Over the past two decades, drawing has diversified to such a degree that the generic term can cover almost any creative act. “Prism” is a largescale exhibition of drawings that augments past achievements within the medium.
A primordial discipline
The Norwegian word for drawing, tegning, stems from Old Norse teikn, a word that can suggest everything from a sign and a symbolic expression of something, to a movement or a mark. Drawing is an innately human activity: in pre-historic times animals and shapes were carved into mountain walls, and it is through drawing that children first visually manifest their imagination and their reality. Drawing is the tool of ideas and the imagination; abstract expressions and forms become thereby concrete.
It was also through drawing that art was initially expressed. However, drawing has often served as, or at least been perceived as, a sketch or as a preliminary study for works in other disciplines. This has led to the discipline being underappreciated as an autonomous form of art by collectors, critics, and galleries. In contrast, the medium has always been a popular and widespread form of expression for both artists and the general public.
Rather than exhibiting drawings in a classical sense, the current exhibition presents drawings as understood and defined by a select group of our most important contemporary artists. The discipline has expanded and evolved over the past two decades and currently includes several creative forms of expression that were previously not defined as drawing.
The exhibition’s name, Prism, evokes a tool that enables a variety of approaches, akin to how a glass prism disperses light into a multicoloured spectrum. In order for drawing and its new forms and variants to survive as an autonomous art form, it is essential that we take a closer look at the ongoing experimentation.
The exhibition features everything from digital drawings to drawing as performance, from sculptural paperwork to pictures made with needlework on fabric. We are also presented with works that reveal a more conceptual approach to the medium: What is a drawing? And what is a copy of a drawing? Or what is reality, and what is a representation of reality? The artists thereby problematize and experiment with different levels and aspects of the age-old discipline.
An exhibition for everyone
In order to enrich the public’s enjoyment of the exhibition, the visitors themselves are invited to draw with either a pencil or a digital tool; the fruits of these labours will be displayed on a specially dedicated wall. The museum will furthermore organize a one-off Day of Drawing, where the public will be invited to either draw in collaboration with professionals or be portrayed by these professionals. We also plan to invite the public to an exclusive visit to the National Gallery’s unique collection of original drawings.
For especially interested children and adults the museum will also organize workshops during the spring with the celebrated comic strip creators Flu Hartberg and Geir Moe. In May a one-day professional seminar will be held with major Norwegian and international speakers and practitioners. The main theme for the seminar will be drawing’s form, limitations, potential, relevance, and place within contemporary art and at the edges of the art world (as for example comic strips and animation). The seminar will also deal with the discipline’s development and place within art history, as well as its scope, function, and accessibility.
The exhibition features major Norwegian and international artists. Several of the works have been culled from the museum’s own collection, with some of these works being displayed for the very first time. We will also present entirely new works that have been especially commissioned for the exhibition.