Redningsselskapet, the Norwegian Society for Sea Rescue, is a nationwide humanitarian association whose purpose is to save lives, salvage assets and protect the coastal environment of Norwegian waters, as well as undertaking outreach and accident prevention initiatives to improve the safety of those at sea in Norway and abroad. Noatun is a conference center for all activities surrounding Redningsselskapet. The art commission the building Noatun was to create a thematic and architecturally site-specific adapted project, at this modern construction located at a unique site by the fjord of Oslo.
Sverre Bjertnes (1976) was educated at the Norwegian National Academy of Fine Arts in Oslo, and at AKI Academy of Fine Art in Enschede in Holland. He made his mark as a young figurative painter and drawer after attending the Norwegian “Nerderum School” as a teenager. Bjertnes’ paintings frequently display portraits, where a playful tone meets the images complex relationships. These perspectives have in the latest years formed a unique language. Now Bjertnes works with painting, drawing, film, and wooden – and bronze sculptures. His variation in media has resulted in a maximalist type of curation, each exhibition is like entering another world, enhancing the aesthetic experience in focus.
By Noatuns main entrance one can see Bjertnes’ sculpture “Bølgen” (2019), an abstract wave created in metal, reflecting the sea, nature and sky in its surroundings. Inside the building, the wall-mounted piece “Untitled”(2018) hangs tall on the wall. The work consists of several techniques such as oil, collage and maker on a series of smaller canvases. The work shows a landscape of the mind's eye resembling the coast of Norway in abstract shapes and forms; a naked rock along the coastline, the colors of Norwegian summer, the shifting weather and the regatta in the disappearing in the horizon.
The work also contains details from Redningsselskapet’s history, on the right side one can see an old cut out portraying the crew from the rescue vessels “Liv”, “Colin Archer”, “Nordland”, “Bergen” and “Tordenskjold” together under the national regatta in Bergen in 1898. Underneath the portrait one can see a cutout of a man looking out on the sea. He is dressed in his uniform, holding a lifebuoy in his hands, and is originally from a documentation photograph from the rescue vessel “Svolvær” which saved over 70 lives at sea in its time. In the bottom left corner, one can see another arranged portrait from 1907 of some of Redningsselskapet’s pioneers fighting for an organized Norwegian Society for Sea Rescue in the 19-century.
In addition, the artist created a site-specific piece drawn directly on the wall in the common area. The architecturally specific installation is made from small strokes of blue permanent marker which Bjertnes finds interesting for its association with high art. The technique resembles a mosaic mural reminding us of church ceilings or Greek and Roman floor-art from Antiquity, but also more practical low culture decorating such as public pools. This kind of project was first created at Galleri Brandstrup by the artist in a collaboration project with playwright Arne Lygre and his theatre play “Minner om oss”, which told a story about a couple experiencing a drowning accident. The subject of the work was therefore a natural starting point for Bjertnes’ site specific project for Redningsselskapet. As a part of the artwork, the artist has made a series of drawings based on the stencils used for creating the wall installation.
Furthermore, a careful selection of lithographies can be seen in the common area, emphasizing the chosen subject of the commission. The particular piece “De som gikk på vannet” (2018) is highlighted by the artist as a key work. He expresses that it centers around a personal story about admiration and awe, and a portrait of mastery, enduement and achievement.