1. You as shelter, me as shelter I
2. You as shelter, me as shelter I
3. You as shelter, me as shelter II
4. Familiar
5-6 You as shelter, me as shelter III
7-8. You as shelter, me as shelter IV

Surnadal Billag
September 2020

The series of sculptures, each individually titled You as shelter, me as shelter (2020) was created during a residency at Surnadal Billag. The small village of Surnadal is located along the mid-western coast of Norway, and is surrounded by mountains, forests, lakes, rivers, and waterfalls. This is a notable contrast to the industrial and urban environments, and their resultant materials, that the artist usually encounters traveling to and from his studio in the city of Bergen. In keeping with his methodology, Løland took very little with him to the residency, preferring to gather materials locally for the creation of his work. Due to his surroundings, these salvaged objects contained more organic and less industrial materials than usual. Thus sticks, leaves, and bark featured in many of these distinctive works.

In some ways, all of Løland’s work reflects the places in which they are made. However, the sculptures created in Surnadal feel truly site-specific as they were crafted on site rather than in a studio or gallery setting. They incorporate not only his previous conceptual leanings, but also take into account the relationship of architecture between the setting and the human body. Despite its idyllic surroundings, the residency itself was housed inside of a large, empty bus station. The building was intimidatingly cavernous, echoing and anonymous. Løland responded to the visceral feeling of the space by creating shapes inspired by the Norwegian “gapahuk”, or lean-to; simple constructions hastily built to serve as temporary shelters in the wild.

Løland wanted to add a body-based shape to the architecture as a counter to the barren, inhuman space. These constructions are architectures built around imagined bodies, and are inseparable from the bodies that they would shelter. In this, these structures are reminiscent not only of the manmade gapahuk, but also animal dens, insect cocoons, bird nests, and other structures in nature quotidian to specific species. This is the original architecture, a shelter that is formed by and morphs along with the bodies of living animals. It is a refreshing reminder that humans too are animals in our most basic nature, both in need of and capable of building shelters for ourselves. Familiar reanimates buildings, remembers them as living entities inseparable from those bodies that they were created to house.

These sculptures feel alive in and of themselves, apart from the hands that made them. The branches, woven chicken wire, and netting form limbs and skins and read as mythical animals come to life. The figures placed about the room walk, perch, and recline on the ground, both eerie and nonthreatening. The title of the collection in its entirety, Familiar, is on the nose. As in the vast majority of Løland’s artworks, these objects are vaguely recognizable, comforting and yet strange. They are alluring and invite interaction beyond mere observation. Yet there is another meaning here. In English, the word “familiar” connotes that which is well known, something or someone that has been encountered previously. However, in Norwegian, the word “familiar” signifies a close familial relationship or family structure. Once again, these constructions come alive. The sculptures could be seen as a family unit of built structures, returning the built environment back into the purview of the living. 

In alignment with the idea of the gapahuk, all the artworks created during the residency were dismantled at the end of the residency and the materials returned to nature (where appropriate), much as a gapahuk would be taken apart and scattered as the hiker continues his or her journey. Most of Løland’s work is in some state of evolutionary flux. However, the decisive beginning and end of the Familiar project reads as a self-contained exercise within Løland’s larger practice.

By Heather Jones

Tuesday Oct 5 2021

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