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Espen Kvålsvoll

November 23 – December 16, 2023

Press Release

Galleri Brandstrup is delighted to announce our fothcoming exhibition opening ”Conspirators” by Espen Kvålsvoll. The exhibition opens for visitors on Thursday, 23 of November at 6PM, and will be on display until Saturday, 16 of December, 2023.

Text By Mathilde Carbel

There is always something magical about conjuring up things, be it paintings, sculptures, ideas or imagery. Or a note - a tune - music to our ears, like color to one’s eyes.

Making art in any form can also often be a painful act, full of confusing labyrinths, or spinning wheels of fortune, or for some, altogether death of the self.


A lot of the time most folks feel like fools when they stand in front of artworks. Not unlike me, when I first encountered Espen Kvålsvoll's mysterious paintings, The Gamester and The Jester. Heavy with color, texture, and symbols, but with a strong suggestion towards something unbeknownst to most. They were so darn colorful and alluring that I couldn’t turn a blind eye to them, nor step aside. I was feeling quite like a rat, or a child lulled in by the mesmerizing sounds coming out of a pied piper’s flute, but in this case, the flute was an oil tube. It was not unlike the feeling one has when being sat at a table while your future is read in a deck of tarot cards, having no way of understanding, let alone decoding the “underlying” implications of the cards, their order, or their meaning. Simply having to let go and let the reader read to you, and to follow the tune that is being played. However strange, all tunes have their own frequency. (In the tale of the Pied Piper a deaf child survives because of an “impairment,” or is it an alternate perspective? A kid who lives to tell the tale and leads the way to the cave of the lost ones). Or, not unlike the special feeling one gets when doing research on the esoteric cards only to find that tarot cards never held any esoteric meaning to begin with. From the onset, they were carefully crafted card games, decorated by some of the artists hailed at the time - a plaything for the very privileged, idle people, of course. At its core Tarot is a game invented by us, beautifully crafted and highly seductive. Then something happened along the way, once people started reading and re-reading meaning into these images and conjuring up new rules to the game….Somehow, everything is in the eye of the beholder, and not every beholder with their eyes intact understands the power of translation and the impact of willing things into being. But the ones who do understand the absolute joy of knowing that man is made of mystery. It is no wonder that our symbols, syntax, art, and music are fundamentaly mysterious - it is an honest reflection of our mad minds.


What a fool believes he sees is the hex we all put upon our own heads.

With regards to symbols, image-making and art, of course, there is one interesting moment in history to point to, and I’ll do it without spelling out a long history lesson (for fear of coming off didactic). Ever since our species acquired the spoken word, and once we decided to pass on information knowing our own verbal and linear limitations, we started making pictures, symbols, hieroglyphs, and such for the purpose of telling stories. But sooner rather than later this turned into signage, or a language, with a passed-on knowledge of certain schemes required in order to decode the code. A game of sorts, like a sport. And it was a blessing and a curse all at once, you see, for years and years only certain folks had the tools to play that game and unlock the code. But meanwhile, it meant that the image was freed up, at least. depictions weren’t descriptions, and once again art began in that space devoid of significance. Free to be mysterious: what a humble and playful pleasure, to return to being made of mystery, and to have the delight of dealing out suggestions instead of structures. To make new schemes, rules, and games that were, and still are, just as fictitious and man-made as they have always been. A bit like Thomas Ligotti said, “The human phenomenon is but the sum of densely coiled layers of illusion. Each of which winds itself on the supreme insanity, that there are persons of any kind, when all there can be is mindless mirrors. Laughing and screaming as the parade about, in an endless dream.”

Well, that point had to be made in order to reference back to the analogy of the tarot cards, and to mention the entangled major arcana from the age-old set of cards, before they became divine, esoteric or filled with meaningless or meaningful meaning, depending on the eye who beholds them. These cards were a game, a constructed structure and either you played the game… partook in it, even enriched it, or sabotaged it… or you took the sideline, with little or no stake in the making and development of the rules of the game.

A card in the deck of Tarot which stands opposite The Fool is the card of Death; the dreaded thirteenth arcanum. Death needs no introduction, or perhaps it does, perhaps it is altogether too easy to forget the ever so uninvited skull creeping through the shadows, touching each one of us all, in turn. Because nothing is certain except death and taxes, surely death is the only certainty that we are all equally promised - the question is, before it comes, are we going to partake in the game? Will be willing things, art, rules, or mysterious tools into being? And will we, at times, permit ourselves to act The Fool and follow the journey while messing with its rules? Will we be the un-numbered card in the stack, hang back, and make use of whatever we can find in our sack?

So I dare you to make up your own structures, games, your own symbols, images, cards, language, and sets of rules. I dare you to break them and remake them, but for mankind’s sake, please - partake.