Bjarne Melgaard has already achieved a unique position in Norwegian and international art with his expressive paintings, drawings and sculptures. Melgaard’s distinctive style and provocative themes have made him a controversial yet highly respected artist.
Astrup Fearnley Museet possesses a large collection of works by Bjarne Melgaard. For the exhibition at SKMU Sørlandets Kunstmuseum, we have made a selection that covers his entire career – from his debut in 1994 up to today. The exhibition presents paintings and drawings that show his development through 19 years of practice, organized around an installation at the centre of the exhibition.
While Melgaard’s production is remarkably varied, he is noted for having developed a distinctive style – a personal visual language that is easily recognizable. Line, form, composition and colour are important artistic devices which he executes with such energy and brutality that they add force to his chosen themes: sexuality, homosexuality, racism, violence and a rather destructive view of humanity.
Melgaard makes use of motifs and images from art history and earlier artists – Edvard Munch in particular. His works also reference popular culture and subcultures. He seeks inspiration from films, music and literature, and he uses texts, photos and magazine clippings as artistic material. This results in a chaotic, complex and overwhelming expression that can trigger many associations and interpretations. The works may seem like visualizations of dreams and fantasies, yet they can still be anchored in reality.
Melgaard’s works can be challenging, but they can also be read as self-referential and very personal – they are about not fitting in. They are direct reactions to things he has experienced in his own life, his thoughts and reflections. Seeing them from this angle, we strike a balance between the expressed brutality and vulnerability. The works can be read as attacks, through the way they cause provocation, but they can also be understood as representations of victimization, as lamentations over the world’s evil.
Bjarne Melgaard was born in 1967 in Sydney, Australia, but grew up in Norway. From the time he turned 17, he has been internationally oriented and has lived in several European cities. He studied at art academies in Warsaw, Amsterdam, Maastricht and Oslo. Since his breakthrough on Norway’s art scene in the 1990s, he has held a prominent position as one of the country’s most important artists. He is also one of Norway’s most internationally oriented artists. Melgaard now lives in New York and has a large studio in Bushwick in Brooklyn. His participation at the Venice Biennale in 2011 is considered by many to be his definitive international breakthrough. It was there that he presented the installation Baton Sinister, which received positive reviews in both the New York Times and Art Forum.
Bjarne Melgaard on Astrup Fearnley Museum’s home page