Jarle Rosseland
Saturday, November 18, 2006


There is but one internationally acclaimed contemporary Norwegian artist today that celebrates the rich heritage of the Nordic tradition-both the metaphysical world of history, art, and landscape and the spiritual aspirations of the Nordic people going back to Viking times.  Jarle Rosseland has successfully evoked this rich tradition in his paintings, sculpture, printmaking, and tapestries, transporting the viewer closer to what has inspired several generations of Norwegian writers, poets,  painters, and craftsmen for centuries.  His art, complex, studied, ethereal, has appeared in galleries and museums worldwide representing a new understanding and new interpretation of how Scandinavian history, particularly that of Norway , has shaped and defined this unique culture in Europe 's Northern-most frontier.

Mr. Rosseland's art is complex both in terms of technique and content.  He has become one of the most skilled printmakers today, particularly working in the medium of linocut.  He cuts the linoleum with expert precision and dexterity where the intaglio cut deep into the surface leaving the composition in stark relief.  Over those surfaces, he applies ink with an incredible ability to create shade, dimension, diffused light like no other artists has been able to achieve in the history of the medium.  A new and recent hallmark is the addition of gold and silver-leaf pressed into the paper during the printing process that creates a sense of negative space or an eye-catching void in sharp contrast to the floating color.  This void-empty and mysterious-is an austere counterpoint to the ink.   He has also used this later technique successfully in painting achieving the same profound effect and sense of "other worldliness."  The remaining colors balance and maintain equilibrium, elusive to the subject matter, where form and shapes are ultimately abstract, but distinct as stand alone image.  Is it printmaking or painting?  In  Mr. Rosseland's art, the definition of the medium is not so easily distinguishable or readily defined.

The works in linocut somehow becomes the most appropriate vehicle for the historical story-telling found in Mr. Rosseland's work, especially when he is dealing with the subject matter of Norse history and folklore.  The viewer feels more like he or she is reading about the mis-en-scène, rather than simply experiencing the print on its own, and that there is much more dimension and substance to what is being portrayed other than ink on paper.

He has profoundly studied and documented for a contemporary audience the history and myths and folklore of the Norse.  In "Vineland Suite," an inexhaustible series of prints,  Mr. Rosseland reinterprets the heroic voyage of the Vikings and their 2,000 year old discovery of the New World , or what they called " Vineland ."  The collection of prints memorializes this first trip by Western Europeans to North America and their "discovery" of another distant world.

Mr. Rosseland studies what he has reincarnated with a certain brilliance and reverence.  He conveys the great sense of Viking adventure in his work as if the myths, folklore, magic, symbolism were very much a part of the artist's psyche.

Although Mr. Rosseland's subject matter is definitely a historic documentation, it is always carried out in a rich landscape or seascape that has a palatable sense of pilgrimage about the excursion. Mr. Rosseland's work, painting or print, is an astonishing journey that is about to unfold.  In both, the colors are brazen; the forms are dreamlike; the subject matter, at its best, is romantic and traditional, but never constrained to one particular time or place. Whether the depiction of a sunrise or sunset in the North Sea or the singular giant hull of a Viking ship, Mr. Rosseland's art carries, influences, challenges, and evokes deep spiritual continuity.  Colors fade, edges remain hard and steadfast.  The mountains are reduced to the illusion of mountains; the sea is a metaphor for another worldliness.  The print or canvas surface is like a poem written and erased over and over again, changed, metamorphosized, with traces of previous texts still being legible. The same holds true for Mr. Rosseland's sculpture. For The Chicago Athenaeum's International Sculpture Park in Schaumburg , Illinois , the artist created a stone monolithic work entitled:  " Vineland ," which again commemorates the 2,000-year anniversary of the founding of the Americas .  The work, bold, stoic, heroic, and reminiscent of England 's Stonehenge , takes the form of a giant Viking Ship that symbolically connects the viewer to discovery and the awareness of finding a new, strange land.  On the tallest stones (some of which are 7 meters), Mr. Rosseland carved the position of the earth, sun and planets in the years 1,000AD, 2,000AD, and 3,000AD-all in a kind of mystical reference of the viewer's time and space in connection with the cosmos.   This is the largest scale the artist has ever worked in; and, nonetheless, it bears a certain emotional reference that makes the viewer feel as if he or she were in a Viking ship-a feeling that is spiritual, ethereal, and yet firmly rooted in the mystical awareness of time gone by. One experiences the art of this Norwegian artist as a connection to the past and as a start to an extraordinary journey. In a series of large paintings that relate to the sculpture (approximately 20 in all), the artist paints in an extremely fast expressionist style that reduces the monumental stones into a series of mere stokes. He painted them quickly and recklessly-as if with a palette knife.  The monolithic stones of the sculpture are diminished and blend into the landscape where landscape and art become one with the artistic message.

 The life of an artist is neither fiction nor fantasy. This is a man who works non-stop; who has devoted his life, his experiences, his emotional and spiritual existence to his art, where one spends one's life and one's destiny absorbing every phenomena-the real or the unreal, the physical or the metaphysical, with troubled ideas, sleepless night, exhaustive days, dedicated to producing a higher realm where the visitor is removed from the commonplace and deposited rightly into a world of a higher existence.

Christian K. Narkiewicz-Laine

November 18, 2006 Dublin , Ireland 

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