MARIUS ENGH
"ONE PLUS ONE"


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04.05.-10-05.2020:   CHADWICK RANTANEN
11.05.-17.05.2020:   TORBJØRN RØDLAND
18.05.-24.05.2020:   ASAL PEIROVI
25.05.-31.05.2020:   MIKAEL LO PRESTI
01.06.-07.06.2020:   MARI SLAATTELID
08.06.-14.06.2020:   GARDAR EIDE EINARSSON
15.06.-21.06.2020:   MICHAELA MEISE
22.06.-28.06.2020:   HANNAH RYGGEN
29.06.-05.07.2020:   NINA BEIER
06.07.-12.07.2020:   MARIUS ENGH
13.07.-19.07.2020:   FREDRIK VÆRSLEV



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Troubling Style


In July 1915, the British artist, Christopher R. W. Nevinson published his work On the way to the trenches in a war edition of the magazine Blast, the second collaborative issue of artworks, poems and essays created by members of the Vorticist movement, edited by Wyndham Lewis. As a typical Vorticist painting, modern life is shown as an array of bold black lines and rigid colours forming a group of soldiers marching to the trenches. The bold lines and fragmented abstract forms—a style that partly grew out of Cubism—captures the movement of the bodies, the speed of the marching soldiers. The delirium of speed and dynamism of war echoes the utopian ideas of the avant-gardes, specifically the Italian Futurists. It recalls Filippo Tommaso Marinetti´s 1908 “Manifesto of Futurism”:

We stand on the last promontory of the centuries! Why should we look back when we want to break down the mysterious doors of the impossible? Time and Space died yesterday. We live in the absolute because we have created eternal, omnipresent speed. 1
 
The aim of the Futurists was to discard the art of the past and to usher in a new age that rejected tradition. As their British contemporaries, the Vorticists, who actually excluded Nevinson, celebrated change, originality and innovation in society, their manifesto exalting the beauty of the machine and new technologies, with their eternal speed and movement. 2 They glorified violence and conflict, and called for the destruction of cultural institutions and history, developing a radicalism that remains troubling to this day. Nevinson’s work demonstrates the past brought to bear by recent historical crisis, and the changing conceptions of art and technologies. In line with the Futurists’ insistence on the interrelation between new technologies and new models of collectivity—influenced, among others, by Henri Bergson and his philosophy of matter and memory as dynamic rather than static—Blast explicitly raises some of the characteristic concerns of war models, first among them being the relevance of warfare. 3

On the way to trenches with its history within the arts reappears in Trench coat (2013)—a tailored trench coat in which Nevinson’s painting is digitally knitted on the detachable lining inside the coat. Originally the piece of clothing—today recognized as a fashion icon associated with Burberry, the style of the Mods, and often seen in film-noir and science-fiction—was a uniform item for Army officers, subsequently used in the trenches during the First World War. Fascinated with the flatness of the removable lining, which during the war could be used as felt, Engh raises questions about modernity and technologies. The machine-like army seen in On the way to the trenches, camouflaged in cold harsh nature, is now not only a piece of Vorticist art, but also a warm and soft, woollen surface bringing a natural foundational warmth to the living body of the soldier. Here, modern painting, in its alliance with the world of technical things, becomes a visual motif framed by a technical world consisting of marching bodies with machine guns.

It was not by chance that Marius Engh turned to the multiple crises gripping the world in the 1900s, in which visual art was genuinely productive in the search for alternative imaginations, societies and temporalities. Trench coat underpins the formal and imaginary concerns with the artistic avant-garde, the new issues on rhythm and volume emerging with the geometrical blocks and fragmentations of Cubism. Cubism, as Marshall McLuhan writes in the 1960s, “drops the illusion of perspective in favor of instant sensory awareness of the whole.” By seizing on “instant total awareness,” the Cubists changed the conventions of the image—what painting was about announcing that the medium is the message. 4 Simultaneously, the way in which painting and sculpture come together as a whole in Trench coat indicates the  aesthetic liberation of the Conceptual art of the 1960s, a transformation of how the object was viewed and understood as visual art entered its “post-medium” condition, complicating the Formalist question of autonomy.

At the outset, Engh’s work is nothing more than a random every-day, three- dimensional object, yet encompassed with a modern painting through which the object and repetition are explored to find out what the world is like. The unpleasant conflation of the ideal Futurist collective, their problematic break with humanity in favour of machines and war, and the new image language of the avant-garde—the new drama of the surface—are hacked, merged and shared within our contemporary world of political crisis where human-machine and nature-culture relationships are more difficult. Trench coat suggests the artwork as a styled yet fragmented surface, a medium in a dynamic state of flow, synchronizing the individual and the collective, time and space, the internal and the external, and matter and memory.

- Sara R. Yazdani



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1 Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, "The Foundation and Manifesto of Futurism" (1909), in Art in Theory: 1900-1990, eds. Charles Harrison and Paul Wood (Oxford: Blackwell, 1992), 145-49.
2 Vorticism was also critical of Futurism, however. See Marjorie Perloff, The Futurist Moment: Avant-Garde, Avant-Guerre, and the Language of Rupture (Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press.). For an extensive reading about the connections between Futurism and Vorticism, see Wyndham Lewis and the Culturesof Modernity, eds. Andrzey et al. (Farnham: Ashgate, 2011).
3 Bergson emphasized that our consciousness is always fluid, becoming, always dependent on emotional states so there is not one perceptual reality. He believed that our understanding of the world is constantly changing: “In truth, it no longer represents our past to us, it acts it; and if it still deserves the name of memory, it is not because it conserves bygone images, but because it prolongs their useful effect into the present moment.” Henri Bergson,
Matter and Memory Ma93.
4 Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extension of Man (Cambridge, Mass. & London: MIT Press,
1994/1964), 13.

 
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Marius Engh
Trenchcoat
2014

Black cotton gabardine and woolen vest insert
100 x 111 x 11 cm / 39 1/3 x 43 2/3 x 4 1/3 in
Unique / SOME/TW 2014-006

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