Float, an exhibition by Elin Melberg on view at Galleri Opdahl from May 9-25, presents a new body of monumental work that both materially and metaphorically deals with fragments and reflections. Created entirely in the six months following the death of her father, the works in the installation carve out a serene space for remembrance against the onslaught of the everyday. Utilizing a wide array of materials such as white cement, antique windows, wooden doors, latex, textiles, and foam, Melberg grapples with her personal experience as well as touching on universal human issues of vulnerability, loss of control, and the fragility of both life and memory. Deeply sensual, Float portrays the infinitely beautiful and incomprehensible human experience. But it’s not just about memories. There’s a palpable tension inherent in the works, as materials are pushed to the extreme. Sharp fragments of glass sit in velvet folds. Delicate mirrored shards are inserted into concrete. Chiffon frays. Glass cracks. All gesture towards the precarious nature of life. Melberg expertly manipulates material to call forth memory while simultaneously questioning the line between control and chaos.
On one wall hangs a large canvas draped with men’s dress shirts, once full of life, now hanging loose and ghostly; a tactile reminder of absence. A nonsensical, hand-embroidered text articulates, in an unintelligible language, the sudden loss of communication and self-awareness. A sculptural well filled with rich, black oil, creates a fluid, darkly-reflective surface. Moldings of doors, broken windows, spectre-like architectural details seem to grow out of or be subsumed by organic forms of foam and concrete, creating a true construction of interiority.
Different from her previous work, but no less experiential, Float is no longer about hiding, but rather suggests a desire for presence. Rough, raw, and transitional, the works here evoke a liminal space, an aftermath, and a gathering of the self. Rather than a memento mori – the looming threat of an end and the futility of resistance – this new work seems to pause, and remember life, before looking onwards.
lin Melberg was born in Stavanger (1976). In 2002 she graduated with a Masters of Fine Art from the Royal College of Art (London). Since 2003 Melberg has lived and worked in Stavanger, and is a member of the artist-run project space Prosjektrom Normanns. Recent exhibitions include KUBE Art Museum (Aalesund), The Annual Autumn Exhibition (Kunstnernes Hus) and Galleri Maria Veie (Oslo), The Spring Exhibition (Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen), and Tou Scene Oelhallene (Stavanger). In addition, her sculptures have recently been exhibited in public spaces like Oslo Cathedral, Oslo University Library and Gamlebyen church. She has been represented at Pulse New York and was awarded the Public Space Project at Hong Kong International Art Fair. She has received grants from Arts Council Norway, OCA, Vederlagsfondet, Artists Wanted NYC, Stavanger Municipality, Rogaland Municipality and Innovation Norway. Melberg’s first major installation piece I wish I wish I wish in vain (2011) is currently in the collection of the Stavanger Art Museum.
The above text was written by Heather Jones, independent curator and contributing editor of Contemporary Art Stavanger, after a studio visit and extended conversation with the artist throughout the spring of 2014.