After months of casting, welding, hammering and grinding “Head”, by Norwegian artist Marianne Heske www.marianneheske.no, slowly emerged from our Liverpool studio. The giant doll’s head which surface mapped out with painted lines and numbers we had ground into the bronze, was leaving for its new home in Torshovdalen Park in a residential neighbourhood of Oslo. Even getting it out the door had proved tricky. It was slowly edged out on to the street with millimetres to spare. We said our goodbyes to the loaded truck and recorded the monumental moment with some shots of it moving off through the city. A week later we arrived in the park to install the work.
The colossal head had arrived in the night, without fanfare, escorted through the sleeping city. Now it lays on its back on Jimmy McKenzies’ low loader staring up at the dawn sky www.jamackenziehaulage.co.uk. Locals stared in disbelief. It’s not everyday something like this turns up and disrupts your regular morning stroll.
A meeting took place with local contractors and the following morning a crane befitting of the task arrived and set up on the specially built road along side the site. Artist, engineer and a small crowd joined us to watch the confident performance of two experts in action. The huge crane and Jimmy’s hiab worked in tandem to delicately manoeuvre the six tonne head into it’s final position on a hill, over looking Oslo and the sea beyond. Too big to stand up in the workshop, this was our first view of it upright and our chance to do some final work. With the head held hovering by the crane we all gathered inside the cavernous inner space for the last time. The internal walls showed the story of it’s making. A bronze patchwork quilt of panels each one numbered by hand with black ink. A 3D jigsaw puzzle of welded metal. Amongst the scrawled numbers we added our own marks with personal messages to future generations with a marker pen. How permanent our words will be, we will never know, but it felt right.
Jimmy had to rest before the drive back to England and we celebrated the installation with local beer and a BBQ cooked up on the back of his empty trailer, now transformed into his personal sun terrace with the unfolding of his deck chair.
The peaceful park became our home as we spent a couple of days finishing the sculpture, moving around the work on a cherry picker. Eight metres doesn’t sound much until you are looking down on it. We chatted with the steady stream of friendly onlookers, mainly from the neighbourhood but also from further a field, attracted by the local news coverage. The unfamiliar but recognisably friendly greetings shouted up to us were met with “Do you speak English?” “Of course” was the the common reply “I am Norwegian!”
The park is not in the tourist centre of the city and so this sculpture is one for the local people. Standing like an ancient monolith, it was attracting the curious like a magnet. They stood around discussing this strange object that had suddenly landed on their doorstep from who knows where. They wanted to know what it meant, what the numbers signified, why it was here in their park. I answered as best I could.
The general impression seemed to be puzzled but positive. This surprised me. The work is challenging both in scale and content. Conceptual and deeply personal. It is impossible to ignore. It’s right there in the open, dominating. And it was here to stay.
Some people were chatting together for the first time, not with strangers but with their neighbours. Recognisable but nameless faces. The familiarity of passers by who know each other, but never actually met. Rumours had spread of the new arrival and now they shared a common connection like a sudden change in the weather or the first snow of winter. A few weeks later, in the height of the glorious Scandinavian summer, we returned to wax the surface of the bronze.
By now, the novelty seemed to have worn off somewhat. It was holiday time and the park was busy with locals enjoying the sunshine and the sculpture had become a place to gather. Terraced seating formed a mini amphitheatre around it to sit and contemplate the work and share it’s view. Disrespectful dogs and drinkers had found a new place to leave their mark and added to the patina. To my surprise a large graffiti heart adorned the bronze chest. It struck me as strangely shocking, this stark symbol of love, clumsily executed and I wondered who had painted it. Was it a spontaneous act of vandalism or an artistic statement? I cleaned it off as best I could, but its impression remained, like a shadow.
We set about our work and soon became an attraction again. Some faces were familiar now and everyone was friendly. We felt welcome, at home. Plenty of discussion took place around the sculpture but no one seemed to be complaining. It had been accepted.
Among the early morning visitors was Gro. She approached us cautiously, but soon struck up a conversation. Her house overlooked the park and she was out on her daily walk. At first she wasn’t keen on the sculpture and told us so. We told her some of its history, the story of its making. Warming to the work and us, she offered to help and we spent an enjoyable day chatting and laughing, working together. Every sculpture has its story. Its concept and its creation. The space it occupies. That day, by chance, Gro became part of this one. She took ownership and armed with new knowledge, she was soon explaining the work to curious onlookers.
Gro is a photographer. She told us of adventures in her younger days, alone for months in the far north of Norway photographing polar bears. She showed us some of her pictures and promised to take some of the sculpture. Some months later, her winter shots arrived to remind us of our work, the park where it belongs and a summer day spent with a friend. Snow photographs @Gro Kongsten