In 1893 the great Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen embarked on a perilous journey in a specially built boat, the ‘Fram’, to try to reach the North Pole. He didn’t return to Norway until 1896 having endured extraordinary hardships trekking the farthest north any human being had ever been. Although he was a scientist, he was also a talented draughtsman and watercolourist. He took paintings on board with him, too, and as the first owner of Edvard Munch’s ‘Starry Night’ produced watercolours of the arctic wastes suffused with melancholy and mystery.
Those of us familiar with Ørnulf Opdahl’s work from his earlier exhibitions in Newcastle and London will recall his disturbing images of the threatening power of nature in his Nordic landscapes. Indeed when Robert Rosenblum, in discussing Edvard Munch, wrote of his sensitivity to the extremes of nature’s forces, “first the extinction of light in the long, dark and cold winter, and then the dramatic resurrection of the sun which reigns during the summer months, deep into the night” he could equally have been invoking Opdahl. His intense, lyrically charged work projects the sort of enkindled presence of the elements – earth and fire, wind and water – which is only to be encountered in the Far North.
Exhibitions at Gallagher & Turner:
Towards the Light
13 May - 4 June 2016