by Rahul Kumar, Samta NadeemSep 13, 2022
The magic realism, if put into a visual representation, would take us to the world conjured by the Norwegian conceptual artist Rune Guneriussen. Watching Guneriussen’s body of works is to traverse through photography and sculptural installation. The nature commonly identified as pure and divine is subtly disturbed when the human touch of Guneriussen layers it with objects of lights. Guneriussen reconstructs the field of nature with a defined installation of the objects of lights only to be captured within the frame of the photographs. It is a way to open a dialogue with flora and humans. The simulated nature does not shy to exhibit the intricate patterns of construction – in the shape of lights - to draw attention at the lopsided relation of two environments, driven by humans and nature simultaneously.
With the latest exhibition Lights go out at Museum Kunst der Westküste, Alkersum, Germany, Guneriussen presents a series of light installations, which he developed as a part of the artist residency programme in 2018. At the different locations on the island of Fohr he created the first three works of the series; later the works were created in Norway and the Danish coastal town of Skagen. Talking about the conspicuous presence of topography ranging from forest to island in the photographs, Guneriussen in an interview with STIR traces this interest to his formative years. “I was very much aware of the world around me as a 10-year-old, and it has followed me ever since. My work is mostly my own exploration of nature from an early age, but also as a citizen of the world at the same time,” he says. For the light artist, the imminent challenges posed by nature were unseen by humans 30 years ago and have turned into the biggest failure of our civilisation. “In continuation to this, my relation to nature stays at the core of my work. Constantly observing the nature around me, while being a part of it, and seeing our own influence on every single aspect of nature is essential. I relate to the nature around me wherever I go,” he adds.
Trained from Surrey Institute of Art & Design in England, currently living and working in Norway, Guneriussen has successfully covered the vast expanses of the planet earth with his large body of work. From the conception to the execution of the artworks, the artist says, “I spend my time with nature, I spend my time with searching for locations, I spend my time with making sculptures in the studio, I spend my time in finding a way to combine multiple themes, I spend my time while failing and I spend my time while finishing the works which is worth it.”
When the natural setting of an island or a forest serves as a subject of the project, it inevitably has its sets of challenges and tribulations. Having worked in the setting removed from the familiarity of the built environment for more than 25 years now, Guneriussen tries to chart a personal connection to nature. At every location, the artist confides, “I seek a way of grounding myself to the space. Even if nature does not greet you the first time, you have to earn your respect for it. I revisit the same location repeatedly. I do not hug the trees, but I spend time with them. I listen to the nature around me while sitting on a stone or walking around. This gives me the insight to decipher nature, and figure out what to do in this certain place.”
The imbalance shared between nature and humans in the art of Guneriussen has anchored the cycle of contradictions moving from the obligation of “dependence” to the sense of “alienation”. Guneriussen is aware of the irreplaceable shifts nature has undergone in the rise of climate change. Over the years, his interaction with the environment has swiftly turned into a difficult terrain of unwelcoming. “I would state that nature is not accepting me as it did before. Maybe it is my fault, or maybe it is our collective fault.”
Since the art around the Anthropocene has caught the attention far and wide, it runs the risk of treading the path dotted with instructivism. To avoid riding such a journey, acute care is paid to make the work less imposing and more engaging with the audience. The work Engineering The Grey City is an exemplification of the same. Guneriussen with an interest to locate an answer to the question: ‘how shall we live together with our planet’, explains, “The more I think about it, the more I learn and the more I try to find solutions, they turn out to be more complex. We have made an intricate and complicated world. At the same time, we have made problems that need the same intricate world to solve them.” The work Engineering The Grey City for Guneriussen is in “relation to nature on a sub-level so we can see the basis for the problems, and the basis for a solution”. Guneriussen with Engineering The Grey City leaves us with a question to contemplate, “What is more beautiful: the structures or the nature?”