Chicago #10. 107x255 cm

Skylife Dissolved

Galleri Semmingsen

Text by Mette Irene Dahl.
Photography as an art form is many things. It can be documentary, social commentary, it can be studies of nature, portraiture and…poetry. Ever since camera’s early days, photography has been seen as a mechanical recording device: at an early meeting of the Photographic Society of London, which was established in 1853, one member complained that this new technique was «too literal» to «elevate the imagination» and therefore could not compete with art. It is, however, today generally accepted that photography is also an art form and can be and often is more than just a recording of the physical world. But can it be painting? Can it rival painting in any form?
Christine Istad’s large photographs printed on aluminum canvases certainly can. She uses her camera to search for shapes, forms, colors and patterns. She uses her eye and her camera, that mechanical recording device, to capture the repeating patterns and subtle colors of modern urban architecture. She captures and contrasts the fleeting movement of feathery clouds against the hard angular surfaces of glass and steel and suggests the power of Nature by portraying these elusive clouds’ dissolving of a man made structure. She catches the rippling play of water within the rigid repetitive lines of modern window panes. She portraits broken columns of lights, hinting at water mirrored perhaps on a concrete floor.
Norwegian artists have since the early 1800’s painted Nature and examined natural lights and the continually changing weather. Christine joins generations of artists in her venture, but she uses her camera instead of brushes and paint. The impressionists painted the light. Christine photographs it. She brings her art into our age by fusing urban high tech symbols with nature elements. Every picture is a piece of poetry that plays with light, water, waves and clouds against man made materials and structures. The organic and the soft, the rural, melts together with the urban technological achievements of modern architecture. She uses the buildings’ own lines to draw up patterns that borders on the abstract and her choice of aluminum canvases add a tactile and almost sensual aspect to her pictures that can rival the viewer’s impression of traditional paintings with their paint layers and brush strokes. Christine’s pictures are both photographs and paintings in appearance, both abstract and figurative in form, both traditional and modern in expression.

Support by Ingrid Lindbäck Langaards Stiftelse

Chicago #01 og Miami #01. 100x150 cm

New York #10. 107x255 cm.
A picture opens up
Elise Schonhowd, artist
May 2017
When a picture takes shape, and becomes a new work of art, it involves both processes the artist was conscious of already and others that are discovered along the way. Those who encounter the piece for the first time when it is displayed on a wall, experience the same thing. Capturing a moment in time on camera is the point of departure for something that does more than merely reflect the subject of the picture, in this case a modern building. The motif may have presented itself, so to speak, if one ventures to personalise the processes on both ends a bit.  A series of events occurs when a motif catches someone’s attention, first the photographer’s and then later, after many stages, the attention of people who visit the gallery. The image is seen from a distance, large. The bottom part gleams. The vibrant surface of the brushed aluminium is infused with a quality that could initially perhaps be described as slightly dry denim. A moving level appears and draws the audience closer in a natural manner. The picture follows the observer’s movements as the light changes. It hangs there on the wall, narrow and elegant, and gives an immediate impression of orderly structure. Some may perceive it as totally abstract. You see lines, you see vertical surfaces, repeating sections and perhaps the experience at this point triggers associations to minimalistic music. This is because of the repetition. Or because? Why because? Does using the word mean that you subsequently discover you have only seen a tiny portion, because there is also a lot to be seen within the surface? A closer look reveals a vibrant exchange, a meeting between the material at the bottom and the fluid-looking pattern above. At this point the experience can be almost confusing, because even though the eye picks up on the first thing that is at odds with the solidity of the architecture – it takes a while before you realise that you what you are seeing is the water’s reflection in the windows – none of the windows are alike. You can spend a brief eternity observing and taking pleasure in the many variations. And then you may find yourself feeling like everything is a wave, a flow, and experience that physically. There is something that goes beyond what can be seen by the eye. The floor blurs. The experiences linked to body, water and time evoke memories of the artist Bill Viola’s work: films which are played so slowly that the water turns to time, and bodies appear to encompass a light most easily imagined in the air. Now the picture on the wall is slowly beginning to reveal itself…. It moves in two directions at the same time. In towards the observer and farther into the picture, further into the building along with the moving light that is reflected by the water. We are in a big city, but right now the water, the natural element, is dominant. The picture is speaking a language the body senses, and perceives as timeless from the moment when it moves from the cold architecture to the living inner core where the people are.  The sky is in the water. The wind is in the water. The boats sailing past evoke images we recognise. Suddenly, it is not a picture we are looking at, but something we remember. Our eye is caught by how everything is flooded by brilliant morning light that makes it all stand out clearly. This aspect of the experience reveals new details all over the picture. Something soft breaks up the rigid sections. We realise that it is textiles and then see with increasing clarity they are curtains in what now turns out to be a hotel with stories to tell about lives that are lived in parallel with ours. Rooms without permanent inhabitants, box-like shelters that witness many aspects of the lives that unfold in the hours and days the rooms are occupied by people - either alone or with someone. Getting away from home, withdrawing from something discomforting, exposure in anonymous surroundings, expectations of the many things the city has to offer, or sheer weariness from the hustle and bustle of a hectic working life are some of the reasons why people stay in the rooms for a little while. The curtain opens up the picture for the observer. The multitude of different stories that are given a voice, can come as a surprise after one has gotten used to a relaxed visual experience. Suddenly there is a little change of pace, because the curtain that partially hides a bed, draws our thoughts towards night. Towards the body. Towards human skin. It stands there – unmade. Someone will come. Someone will clean and tidy. But here are the traces of the person that lay there. Alone or together with someone. And that is when you may feel that you have seen this before in other places at other times. Maybe you will think of the old masters, like the painter, Giotto, whose works behind and above the altar in church may have been your first meeting with art. You remember seeing the images at the bottom that generally illustrate everyday life, lives and stories that are distant from the tranquil repose promised by the light in the upper portions of the murals. So, you stand there, experiencing the inner depths and the surface at the same time. With skin. And light on smooth shining surfaces. That is when you feel that the picture has just barely begun to reveal itself. That is how I remember the picture that I saw exhibited in Gjøvik, Norway April 2017. 

Chicago #02. 100x150 cm

Chicago #04. 100x150 cm. Svart/hvitt fotografier i str 30x40 cm.

Chicago #02, Chicago #06 og New York #05. 100x150 cm

Chicago #10. 107x255 cm.

Åpningstale av kunsthistoriker Benedicte Sunde

New York #10 and the video: The Dragon Fly. A dragon fly captured on the street in Chicago. A young woman picks up the dragon fly with her hand.

Video: The Fountainhead. Chicago 2017. Gail Wynand: "Then he looked up, across the city, to the shapes of the great skyscrapers. He saw a string of lights rising unsupported in black space, a glowing pinnacle anchored to nothing, a small, brilliant square hanging detached in the sky. He knew the famous buildings to which these belonged, he could reconstruct their forms in space. He thought, you´re my judges and witnesses. You rise, unhindered, above the sagging roofs. You shoot your gracious tension to the stars, out of slack, the tired, the accidental. The eyes one mile out on the ocean will see none of this and none of this matter, but you will be the presence and the city. As down the centuries, a few men stand in lonely recited that we may look and say, there is a human race behind us. One can´t escape from you; the streets change, but one looks up and there you stand, unchanged. You have seen me walking through the streets tonight. You have seen all my steps and all my tears. It´s you that I´ve betrayed. For I was born to be one of you".

Chicago #04, photo 100x150 cm on brushed aluminum