Viewing Room Main Site


Steinar Haga Kristensen

April 4 – May 11, 2019


In Jubileum, Haga Kristensen conducts a self-survey in the format of a jubilee,  while simultaneously exploring the characteristics of ornamentation as a phenomenon of identification and collective imagination, and the occurrence of historical movements on even the most trivial sites. An extensive series of print editions based on his anniversary collections, reworkings and re-digestions of a number of motifs from Haga Kristensen’s oeuvre is carried out in the graphical technique of gravure, creating an ornamenting circumstance that runs throughout the show. Beside these Haga Kristensen exhibits 11 monumental paintings in frames ornamented with reliefs also sourced from previous motifs, and 16 sculptural repetitions holding up abstract similarities, all from a series entitled The Work of Art and The Spiritualization of Self-empowerment.  Furthermore, presented is the art work Les Origines moqueuses (Le scepticism du doute 01), a frame containing 28 paintings which also performs the function of a wall separation, a variation on the iconostasis, a staple of orthodox temple architecture.

The idea of the ornament in Haga Kristensen’s work should not be seen only as a reflection on the decorative embellishment of architecture and objects. It relates to the understanding of patterns, repetition and similarity. This began in 2009 with his radical use of double similarities in his ongoing series Der Schließmuskel funktioniert nicht mehr, and develops into further repetition and digestion of motifs throughout his practice. Some of the art works, such as the “Syk Profet“ (Prophete malade) goes back as far as 20 years, evident in the 20th anniversary graphic print edition of this art work. The exhibition contains 39 Jubilee motifs in a limited edition of 6, of which one edition is collected in book format, containing a complete survey of all the prints shown in the exhibition. The prints are all of relatively modest size, creating a contrast between the domestic and the monumentality of the paintings they are shown alongside.

In the paintings belonging to the series The Work of Art and The Spiritualization of self-empowerment, the compositions are flat, simple, and minimal, mimicking the stylistic features of icon painting, which are applied to Syk Profet and pieces of ornamented Nordic furniture. Use of oil tempera and pigment create an illusion of the gold leaf so commonly found in icons, suggesting faux material painting, such as marble, sometimes used to decorate the homes of pre-modernity and its material fetishisms. The usually modest size of the icon is replaced by monumentally sized canvases, placed within even more monumental and ornamented frames – removing them from any domestic sphere and addressing them instead towards the monuments and institutions of power. The figures that ornament the frames are repetitions of Haga Kristensen’s earlier Brown Period (2016-18) reproduced from the 3D scanning of these objects performed during the period, and then given shape through a combination of robotics and manual labour. A counterpart to the paintings are the 16 nearly identical sculptures - also an elaboration on a Brown Period piece, and created through a similar process. These human torso figures, situated on pedestals, strike a heroic pose while holding up one abstract similarity, and dismissing its similar counterpart in an arbitrary manner.

The application of manual printing techniques, which lies at the heart of Haga Kristensen’s Jubileum, could today possibly be acknowledged as a quaint, unnecessarily lengthy method of reproducing objects that are both serialized and unique. However, the printing process embodies the beginning of modernity and mechanical reproduction and the ideas that followed. Its significance is clear: there is difference within the similarities produced. Human experiences are never twice completely the same; only a machine, can do exactly the same thing over and over without going mad. Moreover, it is possible to imagine a variation on the act of mechanical reproduction and the conventions surrounding the production of icons: Similar, stripped of individual sensibility, yet not the same.

Haga Kristensen’s practice spans through a variety of mediums and formats: painting, sculpture, bodies in space - inanimate or live, on and off screens, to name some. Yet at the heart of Haga Kristensen’s practice lies the continuous digesting and re-digesting of motifs, which can also be seen as a form of self-ornamentation, a tendency brought to a head in Jubileum.

Steinar Haga Kristensen has exhibited at Bozar, Brussels, Belgium; Passerelle in Brest, France; The Contemporary Art Centre, Vilnius, Lithuania; Etablissement d’en face projects, Brussels; Johan Berggren Gallery, Malmö, Sweden; WIELS Contemporary Art Centre, Brussels; Kunsthall Oslo; Witte de With, Rotterdam, Netherlands; Museum of Contemporary Art, Roskilde, Denmark; UKS, Oslo and Den Frie, Copenhagen, Denmark; Kunsthal Aarhus, Århus, Denmark.