Elisabeth Harr is the 2021 Festival Exhibiton artist.
For more than 50 years Elisabeth Haarr has been one of our most important artists. She graduated from the Norwegian National Academy of Craft and Art Industry in 1967, and made her debut at Unge Kunstneres Samfund / Young Artists' Society's Vårutstilling(Spring Exhibition) in 1968. After some initial years of experimental work with the physical and visual potential of tapestry, at the beginning of the 1970s Haarr turned towards a decidedly political approach in her textile works. Her formal idiom changed from intensely colourful geometrical motifs to stylized figurative narratives with a focus on content and an activist message.
As with her predecessor in the textile field, Hannah Ryggen, the political protests were clear but low-key, and revolved around feminist issues in women's everyday life, the protection of nature and a general critique of power, as in the woven works Rhodesia (1971) and EEC truer oss (The EEC threatens us) (1972).
Today the political battle cries are still as strong, but over the years the expression has changed form and is now played out even more through the symbol-laden material-specific resources of which she makes use. Whereas it is true that the political content of the early woven works was underscored by a conscious, symbol-rich use of the material in which wool and natural materials represented the ideologically correct, while plastic and nylon stood for the morally reprehensible, the banners of today take multiple forms; they can be silk banners ingeniously embroidered with exclusive threads, large patches of plastic, or torn-up flag-like reminiscences of old textiles. Ever since Rhodesia the flag or protest banner is an artistic format Haarr has cultivated and developed further throughout her career, and today makes up a large part of her production, along with so-called 'travelogues' and sculptural dress objects. The dresses form part of large spatial installations and have titles like Venus,Torn and Last Dance. According to Haarr the dresses can be regarded as "symbols of different sides of the life of women".
The Festival exhibition is one of Norway's most important contemporary art exhibitions and is regarded as the most prestigious assignment for a Norwegian artist in their home country. The exhibition has been curated and shown in Bergen Kunsthall every year since 1953.
For related events and more information, please visit kunsthall.no.
Photo: Elisabeth Romberg
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