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Nordic lights

In parallel with its major exhibition devoted to the Normans,1 the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Rouen offers us the opportunity to “discover new territories of visual creation” through a selection of works by three contemporary Norwegian photographers. A change of scenery guaranteed…

 “Cadillac 1954”, They crept into their fathers sleep, 2016 
© Marie Sjøvold 
“The inner Journey”, Vignettes of a Salesman, 2016 – 2018 
© Ole Marius Joergensen 
© Galerie Goutal, Aix-en-Provence 

Although very different, the three universes in which we are transported share the same strangeness, the one that undoubtedly seduces us so much in Nordic painters and filmmakers… First invitation to travel, that of Terje Abusdal, capturing the magic of ancestral rituals, close to shamanism, practiced by a community of foresters originally from Finland. Ghostly forms, incandescent lights, fires, and incantations… At the border between documentary and fiction, Terje Abusdal makes us spectators of the strange.


Ole Marius Joergensen, for his part, confronts us with a strangeness bordering on the absurd: in his series Vignettes of a Salesman (2016-2018), he follows, in his solitary travels, a salesman whom one would think was straight out of a Jacques Tati film.

Dressed in a suit, a gabardine, and a hat, carrying two old leather suitcases, he appears, always from behind, as he wanders – on a train, a highway restaurant, an old house… Resembling 1950s movie sets, as if frozen in time, these images – very cinematographic – convey in a chilling way the weight of loneliness weighing on the shoulders of a man who seems to transform his business travels into inner journeys. A man on borrowed time? Overwhelmed or disillusioned, inevitably evoking Arthur Miller’s Death of Salesman. 

“Bubblegum” #01, Pust, 2006 
© Marie Sjøvold 

One also thinks of Edward Hopper’s paintings, because of the theatricality of the staging and, in particular, of the solitude.


It is in a more intimate but not less strange universe that Marie Sjøvold transports us; at the edge of the real and the unreal.

“Dust catches light” # 17, 2011 
© Marie Sjøvold 

“I use photography, which is a very realistic medium, but I like to venture a little outside of reality, I like when reality becomes unreal […] I want to open up the interpretation,” said the artist, born in 1982 in Oslo.

Thus, she often cultivates ambiguity: a body floating in the water hemmed in by the reflections of the fir trees can also seem to fly over the peaks… The grandmother lying on her back like a corpse blows a Bubblegum bubble… Other fascinating memento mori, the feet of her Insomnia series seem to be painted, while the tree with its vein-like branches seems to have been drawn…   

1. “Normans – migrants, conquerors, innovators” until August 13

Museum of Fine Arts of Rouen

Until August 13

Stéphanie Dulout