by Vatsala SethiDec 26, 2022
To nurture an urban life from the cradle of nature could serve as an instance to explain the term oxymoron. The creative force in the hands of the Norwegian artist Per Kristian Nygård, who brings the two elements—nature and architecture—together, is an extension to explore its probability of control and potential. The in-situ installation and sculptures even with their titles epitomise the social ideology embraced by the installation artist who looks for the economy of architecture in the abundance of nature. The greens or the wooden installation within the expanse of the environment in the works such as The Economy of Form and Grand Illusion, respectively, herald what has been hitherto unseen. Nygård studied art history before he went to the art school, and he got a degree in modernist architectural history. This led him to read modernist architecture under the lens of a social-political ideology, which eventually made him aware of the fact that architecture is a gradual process in the making—a reflection of the political system and thought. In other words, the result mirrors a series of interesting compromises being made across the political and bureaucratic process. Irrevocably, within the same picture, the investors and developers are trying to make as much profit as possible.
There is a constant urge to initiate the interactive experience around Nygård’s installation—created to prompt a conversation between the work of art and the viewer. But Nygård admits that his works cannot implicitly fall into the bracket of genre of art, thereby they open an opportune moment for the audience to work a bit harder to understand. “If you work in a public space this happens more often than in a gallery. Ideally, I would like my work to be experienced physically, and as something that makes you turn your head twice walking by because it did not make sense the first time. I like to add some nonsense to the world, but it just means that it does not make sense, so you must make something else out of it—then sense. I like how art has a possibility to change how people move in public space,” confides Nygård in an interview with STIR. As part of the exhibition The Economy of Form, in the Thuja Park outside the Vigeland Museum in Oslo, the small trees were placed in a strict row yet meaningless pattern that made some people change routes and walk by the trees.
The land art installation Utviklings Land, translated in English to Development Land, was made for Coast Contemporary, an annual platform for art that was held in Trondheim. “The term used for real estate that ‘needs’ development,” mentions Nygård, “it is also a kind of pun, as the title directly translated to Norwegian means developing countries. Public space is always made to be easily read and understood and to immediately make sense to us. I like to play with that. I wanted to make this park that eventually would become a forest, and in some ways, it did not make sense.” The built environment of the architectural structure finds a supple amplification in the installation works of the Trondheim-based artist. “Early on I worked with landscapes indoors, as a kind of a commentator or a reflector on the ‘modernist architects’ interest in the relation between the duality of the inside-outside,” says Nygård. The installations as part of this exhibition Not Red But Green that he made for the artist-run space No Place in Oslo, brought the outdoors indoors by creating grassy mounds inside an art gallery. The work surveys the “limitations and possibilities of space,” constructing the unlikely landscape as a contrast to the organised architectural environment.
Nygård explained that his practice is "seemingly meaningless and confusing" as opposed to the all-encompassing meaningful and personalised objects and architecture we surround ourselves with, such as programmed urban environments and functional objects. The undulations in the terrain were made with a wooden framework, covered with plastic sheeting and a thick layer of soil filled with grass seeds. The grass sprouted during the art exhibition, and the landscape was tended and watered daily to create a moist growing environment. The green hills with visible soil and wispy blades of grass even appeared to be growing up the white walls of the gallery. The installation's smaller hills around narrow windows ensured sunlight could still penetrate the space, while the edges of the work crept out onto the reception area's dark grey floor as if inviting visitors to meander the miniature landscape. The soil sloped away on one side of the installation to accommodate the gallery's wood-burning stove.
In the exhibition The Economy of Form at Vigeland Museum in Oslo, Norway, he dealt with this subject in a more material way. Subsequently, they were further explored in the exhibition he made at the gallery Dropsfabrikken. Largely in a variety of forms, these exhibitions have investigated the relationship between ideology and form. “My practice has kind of moved toward re-experience of a building process and I am answering my own question by revisiting the building processes, like re-building the home my father built almost four decades ago,” affirms Nygård. When inquired about what should be the key learnings after watching his work, the artist reluctantly mentions, “I think my main goal with my work is to entertain myself. I think that it is only then that it can be interesting for someone else as well.”