Kunsthall Svalbard’s inaugural residency project presents a body of work by the Norwegian artist Olav Christopher Jenssen, who lived in Longyearbyen from 14 to 23 October 2015, and from 23 March to 22 April 2016. The result is a series of exploratory probes into the confluence of geological, cultural, biological, technological and socio-political factors comprising Svalbard’s landscape today. Jenssen brought with him from his base in Berlin, Germany, two custom-made expedition cases, each housing 25 aluminium plates upon which to record, interpret and reflect around Svalbard’s diverse material and immaterial phenomena. These plates are informed in turn by a group of 205 watercolour studies that served as an initial instrument of investigation and capture. Added to this are elements transposed from the unique working environment Jenssen set up in Longyearbyen, a makeshift atelier inhabited by zoological specimens in the old Svalbard Museum.
Taken together, Jenssen’s residency project resonates with previous histories of Arctic exploration imagery, and the lineage of past expedition artists more broadly, in terms of its underlying logic, format, materiality and functionality. His work simultaneously links, through its rigorous inquisitiveness, serial nature and methodical creativity, to the myriad of scientific research projects that similarly take Svalbard as their test site and laboratory of experimentation.
Olav Christopher Jenssen (b. 1954) is widely recognized as one of Norway’s foremost contemporary artists. With roots in Northern Norway, he is best known as a painter and colourist, who often works with series in his practice. He is currently professor of painting at the Braunschweig University of Art (HBK), Germany. Northern Norway Art Museum holds one of the largest collections of his work.
The Artist in Residence programme is sponsored by SpareBank 1 Nord-Norge's Cultural Business Development Foundation.