Runa Boger on Textile Tactile, Buskerud 2012

Publisert 4. jan 2016

Translated by Gillian Carson


The exhibition Textile Tactile displays both wall and floor works. These automonous works relate to each other and to the space. Hjertholm considered the specifics of the gallery space; the spatial qualities.

While textile art is normally characterized by rich colour and decoration, it is the absence of colour and a strong tactility that defines Hjertholm’s work. Hjertholm explores an almost monochromatic surface, where the composition is created by the exchange of black and white, and light and dark.

Hjertholm uses textile material and chooses a fiber to add a tactile surface where light is a significant. The tactility implies an intimacy in which we recognize ourselves. We all have a relationship to textile fibre – in clothing, soft furnishings and bedding, a relationship we perhaps do not consider on a daily basis. This recognition within artistic expression is a part of what makes these works so interesting. A tension arises between the physical tactility of the work that we can touch and feel, and the monumental scale of the monochrome surface.

The individual observer must read and interpret the abstract motif’s almost organic elements. The artist however, provides us with a little help in the form of the title, for example –DRAG as in air current, LISTEN (LYTT) and FLOW.

Hjertholm says that two words characterize her work: LIGHT (LYS) and LISTEN (LYTT). I would add SILENT or SILENCE. For me this exhibition is silent and contemplative. It is concentration and peace. The works signify exploration and wonder. A quest for the subtle.

Art historical referances

I primarily associate these works with the French artist Yves Klein who produced large, monochrome works in the 1950s. He experimented with colour pigments and canvas penetrated with pure, saturated colour, enhancing and varying nuances. He is mostly remembered for his blue works with bulging surfaces, like relief. not unlike Hjertholm’s LISTEN (LYTT).

Polish artist Magdalena Abakanowicz revolutionized the art of weaving in the 1960s. Although best known for her enormous textile sculptures in sisal and rough rope, her earlier work was more 2 dimensional and displayed characteristics similar to *rya: a technique that could well be considered the origin of Hjertholm’s technique. Abakanowicz weaved in unspinned wool, rope and string, which created bulges, tears and relief in the textile surface. Abakanowicz’s work represents a very different style to that of Hjertholm, but both artists use the material as an element of artistic expression.

I know that Hjertholm is not concerned with the rya technique, she has explored and developed her own technique. When considering a textile art exhibition however, one cannot avoid discussing technique. Textile art is by definition material based and requires knowledge of both technique, material and skill. In textile-based art, it is both the material applied and the material understanding that are important elements of expression. The type of material should suit, should be fitting to the specific technique, or visa versa, and should simultaneously carry or contribute to an artistic idea.

In cultural history, the rya technique stems from practicality. Norway has a strong tradition of both båtryer (martime-rya) and sengeryer (bedding-rya). Rya is characterized by a smooth side and a rough side. In the Norwegian area of Hardanger they have a general term: napparyer – which is a tug of thread tied into the weave to create a tuft, akin to animal skin. Most people are aware of the bed covers; used with the smooth side out as decoration and the rough pile against the body for warmth.

Maritime-rya is perhaps something we are a little less acquainted with. There is a long history of fishing stemming from the entire length of the Norwegian coastline, and in earlier times they fished in open boats. A fisherman’s health depended on water-resistant fabrics and it was not only clothing that was important – every fisherman had his own rya blanket. Two or three men often slept together on one rya blanket and covered themselves with another rya blanket. The rya could be 190cm long and 160cm wide, and it functioned in a similar way to the modern sleeping-bag. These rya blankets were so important that young boys were often given maritime-ryas as confirmation gifts. Coastal women had extensive and advanced knowledge of wool. Maritime-ryas were preferably made ​​of wool from wild sheep because they «let go» or shed their wool in the spring. Uncut wool does not draw moisture.

In the 1960s a company called Sellgren developed in Trondheim. Sellgren produced a form of rya technique, home-production tapestry in packages of pre-cut yarn, canvas, design and instruction. Many Norwegian homes were decorated with rya technique wall tapestries, not woven but sewn ​​onto canvas. Textile artists drew the motifs, including Brit Fuglevaag, who brings us back to Textile Tactile because her technique is not unlike Hjertholm’s; albeit in a more advanced form using a tufting-gun and where the exclusion of yarn is as important as the addition of yarn.

Textile Tactile displays Kari Hjertholm textile with references to art history and international art, as well as national culture and textile history; it is a textile art that is well integrated in Norwegian contemporary art.

Runa Boger

*Scandanavian rya technique