Throughout time, artists have been preoccupied with the basic elements of the human condition – our body and our soul. So how have they depicted the physical shell we all carry? And how have they portrayed the varying states of the soul? Artists show us the physical experience of our bodies, but in addition to this, they must strive to mirror the psyche through the bodily form. Early philosophers such as Plato (ca 428-348 B.C.) believed that the soul was only temporarily united with the body, and that death would drive them apart. Considering that humankind has never found evidence proving that the soul is a part of the body, or something separate from the body, modern philosophers have concluded that body and soul are not separable.

Several themes emerge in the art works we have selected for this exhibition. Some works depict the natural body through nudes and bathing scenes, the body as allegory and the relationship to the body. In the Old Testament, the parable of Adam and Eve marks a symbolic starting point for the history of the relationship between humans and their bodies in the western cultural sphere. When Adam and Eve taste the apple from the Tree of Knowledge and are thrown out from the Garden of Eden by God, they suddenly become aware of their own naked bodies. For the first time, they feel shame. Several nudes in the collection show a much more straightforward, neutral depiction of the body. Here, the focus is on anatomy rather that eroticism. The fact that several artists throughout time have depicted people bathing naked in nature, indicates that it has been considered a legitimate possibility to observe and portray the naked human body.

Several art works in the exhibition portray the suffering body and the body as a mirror for the psyche. Here, we see bodies that are subjected to torture, surgical interventions, war and death. The myth of Icarus reminds us of the physical limitations of the body, while Steinum in the video “Wood Ambient” explores pain limits and his body in relationship to nature. Some of the art works – such as “Kappe I” by Vangsnes, “Sendebod” by Hauge and “Hjelm II, Napoli” – play with the idea of the body as a shell. Although none of them portray humans, we still get the feeling of being face to face with a body. Several of the art works attempt to show different mental conditions through close studies of bodies and faces – such as absent, pensive and observant states, or experiences of loneliness, powerlessness, trauma and angst.

The last body of work in the exhibition focuses on the body as an object of desire. What makes us perceive a body as an erotic object? This can be invoked by posture, partially uncovered body parts, concrete depictions of genitalia and erotic situations. The contrast is large between Vinjum´s explicit washings and more insinuating, indirect expressions such as “Waiting” by Krzywinski.

The works are selected from the collections at SFKM, Astruptunet, Eikaasgalleriet and Sogn Kunstsenter. The majority of the artists that are represented are born in the 1940s and 1950s, and two out of three are men. The works are mainly graphics, paintings, drawings, photographs and sculptures, but there are also examples of material pictures, relief, assemblages, installations and video works. They are produced in the period 1901-2012, and every decade is represented. However, most works are from after 1970. The art is collected through purchases, donations, deposits and transfers from the Arts Council Norway. Several of the works have never been shown by our institution before, and many have not been shown for a long time.

Curator: Ingrid Norum, konservator at SFKM

Represented artists:
Oddleiv Apneseth, Nikolai Astrup, Reidun Færøy Bergstrøm, Malvin Berqvam, Liisa Frydenlund de Corral, Guri Dahl, Elisabeth Dillingøen, Per Dybvig, Jan Egge, Finn Egil Eide, Ludvig Eikaas, Gerd Endestad, Ola Enstad, Steingrimur Eyfjord, Gro Finne, Thora Fredrikke Astrup Kühle Geelmuyden, Bente Geving, Hans Gjesme, Arna Grevstad, Laurie Grundt, Niclas Gulbrandsen, Johanne Marie Hansen-Krone, Jens Hauge, Bjørn Hegranes, Sveinung Iversen, Morten Steen Kaels, Ole Karlsen, Steinar Klasbu, Bjørn Krzywinski, Helge Krøvel-Velle, Bjørn Kvarstein, Snorre Kyllingmark, Victor Lind, Harald Lyche, Susanna Majuri, Tom Martinsen, Robert Meyer, Magnar Moen, Astrid Mørland, Therese Nortvedt, Torill Nøst, Bjørn Ransve, Ole Rinnan, Thorstein Rittun, Inge Rotevatn, Knut Rumohr, Jenny Marie Rydhagen, Edvin Skjerping, Astrid Skåtun, Kjartan Slettemark, Kåre Jan Solenes, Elisabeth Steen, Jan Steinum, Anne Lise Stenseth, Willibald Storn, David Een Sture, Camilla Søyland, Oddvar Torsheim, Magne Vangsnes, Johannes Vinjum og Arne Øhnell.

Photo of: Elisabeth Steen, "Uten tittel", 1986, div. material, gåve 2003, SFKM 1573.