Connecting cultures through art

It’s true. Calgary’s Triangle Gallery is taking its first step towards an artistic exchange and collaboration with its counterparts in Norway with the upcoming exhibit Construction: Contemporary Norwegian Arts & Crafts.

The gallery partnered with the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Ottawa to create the multi-facted exhibit which features a broad spectrum of arts and crafts. These range from deeply rooted traditional pieces to a more experimental take on Scandinavian traditions in applied arts.

Construction curated by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign affairs has been touring the world as a travelling exhibition since 2008 and provides embassies an opportunity to partner with local art institutions and create networks.

“This is the very first time that the Norweigan Embassy is doing anything like this in Calgary but we hope it will not be the last” says Jan-Terje Studsvik Storaas cultural affairs officer at the Royal Norwegian Embassy. “We are of course happy and excited to present these Norwegian artists to the Calgary and Alberta audience but we would also like… to build partnerships with local organizations and institutions that can benefit both parties.”

Relationships will be built between post-secondary art and design institutions in Calgary Edmonton Red Deer Lethbridge and Grande Prairie with similar institutions in Norway opening the door for cultural exchange between the two countries.

“I believe that Canada and Alberta have a lot in common with Norway. We rely on similar natural resources we are exposed to similar climates and I think as people we share a lot of values” explains Storaas. “ Constructions has travelled the world and been well received everywhere but I think Canadians will look at it and any art coming from Norway with slightly more understanding eyes with a higher level of familiarity.”

The exhibit showcases work from several of Norway’s most prominent fine arts and craft artists displaying a wide range of techniques materials and artistic expression. Each piece represents a different artist’s individual style while touching on similar themes.

“Norway has a very rich and old craft history going back for centuries and many aspects of this history carries over into today’s contemporary fine arts and crafts from Norway” says Storaas. “In these particular works we get to see how the pieces’ meaning and context is tied to the materials and techniques used.”

He says the exhibit is a method of exploring the concept of construction as each piece highlights a unique aspect of how objects can be pieced together. It also explores the relationship between ideas processes and the final product.

“The word ‘construction’ often gives the association to hard materials buildings something masculine but can just as easily be used to describe the making of a small everyday object a delicate piece of clothing or a piece of jewelry” says Storaas. “The old familiar crafting techniques once used to construct items of purpose and necessity but also of beauty now are displayed in new more challenging ways.”

Through the variety of work to be shown Storaas hopes audiences can leave with a newfound sense of curiosity inspiration and discovery. He also hopes Calgarians can gain increased respect for traditional crafts and desire to explore them further. Even younger audiences will enjoy the subject matter and themes explored.

“When people think of arts and crafts this might not be what they first have in mind” he says. “If people imagine there being a sliding scale between contemporary fine and traditional crafts where do these objects land? When is something art when is it craft and when is it both?”