In the spring of 2017, Nicolai Tangen, acting on behalf of the art foundation AKO Kunststiftelse, commissioned two notable Nordic artists to create new works in the old grain silo in Kristiansand. The Norwegian Per Barclay (b. 1955) and the Dane Per Bak Jensen (b. 1949) were given free rein. The exhibition Kunstsilo, Kristiansand presents the photos that resulted from Per Barclays work in the silo.
Per Barclay is an established artist both in Norway and internationally, well-known for his sculptures, installations and photographs. He has gained attention for creating ‘oil rooms’, which have been a central part of his production for almost 30 years. To make these works, he lays a temporary floor in a carefully- selected, already-existing room. The floor is covered with oil or another reflective fluid such as milk, wine or blood. The reflection we see in the floor manipulates our understanding of the surroundings and opens up for new ways of understanding space and volume. The monumental installations are documented according to the artist’s instructions, in a series of large-format colour photographs. These are aesthetically beautiful and unnerving at one and the same time.
Barclay’s ‘oil room’ series began in 1989 when he made Dutch Interior – a spartanly simple white room seen in contrast to a monumental black-oil floor, illuminated only by one naked lightbulb. In a project made for the distinguished American journal Artforum in 1990, he followed up the concept with photos of oil rooms made inside a palace in Italy, an old boat house in Northern Norway, and an orthodox church in Greece. Barclay has made oil rooms in sacred as well as secular spaces, also in more occluded environments such as a bunker, a slaughterhouse and a jaguar cage. The latest works in the photo series are shot inside the old grain silo in Kristiansand.
In the photos from the silo, the curving cement walls and pillars are mirrored in the oil. The room is devoid of people and seems outside time’s continuum. Light enters through the windows and the sky reflects up from the floor. The mood is contemplative, but at the same time, the reflections create the sense of a foreboding, bottomless abyss. An ambiguity thus emerges in the pictures, causing us to question what we actually see and what a photo can show us.
The rooms that are staged by the artist exist only for a short time in order to be photographed according to his instructions. Only by exception are some of the rooms shown as actual installations for a longer period. On these occasions, the aroma of the fluid that is used becomes a significant part of the experience.
Per Barclay lives and works in Oslo and Turin. He moved early in his career to Italy, where he received his art education in Florence, Palermo and Bologna. From the very beginning he has exhibited extensively both at home and abroad. Per Barclay’s works are included in collections such as that of the National Museum in Oslo, Henie Onstad Kunstsenter and Astrup Fearnley Museum, as well as in several museums in France, Italy and Spain. In 2017 Barclay was the premier exhibitor at the new centre CCC OD in Tours, France, and he has recently held a larger solo show at KODE, Art Museums of Bergen. Barclay will be exhibiting at OSLContemporary in Oslo through 30 June 2018, as well as at Manifesta 12 (Collateral Events), in Palermo this summer.
AKO KUNSTSTIFTELSE AND SØRLANDETS KUNSTMUSEUM
For 20 years, Nicolai Tangen has collected twentieth century art. The collection consists primarily of Norwegian modernist works, but its scope has expanded in recent years to include Nordic art and craft from the same period.
The collection also contains many recent photographic works. This part of the collection includes a large number by Per Barclay. Nicolai Tangen has given his entire collection to his home town Kristiansand. The gift was publically announced in 2015, and in 2016 the foundation AKO Kunststiftelse was established as the collection’s formal owner. Also in 2016, Sørlandets Kunstmuseum entered into an agreement with AKO Kunststiftelse, thus enabling the foundation’s collection to be deposited permanently in the museum. The art museum’s collections and the works collected by Tangen will be collocated in a new art museum built in and around the re-purposed grain silo at Odderøya in Kristiansand.