The unexpected art front of the corona crisis
Kunstavisen April 2020 art critique by Lars Elton.

Four Oslo based galleries have stayed open through the corona-crisis. The exhibitions show us that the measures for infection control does not interfere with the ability to have great art experiences. One can not expect that the only three exhibitions that stayed open through the entire corona-crisis can tell us something about what this pandemic is doing to us. However – if even just by coincidence – they do gain significance, each in their own way.
The galleries that have stayed open; QB, Riis and Semmingsen are, in this context, the exceptions to the rule. Most other galleries, and all of the museums, shut down on march 12th when the prime minister announced “the most pervasive measures in peacetime".
At Gallery Semmingsen, the level of abstraction that Christine Istad evokes from architectural elements leads to associations of both a cool distance, and warm compassion. It appears just as wondrous as the span between the invisible character of the virus itself, and its fascinating visualizations.
There is undeniably a strong feeling of alienation that affects my perception of Christine Istad´s photographs. At the same time they embody an almost seductive quality that makes me linger in front of them. «Delirious Metropol» contains different fragments of architecture - tiny details all assembled as if you were seeing them through a prism.
In a text accompanying the exhibition, Karin Sunderø points to an ecological sorrow, a melancholy longing for lost scenery and biodiversity. The corona-crisis has forced us to interact with the world in a more moderate way, and has allowed us to see our surroundings through a different scope. The density and fast phase of the city is now a danger, and it's in the cities that the infection spreads most rapidly. Is there any wonder that Istad´s exhibition evokes such strong emotions? Or to quote Sunderø: “Istad gives us no answers. Instead she poses the question: How do we maintain our identity and human nature in a world distinguished by facades and reflections?”

From the other side of the glass
Art critique by Tommy Ohlsson in Klassekampen 15.4.2020

First, in case there is any doubt: I really do like exhibitions. There may have been times when I’ve even doubted that myself, but in light of the last weeks post-coital tristesse that doubt has all but evaporated. It feels good to know that all the drugs and the uninhibited group sex is more an effect of how I work, rather than of the work itself. None the less, I shall do the work.

In these times, when time itself is standing still, Gallery Semmingsen are displaying elev-en large scale photographs by Christine Istad. As usual, I had not read the press release nor done any googling in advance, so it took me a few minutes to realise that these were actually photographs – and not paintings. The imagery is so closely related to that of the painting, where it rests in the poetic twilight between abstraction and that of correct rep-resentation. A natural starting point when the focus of the work is the reflection of a light that we can't always, if ever, know the source of.

When, in addition, the applied lens transforms everything into mosaics and kaleidoscopic patterns, ones own gaze becomes fragmented as well. In a way it's almost like watching the world through the embellishment of a German beer glass (after having finished said beer). What was once known and distinguishable now appears unfamiliar and strange. The rhythmical and repetitive quality of the photographs leads you into a state of disori-entation, much like if you’d walked in to a hall of mirrors after having finished that same beer. Also the scale of these works can not be overlooked, they are appealing, beautiful and easy to get lost within.

Now that I know that the origin of each photograph is a city. And furthermore the titles in-form me that what I am looking at is different cities in a process of decomposition; Dis-solved San Fransisco, Dissolved Hamburg, Dissolved Trondheim, and so on – a trou-bling undertone is asserted. The photograph of Trondheim puts me into an almost trance-like state, but there is still something ominous about it. I would not be able to find my way in this life if Trondheim was no longer on the map. However, it is comforting to know that it is not the city itself that is dissolving in front of me. Neither in the photograph, nor in real life.

Open Space in Bryne Art Society
Open Space in Bryne Art Society

A thorough and complete exhibition
Four artists explore the boundaries between abstract and specific space. And they do it well.

Anne Therese Tveita, Stavanger Aftenblad 3.4.2018

Bryne Kunstforening: Open Space. Hennie Ann Isdahl, painting and sculpture. Mona K. Lalim, painting. Christine Istad, photography. Lisa Pacini, sculpture. Four separate and distinctive art practices constitute the Open Space artist collective. At Bryne Kunstforening, their group show appears to have emerged from one single thought.

