Waves and Moons

Siri Aurdal and Synnøve Anker Aurdal

15. Jun 2024 - 01. Sep 2024

This summer we are happy to open an exhibition with the two remarkable artists Siri Aurdal and Synnøve Anker Aurdal.

With their tapestries and sculptures, Siri Aurdal (b. 1937) and Synnøve Anker Aurdal (1908–2000) have added something new and radical to Norwegian art. Synnøve Anker Aurdal brought woven art into a new era by including elements of abstraction and experimentation. Siri Aurdal uses materials from building projects and industrial production in larger sculptural works.

The exhibition title ‘Waves and Moons’ points to central motifs in the two artists’ works. Synnøve Anker Aurdal drew inspiration from nature throughout her long career, often allowing impressions from nature to interact with philosophical and political expressions. She was especially influenced by Eastern philosophy, and the moon as a motif rich with Buddhist symbolism recurs in several of her most significant tapestries. We find the wave motif in Siri Aurdal’s Plexiglas sculptures from the 1960s and the 2010s. The striking pipe sculptures from the late 1960s are shaped into monumental curving forms. As a signature element in her art, the wave form symbolises a connection between maths and nature, rationality and art. The title ‘Waves and Moons’ can also relate to forces in nature and can thus be read as picturing the great significance which Synnøve Anker Aurdal and Siri Aurdal have had and continue to have in Norwegian art.

The two artists are mother and daughter and at the same time prominent exponents for modern Norwegian art. Synnøve Anker Aurdal’s artistic practice began to be particularly influential in the late 1950s, and Siri Aurdal distinguished herself with important exhibitions throughout the 1960s. Even so, their inspiration and interests encompass a much longer time span in Norwegian history. Synnøve Anker Aurdal looked back to the oldest extant Norwegian weavings. Like Frida Hansen and Hannah Ryggen before her, she drank from the well of tradition in order to create her own version of what tapestries can express for us today. Siri Aurdal, meanwhile, has selected her materials from amongst the products of Norway’s early oil industry and turned them into sculptural installations. In the mid-1900s she in many ways broke with expectations for what a female artist should work with. As their works show, the two artists are anchored in Norwegian culture and history at the same time as they have come up with new and radical forms of expression.

Despite the generational difference, both artists were active in the 1960s. Several works in the exhibition are from this decade. Synnøve Anker Aurdal allowed herself to be inspired by abstract painting and innovative international textile art. She built a bridge between the traditional field of textiles and pictorial art. Over time her works also became increasingly three-dimensional; they can trigger thoughts of reliefs or textile sculptures. This way of working has interesting connections to concurrent tendencies in Polish fibre art, not least as seen in works by Magdalena Abakanowicz. Siri Aurdal immersed herself in the Postwar period’s international avantgarde currents, combining an interest in geometry with a desire to create socially engaging art, such as we can see in works by the Brazilian artists Hélio Oiticica and Lygia Clark around the same time. Like her colleagues, she was strongly influenced by political events. Her radical exhibition ‘Omgivelser’ (‘Surroundings’) at the gallery Kunstnernes Hus in Oslo in 1969 can be seen as a reaction to the civil unrest in Paris the preceding year. She invited other artists to express themselves by writing directly on her large wave-like sculptures that were made with industrial pipe elements. The exhibition proved to be an important event at the time, although Norwegian art history has only later managed to acknowledge it fully. Both Synnøve Anker Aurdal and Siri Aurdal have related actively to key international currents and brought new impulses to the Norwegian artworld.