Landscapes and security

08.09 — 01.10.2017

Landscapes and security I Kåre Magnus Bergh

Bonjour Monsieur Bergh

At the centre of Kåre Magnus Bergh’s new works are a series of small, vertical paintings on chipboard, measuring 30x20 cm. The chipboard, about 2 mm thick, has been crudely covered with beeswax before paint has been applied. At the outermost edges the wood is still visible before an ochre and then a mossy green background takes hold. In the centre of the painting a bright red circular shape hovers and vibrates over a dark green and brown horizon in the lower part.

These works are accompanied by a series of horizontal paintings, all in the same size and material as the vertical ones. These however depict what appears to be people and objects in different, almost romantic settings. Like postcards they depict a group of people lunching in the field with a chariot in the background, a fiddler under a tree and in others we see what appear to be rocky shapes. Some paintings are more obscure, mere hints, playing around with colours and mood. The colours are those from the earth, and where the vertical paintings give us the constant presence of the red shape, the horizontal paintings give us the story.

They can, these vertical paintings with the vermilion circular shape, at first glance, remind us of the burning sun over scorched fields, but as Bergh assured me, this is not necessarily the case. They might just, as he said one time, be green olives with the characteristic red pepper eye. Simple as that.

If that’s the case, these paintings might have a double function in relation to the horizontal ones. They can be the omnipresent sun, both a blessing and a burden, or if we think of them as the before mentioned olive, they can be a hint towards something more daily life, that what we see are people taking a break from whatever they were doing. Lunching on a blanket in a field. Resting underneath an olive tree. Crickets chirping in the background.

In a way, these new works by Bergh remind me of the painting La rencontre (Bonjour Monsieur Courbet) by Gustav Courbet, where we see a wanderer, with a rucksack and a staff, believed to be Courbet himself, being greeted by two other men. The painting, from 1854, inherits some of the same mood and colour as we see in Bergh’s works. Even some of the sceneries depicted by Bergh do point towards the mid to late 19th century, as with the chariot or the Faustian fiddler under the tree.

Maybe what we see here are scenes of ordinary life some centuries ago, with the ever-present sun as the narrator.

This summer I stayed a night in Champex Lac, a mountain village in the south west of Switzerland. Sitting on the grass in the garden of the refugè this warm evening, I was reading in W.G. Sebalds Vertigo while having a beer. Here, in the opening chapter, Sebald describes Napoleons achievement of getting his army, 36 000 men strong, from Martigny down the Entremont valley and over the pass of Grand St Bernard. From where I was sitting in this garden, I could, when turning east, see the Entremont valley and the beginning of the mountain pass of the Grand St Bernard. And just as these two things happened, a book meeting reality, I received a text from Bergh asking me if I would like to write some words for him, which I accepted.

Courbet himself died in Le-Tour-de-Pelz, just 68 km north of Champex Lac.

- Kenneth Alme