A clear common denominator
Together, the four artists Hennie Ann Isdahl, Lisa Pacini, Mona K. Lalim and Christine Istad, have created an exhibition with a clear common denominator: they are relating to the architectural space that comprises Bryne's old mill in a reciprocal intervention. Through material and sculptural qualities, color, air and light, as well as an almost intuitive conceptual approach, the artists are exploring and testing the boundaries between constructed and abstract space. Representing four different art practices based in painting, photo, installation and sculpture, the collective’s explorations are playful and effortless. Each exhibited work touches upon elements in the next, in this comprehensive and complete group show.

Hennie Ann Isdahl's minimalist sculpture, "Open Gate", literally provides a frame for the show; a large geometric aluminum frame standing firmly on its welded iron feet. In glowing orange and white, the abstract structure reflects the concrete exhibition space. The sculpture’s shape and color, and the space it creates, challenges the boundaries of two-dimensionality and three-dimensionality, appearing as a fusion between a painting's surface/frame and architecture.

Vulnerable, random
In the far end of the exhibition space is "Gates", another work by Isdahl, appearing as a close relative to the previous sculpture. The work consists of three similarly large square aluminum frames, painted in a monochrome blue. The frames support each other in an apparently random and vulnerable structure that threatens to fall apart at any moment.
Isdahl has deconstructed the exhibition space to the extent that empty space makes up its largest component.

Deconstruction appears as a recurring theme in the show. Such as in Lisa Pacini's sculpture «Soft Labyrinth». In her work, Pacini will often deconstruct classical architecture and recreate ancient, architectural shapes in sculptural works. "Soft Labyrinth" is evoking the shape of Casa del Labirinto known from the ruins of Pompeii. Here, soft vinyl is cut according to strict principles, the outcome of this process appearing as two works, one negative and one positive shape. In her oil paintings, Mona Lalim is demonstrating her own approach to the exhibition space. The abstract composite painting "Balcone" is the product of an exciting work process. In a reverse archaeological reconstruction, Lalim is exploring classical oil painting through the qualities of the oil paint itself. Working backwards through the layers, her work is unearthing memories of architectural structures and formal elements, fragments of what used to be. In this way, even time gets to play a role.

Beautiful photos
Christine Istad's beautiful abstract photographs of everyday objects and events are rooting the theme of the exhibition. In Istad’s practice, time, light and colors surrounding us are captured and concretized, as exemplified in the works Sliding doors #7 and Sliding doors #3.

All exhibited works are relating to each as well as the exhibition space surrounding them. The structures and lines are reflecting elements of the room, in addition to the aura of the art works and their essences. Thus there are a number of exciting dialogues in the show, dialogues that the viewer, too, partakes in through her mere presence.

Published: 29. MARS 2018

The detail in the big picture
Solo show at Gallery Svae, Gjøvik, Norge.

Oppland Arbeiderblad, 29 April 2017
Text by Tanja E. Caldecourt

Christine Istad does not manipulate her photographs, nor does she even call herself a photographer. Istad is a visual artist. The photographs are painting-like and she manipulates the viewer more than pictures. In a way, she even changes the subject.

Changing view
Gallerist Hilde Svae has followed the artist, Istad, for years. The first paintings she exhibited were subsequently purchased by Gjøvik VGS (Gjøvik secondary school).
“I still think like a painter,” says Istad today. In this exhibit, she uses brushed aluminium instead of photo paper. Elements that would otherwise have been white thus have a more dynamic appearance depending on how the light plays across the surface.

Motivated motifs
So, what are we really seeing? What is the subject? Istad tells you very little about that. All you can do is guess. She tells us where the pictures were taken: in metropolises like New York and Hong Kong. But it is up to each person to see. She is fascinated by architecture, glass and reflections, the urban and the monumental. Even so, she is not just showing us the city and its buildings. Istad turns what is probably the outer wall of a hotel building into an abstract and mystical world. The stringent forms and straight lines seem to play with what is and what we create ourselves. There are optical illusions – or not.

