Tore Magne Gundersen (b.1957 in Froland) lives and works in Oslo. Gundersen works includes textile, drawing, painting, animation, sculpture and intaglio print. In recent years, Gundersen has exhibited at, among others, Bomuldsfabriken Kunsthall, Oppland Arts Center, Agder Arts Center and Studio Blikket in Steinkjer. His works have been aquired by Kunstsilo, KODE, Bomuldfabriken and the National Museum in Norway.
with texts by
Tone Lyngstad Nyaas
Sayed Sattar Hasan
Review Frida Forsgren, Fædrelandsvennen 2021
Textile art's slam poet
The exhibition Go on Fear Not at Bomuldsfabriken Kunsthall shows a broad presentation of Tore Magne Gundersen's textiles, sculptures and drawings. There is a tremendous power of expression in the works which makes him reminiscent of a textile slam poet.
At last year's South Coast Exhibition, Tore Magne Gundersen exhibited the Ax Man - a large black knitted image of a figure mounted on sackcloth. Axe man's (2020) naive shapes and uneven knitted patches, as well as the contrast between the figure's eeriness and the knitwear's inherent coziness, were striking. In the exhibition Go on Fear Not at the Bomuldsfabriken Kunsthall, Tore Magne Gundersen's artistry is now presented in a broad solo exhibition. Gundersen shows works from 2016-2021 in a wide range of expressions, such as clay, painting, textiles and knitting, and formats, such as capes, carpets, cushions and friezes. Gundersen, who is originally from Froland, has in many ways had an outsider position in Norwegian art history, and he precisely thematizes outsiderness in a direct idiom. The works are also experienced as something out of the ordinary. For Gundersen sews, knits, appliques, sculpts figures in clay, and uses strong, cutting colors in large formats.
The first works we encounter are these large, knitted giants on sackcloth: The Axe Man, Anemia and The Headless. The forms are porous and playful, but the clumsy, fumbling figures also struggle with uneasiness or uncertainty. Some of the forms are fragmented, which expresses helplessness or powerlessness. It kind of doesn't help to be big and menacing if you're holey and frayed. Then in the next room it literally breaks loose: we are met by a seemingly endless textile frieze that runs along the walls. The colors are yellow, red, black, blue, and recurring figures are fish, boys, saw blades, knives, birds and dogs. The fields are characterized by a "more is more" aesthetic: paintings, drawings and fields of knit are applied to the textile, applied in a raw, reckless technique. It looks as if Gundersen has run a rally with the sewing machine, the stitches chop, tag and mill back and forth, and the stitches in the knit are uneven, untidy, and full of personality. This is far from the smooth stitches we learned to knit as children, and the expression brings to mind artists such as Philip Guston, the beat generation or German neo-expressionism.
Coziness, home comfort, horror and fear
The same intensity is repeated in Gundersen's large, applied knitting works. Here he applies layer upon layer of knitted shapes, patches, figures, all loaded on so that the images bulge and push forward. A recurring shape is the mandala or vagina shape, a primal shape that links both to religion and the female body, but which in Gundersen's universe is blood red, pulsating and aggressive. In Sparks From the Wheel and In Utero it is as if the knitted dolls want to enter and return to their mother's womb, to escape the world. But in the work Bading Boys (2020), where the colors are more muted and harmonious, the teeming patchwork is felt safer. More like a warm blanket that you can crawl into. The works appeal because they balance between the knitting medium's connotations of coziness, warmth and protection, and the circle of motifs that signal eeriness, outsiderness, fear and anxiety.
In a documentary film by Helga Bu in the innermost hall, Gundersen talks about growing up, memories and episodes from his life. When we subsequently see the works with the film's interpretation keys, the knives, birds, dogs appear as elements of a very personal pictorial universe. And the exhibition's title, Go on Fear Not seems strongly like a mantra about standing firm, persevering despite adversity.
Go on Fear Not
Familiar and Foreign
Review by Øyvind Storm Bjerke, Klassekampen
If we feel content by looking at Tore Magne Gundersen's artwork in a catalogue or on a screen, the materiality disappears, so this exhibition must therefore be experienced physically. When we enter the first room, we are overpowered by knitted monsters crawling in huge pictures. They remind of nasty adventures and dreams. Here we also find a display of strange heads reminiscent of ritual dolls and figures.
The most original works in the exhibition are narrow and long friezes that alternate in fabric and colour, where scissors and stitches replace brushes as tools. They run around the walls of Bomuldfabriken's labyrinthine sequence of large and small rooms. The frieze's format is ideal for the cartoon-like presentation of stories, where people and animals live, fight, flee, dream and die in a beautiful and magical universe. It feels both familiar and foreign all at once.
Do we sense a childlike wonder at discovering the world for the first time and listening to stories and adventures? The mythical and mysterious have a more important dimension than factual descriptions of a rationally based perception of the world.
In another room, a picture of a funeral hangs on the wall, and on the floor are plaster sculptures of birds about to sink into graves of green cushions. Life is threatened and fragile. The exhibition ends in a section dominated by large cloaked figures that we can assume are performing protective or propitiatory rituals. In "Pantokrator" the figure is hailed in a green hospital coat with a huge red-headed cotton swab in hand: no doubt this test is positive. Our destiny lies in the hands of the Almighty.
Gundersen cultivates the narrative image, the free and expressive form, strong tools and spontaneous whims. The catalogue tells that Gundersen was inspired by a German neo-expressionist painting in the 1980s and has also excelled as a graphic artist and with drawings. But it is only with this exhibition, which also includes works made in textile techniques, that he appears with a unique and artistic weight that lifts him up to a new level. Some artistry needs time to realize its potential, and this exhibition is a brilliant example of that. In recent years, Gundersen has developed an application technique in which he fuses the power of the drawings, the colouristic nerve and striking, decorative and powerful colours. The result is breathtaking.
Catalogue for exhibition at prins-georg//raum für kunst, Berlin. Together with Ogar Grafe. 2017