Oslo was mostly interesting to me because of the Vigelandsparken (Vigeland Park) in Frogner, a unique open space that was designed by Gustav Vigeland, Norway’s greatest sculptor. The story goes like this. In 1921 he made a deal with the city. In return for a studio and state support, he’d spend his creative life beautifying Oslo with a sculpture garden. From 1924 to 1943 he worked onsite, sculpting 192 bronze and granite statues—600 figures, each nude and unique (I pilfered that summary from Rick Steves’ Scandinavia).
I loved this little one! I just felt like lifting him off the pedestal, taking him home with me and starting my career as an art thief.
Ho, the joys of fatherhood.
Essentially, Vigeland’s work explores the fundamentals of human relationships such as the ones that exist between men and women, parents and children, friends. He also explores the joys and sorrows of life, all the way from birth to death. For the most part, his unnamed statues are unambiguous in their meaning and I think because of that, I found them really powerful and memorable.
The monolith is the centrepiece of Vigelandsparken and is quite a dramatic counter against all the other statues in the park. I mostly see it as a representation of the struggle of human existence. Click on the image to get a bigger picture…pretty impressive, huh?
Outside the Nasjonalgalleriat was the first Vigeland sculpture I saw in Oslo. It drew my attention because it recalled the work of Rodin (I later found out that Vigeland was in fact a great admirer of Rodin). The National Gallery was pretty interesting actually – I think the works provide a bit of an insight into the Norwegian psyche – earthy, realistic and romantic amongst other things.
I’ll also remember Oslo as being the place where I felt really homesick for the first time in my life. A combination of being on my own in a dreary rainy city, and meditating upon Vigeland’s sculptures – it really hit me that travelling comes at the price of being far away from the people you love. But at some level I’ve always known that, because I think one of the best parts of travel is coming home.