Aesthetic and intellectual
A video plays on a tiny screen mounted on the wall in Svae’s. We are told that it was taken in a business district in Hong Kong. A man is doing Tai Chi. A woman paces back and forth, talking on a mobile phone. Water flows in the fountain in the background. Cars drive past. One frame. Many bubbles of life. All the individuals are caught up in their own worlds and are not interacting with the outside world. The video becomes a sort of philosophical exercise. It is one thing to appreciate the intellectual contribution but what about the aesthetic aspect? Istad’s pictures are decidedly beautiful, too. Using brushed aluminium as the background is brilliant. It adds something extra to the motifs and makes them surprisingly “alive” and substantial.

The moments
We do not see what Istad saw as she trudged around in the urban jungle looking for things to shoot – in the photographic sense. We see what was captured by her inner zoom. She gets us to look more closely at things we would normally have walked right past. We would not even have noticed them if she had not pointed them out to us. The small detail on the tall building in the enormous city.
“Art should make the moment greater,” said artist and friend Elise Schonhowd, and that is a good way to sum it up.

Art critique by Signe Hodne, Stavanger Aftenblad

Christine Istad in the throes of an exotic project

Christine Istad is engrossed by all that is Japanese – Japanese culture, history and landscape. Taking this alien world as a springboard, she has succeeded in creating a distinctive photographic idiom of her own. The result is minimalist and expressionistic at one and the same time – minimalist, because she cuts to the bone, reducing form and content to simple geometrical shapes; expressionistic, because she has not managed or wanted to exclude sensuality and depth of feeling. This is an important point, because it is precisely the sensual atmosphere that arises due to the encounter with the works' minimalism that enriches me as a spectator.
Istad's large-format photographs are mounted between two layers of Plexiglas. This creates a good effect; it is as if the pictures are floating in space at some distance from the wall. The surfaces are divided into rectangles and stripes and the various areas in each individual picture have varying degrees of opacity and transparency. The degree of translucency affects the intensity of the colours: a transparent area produces strong colours, while a frosted area reduces the intensity and blurs the borders between the colours. This is similar to staring at a point for a long time without blinking: suddenly the motif dissolves in front of your eyes.
The video work "ITO" depicts hands folding a piece of material. The focus is on the black piece of fabric and the task is performed in a ritual and impersonal way – with significance on a higher plane. The photographs, too, can be described as impersonal, but this does not make them uninteresting – quite the reverse. Their impersonal character means that the spectator herself can become the subject of Istad's visual world.
Istad may be interested in facts about Japan, but she does not present us with them – rather, her photographs are characterised by a kind of aura of mystery. Her approach is not that of a sociologist or a historian; Istad cultivates the artist's look at reality and allows us to see the world in a new light.

Japanske inntrykk på Frogner
Fotografi Magasin
Anmeldelse av Per Torgersen
Galleri Semmingsen 2009

Christine Istad - Breath in - Breath out
En samling av seks fargeforstørrelser og tre video/DVD-presentasjoner. Alle motiver var hentet fra Japan.

I fargeforstørrelsene hadde hun tatt for seg viusuelt beslektede arkitektur-detaljer, med en nær sagt fanatisk konsekvens, og resultatet fremstod nærmest som variasjoner over et enkelt tema, hvor de enkelte motiver var tvunget inn i en helhet.

Alle opptak var gjort på negativ fargefilm, som deretter var scannet og skrevet ut digitalt.

Christine istad har sin bakgrunn fra den tradisjonelle billedkunsten, men hennes fotografiske arbeider har etter hvert mer og mer nærmet seg et autentisk fotografisk uttrykk, hvor selve bildet er det primære. I den utmerkede lille katalogen som er produsert er uttrykket optisk poesi benyttet. Ganske treffende, etter undertegnedes oppfatning.