference the themes of duality at play in the spatially-restricted nature of the physical, and the constantly expanding nature of the digital. Ultimately, they invite the audience to interact in different ways with art.

Life Killed My Chihuahua and Bodyparty (Substance Paintings) are on from 22 February – 31 March at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac. Find out more about them and Vice Versa here