The Invisibilities in the Near Landscape

Text: Amalie Marie Selvik

In her pencil drawings, IngwillGjelsvik takes us close to Nature. To intimately regard drawn studies of apparently beautiful and noncommittal nature experiences. Several of Gjelsvik's drawings concern what remains unseen in our physical surroundings, all that which we walk past or step on. Everything that is there - but is absent in our consciousness.

Formally as well as technically, Gjelsvik works within the limits of the mediumof drawing. Using pencil and paper, she creates large, highly detailed, photo realistic images in shades of grey. She insists on the time-consuming handicraft that is the process of drawing. In precise detail, she masters the realistic representation through textures, light, and shadow in varying grey tones.

Gjelsvik has left the complex, collage inspired motives and ornamental patterns of lace en towards covering the paper with one coherent motive. The realistic studies of Nature remind us of the Norwegian landscape painting, a type of motive with a long tradition in Norwegian art history. But it is not the grand views of sea, mountain and wide open spaces, nor the overwhelming forces of nature that concern her. Instead, IngwillGjelsvik fixes her view on the nearest, daily interaction with animal and natural surroundings, and reports soberly and to the point the everyday motives she finds in her physical surroundings; among vegetation in the forest and along the road, among leaves and trees, with a perspective that lets her lead our gaze down towards the undergrowth, and to views of compact compositions dominated by gravel, soil, weeds and withered leaves.

But Gjelsvik toys with our perception of what at first look appears to be self-explanatory motives. At first, the drawings are read as beautiful studies of nature or still lives, until we notice something terrible is about to happened - or has already occurred. "Animal Architecture" (2010) depicts a beaver's nest of dirt and branches, idyllically placed at the edge of a small lake in the forest. But among the beaver's construction of branches, grass and dead leaves, unlighted matches lie strewn. The introduction of a human presence undermines the harmony of Nature and reveals a potential critique of the human centric worldview. Ominously, the motive suggests how fragile our notions and expectations of our idealized relationship of Nature really are. Gjelsvik worries about the dualistic relationship humans have with Nature. We appreciate it, but are also careless and disrespectful, even directly terrorizing in our everyday attitude towards Nature.

The discrimination of others based on their species, race, or sex is a recurrent and fundamental theme in IngwillGjelsvik's work. Earlier, she has worked with animal rights based on a moral position towards the abusive treatment of animals. In her new project however, her own life with her dog, and her experience of losing her beloved pet that she has shared her life with for ten years,form a strong presence. Gjelsviks own relationship to the surroundings near her home, and her daily walks with her dog Zuki constitute some of the many sources of inspiration for her art. Wlaks where the needs of the dog, its curiosity, play, and markings dominate and guide time and space, as well as the eye's registering of every little detail in the ditch and along paths and roads.

The little drawing "Burial mound 1:1" (2009) is a close-up of a small, bare piece of dirt made of sand, clumps, small branches, weeds and ferns. The title of burial mound makes a modest reference to the many buried small animals and pets around us. The quiet existence of such places that bear witness to our need for ritual and the emotional strain of a dear animal departing.It is this formal nature and esthetic of this drawing, of the idea of the pure study of nature, that lets the motive avoid the spectactular. Instead, Gjelsvik insists on steering the attention towards a modest and common spot on the ground - for most of us invisibilities of landscape that we don't afford a second look. Insignificant traces in nature, along the path, or in our own garden, form reflections over our cultural and esthetic interventions in Nature's landscape. Gjelsvik's pencil makes its mark on the drawing paper in the same way that dirt and gravel marks the landscape. Visually, she pushes the figurative motive almost to abstraction.

In the two drawings "EVERYDAY (HVERDAG)" (2011), the motive appears at first to be a representation of a gravel path lined with tall grass. But up close, among dead leaves, small rocks and weeds, some of the natural elements have been replaced with myriads of faces, and a small, white banner. Integrated in the gravel appear demonstrating women and men, reminding us of last year's shock waves of demonstrations around the world. Growing poverty, unemployment, breaches of human rights and political oppression have created an extreme need for rebellion and protest in many nations. People every day taking control through collective expression, demanding changes in social and political conditions.

Immersing oneself in each of these pictures, it becomes clear that IngwillGjelsvik touches upon current questions of humanism and the human condition in our time. In motives existing in the borderlands between reality and illusion, weakness and strength, solidarity and conflict, Gjelsvik expresses a sincere concern or the world as it is today.

IngwillGjelsvik values the art of drawing for its basic practice of translating, documenting, registering and analysing our world. In these drawings, the landscape delivers the basic context for the fragmented elements suggesting narratives, actions, or developments. Through the interaction of controlled and unspoiled nature, a notion of a world appears containing more chaos than we would prefer and more uncertainty than we can stand. Gjelsvik's drawings may raise more questions than answers. Is the reality we move in every day as rationally organized as we like to think? Are we able to remain open to the many paths we may choose, or are we blindly following the one path we once decided on?