babelkunst
english / norsk

Photo: Dag-Arve Forbergskog


Ryan Pierce
Night music
Babel Art Space
August 19. - 28. 2011

Through a series of ink drawings made during his stay at Lademoen, Ryan Pierce suggests a parallel between the unique ability of weed to survive in unfavourable conditions and the ability of great ideas to take root in society. The two parts of the exhibition are united by means of the weed theme. The various drawings combine botanical studies of weed found in the Buran and Lademoen neighbourhood with portraits of controversial and decisive thinkers like Charles Darwin, Karl Marx and Marquis de Sade. He has also made a huge work which in a post-apocalyptic spirit shows a scene from Svalbard, apparently after a serious global crisis. These works are part of an ongoing project where he studies man’s role, using a holistic world view as his point of departure. Having noticed how weed in Trondheim managed to fight its way into the daylight in spite of gravel, macadam and human intervention, Pierce wished to draw a number of these plants as metaphors for the persuasive power of certain controversial ideas (and ideologies) in society. In these drawings the weed that grows out of the heads of great personalities like Charles Darwin and Karl Marx points to certain parallel qualities of ideas and weeds. Just like weeds an idea may find its way through most surfaces and materials; it will rarely be stopped as it aggressively and completely supplants beauty. As the artist himself mentions in a conversation about the exhibition: There is no way that Marx could have foreseen how his Communist Manifesto would become the root of the fascist society. Through this show Pierce wants to visualize how ideas may change an entire society and subsequently the human race.

The various weed studies recall illustrations from ancient botanical lexica such as those by Carl von Linnés from the 1670s. This approach to the anatomy of weeds, consisting of light brushstrokes and delicate colours, supports our reading of the drawings as optimistic. His rich and childlike visual language as well as a preference for futuristic scenarios makes it almost impossible not to draw parallels to surrealists like Max Ernst and Lari Pittmann. These two artists are known to evoke post-apocalyptic societies and meaningless, fragmented existences. And yet the mood of this exhibition is a different one. For Pierce it is important to stress the notion that man is a part of nature rather than an antithesis to nature. To grasp this notion we must radically revise how we choose to see the world. This positive vision of the future is most striking in the large drawing of Svalbard which shows how weed recaptures the landscape which was once marked by human intervention. The post-apocalyptic horror scenes we know from science fiction films is exchanged for a hopeful vision about a future where man and nature return to start, to tabula rasa, where the borders between nature and us no longer exist.

About the Artist

Ryan Pierce, who comes from Oregon, is internationally recognized for his politically engaged paintings and essays. His works have been exhibited in Berlin as well as in numerous places in the U.S.

Pierce addresses questions tied to ecology and environmental issues in his works. He has a deep awareness of our responsibility and negligence as we confront these concerns. Many of his earlier works have taken as their point of departure a world after a catastrophe where man must find his place in a powerful returning nature. Signal Fire, an organisation which he started with his colleague Amy Harwood, is one example of his environmentally friendly initiatives. The organisation consists of numerous artist residencies in the Oregon wilderness where artists from different backgrounds meet for inspiration and meditation in direct contact with pristine nature.

Marte Midtsund
Translated by Birgit Kvamme Lundheim