Friday, September 9, 2016

Bergen street art

Who knew that Bergen is a huge center for street art?  I hadn't picked up on this the other day, and indeed, it took sitting at dinner in the Colonialen Litteraturhuset - a bookstore with a terrific brasserie and cafe attached - to realize this.  Checking, I find that - of course - Banksy started it all off with 8 pieces, that the city council whitewashed over ... no wonder this old man with a bicycle, by Otto - the best known local street artist - is protected with a frame and glass.  Two separate tour groups stopped, during the course of the evening, to look at this wall and take photos of it.

It was a damp and grey day - not one for glorious golden views of Bergen, this time - though here is Ålesund bus station (waiting for the airport bus), which qualifies for beauty in its own right.

But I admired different kinds of street art here in Bergen - manhole covers;

and the occasional glass tile interjected among the regular cobble stones.

Otto's old man pushing a bicycle seems lifted, in spirit, from C19th Norwegian painting - the gallery here has an especially gloomy collection - all poverty, hunger, death - the backstory to the 4.5 million Norwegians who emigrated to the US.  Here are a couple and their child, in Adolph Tidemand's Bestefarens velsignelse, which means, I think, "His grandfather's blessing."  I sat in front of this for an age: it was relentlessly melancholy.

Pretty much all the paintings were hung in a way that made it difficult to photograph them clearly: here's something of a close up.  Closer still, you can just about make out that the label on the old painted wooden chest on the floor reads New York.  This is it.  They're off.  Minneapolis, here they come, after NYC.

Seeing the C19th art that I've done has made me realize how much of one's career can be determined by accident.  Suppose, inter-railing in the mid 70s, I'd gone north, not south.  Suppose I'd seen Scandinavian realism, not Italian realism, and decided that was the under-investigated field that I'd work on?  Scandinavian Jugendstil, not Italian arte liberty?  Maybe I'd be asking the same questions now about the transmission of style in the mid C19th, or maybe not.  I guess I'd be semi-fluent in some different languages, and very used to eating fish, potatoes, bacon and green peas in different combinations, plus rye bread.

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