Lingua #1-9, 1986 / 2021
Analogue black/white photo series, hand-coloured with Faber-Castell colored and gray pencil

Text: Marianne Hultman - Director at Nordnorsk Kunstsenter

Ingwill Gjelsvik's latest work "Lingua" is a series of portraits taken in the mid-80s of the artist's friends: close friends and fellow students in Bergen. The negatives have been stored until this year, when Gjelsvik retrieved them and developed them in the darkroom. The photographs have then been treated and hand colored.

The portraits have been anonymized so that only the lower half of the face is visible in the picture. The mouth catches the eye, with a tongue sticking out towards the camera lens and us as the viewer. The title "Lingua", from the Latin word for tongue, also means language in amongst others, Spanish and Italian, and the English word language derives from the same Latin word Lingua.

In the studio, Ingwill Gjelsvik has treated every portrait with a gentle hand and mind. Facial features have been sanded down and the emulsion of the photo paper removed with sandpaper, to be reconstructed from memory with color and pencil in thin layers.

The portraits were taken as a counter reaction in a vulnerable time when the consequences of the HIV virus were starting to become apparent. They were processed as society was hit by another virus, Covid-19. The lack of knowledge about these viruses changed us, our way of relating to ourselves, to each other, friends, family, and colleagues. The trust of the circle of friends became a counterbalance to the insecurity and worry that marked these periods. Time spent in the studio gently treating the portraits gave opportunity for reflection on how things were experienced then and are today.

The phenomenon of poking out the tongue is regarded as a little cheeky or even rude, but it may also be an instinctive reaction to feeling insecure, shy, or embarrassed. The gesture is revealing, but also personal. The Hindu goddess Kali, master of time and of death, is often pictured in this gesture, with a blood-red extended tongue. In 1970, when English designer John Pasche drew the tongue and lips logo of Rolling Stones Records, the same tongue of Kali inspired this logo, a symbol of both the band and the spirit of the era's antiauthoritarian attitudes. A little what the hell, with a humorous twinkle in the eye, just as in Ingwill Gjelsvik's series, where humor and seriousness become one.