A fairytale in rock
It was the last Sunday of June, 1993, on one of those wonderful summer days experienced only in the northern Norwegian landscape; people were gathered to view the dedication of an artwork in Høyholm in Vevelstad. And what a place for views! Angled westward toward the coastal highway and coastline was a clearing almost seventy meters above the ocean which afforded a breathtaking view of the Helgeland archipelago. The sky was blue and enormous and the sun shone brightly on the inshore channel and rocky coastline;the island Vega lay due west still parading gleaming snowcaps with two islands at its feet: the one vivid red, the other verdigris green. All senses were saturated: the sounds of gull shrieks, the smells from the ebb-tide and underbrush, the feel of gusts of wind, and the flood of light and feast of colors. One could wish only that it might never end!
But what about the art? Is it not a vain and superficial gesture, fated to interfere with this melding of beautiful and magnificent nature into a unique whole; where any addition seems superfluous? Artist Oddvar I.N. Daren, who was raised in this part of the country and has a studio on the island of Vega, was sensitive to such concerns and to how his contribution must neither attempt to compete with nature’s overwhelming sensual experience or to disparage it in an ironic approach. He knows the merciful gifts of northern Norwegian nature as well as its cold shoulder. For the profusion of beauty on one day may be eradicated by fierce weather for several days afterward. The artist’s solution would have to hold its own in the face of nature’s extreme challenges and be able to abide the winter and rouse with the daylight.
First, a site needed to be selected that was somewhat apart from buildings but near enough to people, a place that opened onto this magnificent view and would be a natural place to gather. When the site was found, the solution was seemingly simple.
The approach is at once minimal and monumental, subtle and sublime. It is a humble yet assertive gesture that makes a Here, a sculpture in the original sense of the word, where nothing is added but something is removed in order to reveal what is inherent – slumbering – in the stone. Daren chose a west-facing, bare, 35° angled rock-face and removed the porous surface by chopping, sanding and polishing a precise circle with a diameter of 980 cm into the granite. It is a conceptual artwork with very little material moved. – the result of the manual labor of four people working in shifts for one and a half months. The lenslike, smooth surface reveals a surprising play of unexpected reddish and blue gray values in the gray stone.
The circle is an elementary geometric form as well as a symbol. The strict and closed shape contrasts with the surrounding nature: as archaic symbol, as rune drawing, in interplay with a cultural landscape whose oldest traces date back ten thousand years. The rock-face is now level with the coastline. The form is distinct and anonymous; the artist leaves no subjective signature on the landscape. In titling his work Opus for Heaven and Earth, he emphasizes the mystical duality of its character as it reflects the sky and allows a glimpse of the enchanted mountains. The glassy surface allows us to peer into the dead stone’s pulsating depths. The same surface has an enormous distancing effect; when the morning sun meets the carving during the light part of the year; light is reflected far onto land and sea like an immaterial discus, a UFO, floating over the mountain. This phenomenon is visible from a plane as well. Yet this is not an unnerving close encounter; rather, it feels good to stroke the polished surface – which also remains undamaged when children use it as a slide.
The circle is a shape that gathers people, and it is an ancient sign for continuity and the life cycle. Vevelstad has a place, an eternal Here, that gathers both people and nature.
Opus for Heaven and Earth
On a beautiful June day in 1993, I flew from Bodö to Brönnöy and had the fantastic experience of hearing the captain ask the passengers to look out their windows at the circular white fleck on the mountainside. This lent a sense of importance to my journey, the aim of which was to participate in the dedication of this very artwork. I had been prepped by the low-key and determined Maaretta Jaukkuri, who had given me a preview of Artscape Nordland’s overwhelming grandeur and humility: Cragg’s granite stones in orderly parade on Bodö pier, appearing as the remaining fragments of a time long past.
Kirkeby’s small ruin temple in Saltfjäll had invited inward reflection and outward views. Håfström’s exposed and enigmatic place between fjord and heaven in Gildeskål awaited a relief carved according to a photo of a bombed Kurdish town. Nor will I forget the luscious taste of cod tongue while taking a break near the Black Sea glacier. I wander through low thicket toward the steep mountainside with Norwegian Oddvar I. N.’s large magical white circle, 980 cm in diameter. The sculptor carved his work Opus for Heaven and Earth in the rock-face to create a negative relief, which he then sanded and polished. Using what he calls his “low-tech approach,” Oddvar has attempted to create a work specific to the place and dependent on the landscape in which it is situated. It draws its strength from as well as emphasizes the gray granite and low vegetation with its shifting color nuances in the surroundings.
I use the landscape as a backdrop for my sculptures, as an active participant in interplay with the shifting light and weather conditions. The circle symbolizes humankind’s wandering on earth, Oddvar explains. One must almost climb on all fours in order to maintain one’s balance on the slanted stone of the white artwork, discernible not only from the plane but from the cars on the highway and the boats off the coast of Helgeland. Small children convene like ants on the holy symbol for eternity. It is a big day in Vevelstad, with its approximately. 600 residents and flags are hoisted throughout area: The provincial population greets global contemporary art with a sense of wonder and dignity.
Vevelstad is a typically agreeable community that is open to the most. “We may not understand everything but now we have something to think about,” is how speaker and bus driver Harald Axelsen describes the encounter with Oddvar’s enigmatic circle at the official lunch following the dedication in Forvik. There, in front of City Hall, Axelsen whispered confidentially in my ear that he would have just as well preferred a nice fountain. I applaud Vevelstad municipality’s positive attitude. Later I sail from island to island by means of different ferries. I consider Brönnöysund’s the rocky outcrop in the sound of Åbo that Parisian/Swede Erik Dietman transformed in 1997 into a 70-meter long fish of rubble. In Vega I see Kain Tapper’s geometric granite stones that seem to emerge from the moss between heather and cloudberry. In Dönna one barely has time to come to one’s senses after visiting the wild Mario Merz work. There was a cultural collision for both the islanders and the Italian artist, and thus no sculpture. To the west lies Traena, a paradise island, with natural stone sculptures and sand. I recall Maaretta Jaukkuri’s comment that the encounter itself with the work may be compared to the feeling Robinson Crusoe had when he saw Friday’s footsteps in the sand.
That the children used the heavenly mirror as a slide did not worry the artist in the least..
Brønnøysunds Avis 29.06.93
“Opus for Heaven and Earth” is the title given by the artist Oddvar I.N. The villagers of Vevelstad call it “The Blotch”.
The luster in the round sheet of rock is never the same. It provides me with new experiences constantly.
Mayor Harald Axelsen
People nod and smile and say “Heavens how it shone yesterday”, and tell how steep and slippery it was on the way to the very top.
... and it has become a landmark for the Widerøe planes.
Quote from Adresseavisen 04.09.93
This was so crazy that we just had to go along with it.
Mayor Harald Axelsen to Adresseavisen 04.09.1993