• Matilde Balatti

Gjertrud Hals, textile sculptor

Born on a small island between Bergen and Throndheim, Gjertrud Hals interweaves the story of the micro-cosmos in which she grew up with the macro-history of the rest of the world. The lines, volumes and empty spaces between them are not only a reminiscence of her past but contain veiled messages that penetrate and shape the beauty of the forms.

© Gjertrud Hals, ULTIMA, 2015. Credits: Thomas Widerberg

Gjertrud studied at the Art Academy in Trondheim and in the 1980s she approached fiber art. In 1976, Magdalena Abakanowicz's headless figures on display in Oslo deeply affected the young artist. Since then Gjertrud has experimented and found her own language, but the furrow of that vision is still present in her art today.

© Gjertrud Hals, LAVA, 1987. Credits: Odd Hals

For Gjertrud art must be faithful to the artist's background and origins. Her main source of inspiration are memories and mythology as a form of collective memory. Feelings emerge from a corner of the mind that swings between the sphere of the conscious and the unconscious giving life to archaic and timeless forms, like the sculptures of the LAVA series of 1987. LAVA launches Gjertrud onto the international scene, detaching her permanently from the micro-cosmos of her childhood from which objects and symbols continue to emerge as fragments that trigger a connection with larger meanings. In the case of LAVA, the sculptures take form from the memory of the sensitive perception of the shells she collected on the beach. The perception of objects fragile and strong at the same time is conveyed through a combination of materials, cotton, flax, cellulose fibers, paper casts, which give life to sculptures whose irregular edges and indefinite colors transmit a sense of imperfection and immanence, but whose size and stability elevate them to ethereal objects placed outside the passing of time. The apparent resistance hides the vulnerability of life and only a thin membrane, made of cellulose fibers, acts as a protective shell between life and death, which we often delude ourselves to be thicker and more resistant than it is.


© Gjertrud Hals, ULTIMA, 2018. Credits: Gjertrud Hals

It is indeed the success of Lava and the international demand that have determined the tragic end of these works, flushed with a water-hose by the artist's son on her behalf. This sharp cut allowed her to experiment with new materials and shapes that twenty-five years after the first series brought her to create a structure very similar to the previous one. ULTIMA, made with cotton wire and resin, recalls the shapes of the first series but the fibre membrane is replaced by a network in which full and empty spaces alternate. Interested in empty spaces, Gjertrud analyses the connections between forms, lights and shades, which can be genuinely perceived only in unspoiled conditions. That is why her pierced artworks are complete when located in the natural environment whose colours give life to the empty spaces between the artificial materials.

© Gjertrud Hals, INSULA, 2006-2008. Credits: Gjertrud Hals

Always looking for new symbols and words that convey multiple meanings, in 2006 Gjertrud created a piece exemplifying her double connection to the micro and macro cosmos. INSULA is an embroidery of metal wire sprayed with dyed liquid paper paste. Insula in Latin means island, explicitly recalling the artist's origins; the term refers, however, also to Insular Cortex, a portion of the cerebral cortex that plays a role in different functions related to emotionality, perception and self-awareness. The work is in balance between being a research of the artist on herself and being a work that reflects the physiological structure of men. The artist's self-awareness is transferred to every viewer who, observing the apparent fragility of each metal thread, senses the harmony of lines and connections in the same way he recognizes the delicate perfection of his existence as a sensitive and emotional body.

© Gjertrud Hals, EIR, 2019. Credits: Sjur Fedje

The nets that Gjertrude built as a child to catch small fish and crabs, the shells and objects she collected, did not become a frozen memory of her childhood. Revisited and reshaped through a stubborn material and formal research, they have become symbols and have acquired meanings that have propagated to capture the most hidden nuances of humanity.

© Gjertrud Hals, EIR, 2019. Credits: Sjur Fedje

Artist website: http://www.gjertrud-hals.com/

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