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Johannes Espedal 1988 Norway

A sculpture can be defined by the material from which it is made. A particular material can convey weightiness, weightlessness, danger, freedom, history and even poetry. Using a great deal of sensitivity and knowhow about various materials, Johannes Espedal creates his sculptures and installations.

Many say that we are living in the Anthropocene (an epoch in the history of humankind where we have a decisive role in influencing life on the planet). Humankind does have a huge influence, as we know all too well. For example, climate change is looming large and our appetite for consumption means we are using up the world’s resources at a faster rate than they can be renewed. This theme is one that Espedal works with in his art by choosing to use renewable materials. He recycles, reuses and transforms objects that have been thrown away.

You might be led to think that the result is a screechy scrappy sculpture that shows clear signs that the materials have seen better days. Instead, Espedal is like a cook who takes some basic ingredients and refines them into fantastic dishes using simple recipes. The secret is his deep knowhow about materials and a special sense for what different materials can do. He turns recycled materials into beautiful works of art. As sculptural works, they have a timeless quality and a powerful simplicity.

In his sculptures, different materials and different surfaces meet and come to life. Meanwhile, he is making a statement about our lifestyle in the West. Beneath the surface, there are undertones of our striving and hunger for knowledge, our ability to extract and transform, defeat and define, exploit and destroy.

What gives his sculptural installation its pent-up power is his feeling for the poetic potential of a space. We find that we resonate with his work and are drawn in by a deeper, darker meaning.

The fact that his sculpture has been placed outside St Nicolas’ Church leaves one wondering why. The church is a sacred space but not even the church can wash its hands of the consequences of the Anthropocene. On the contrary, it has played its part in where we are today.