This summer Kaffe Fassett’s exhibition “50 Years of Colour” has been on show at Hadeland Glassverk here in Norway. I finally got to see it during its last week, and it was indeed glorious. But I also got to see a lot more.
Since we had travelled a long way for this, and stayed a couple of nights, we also decided to visit the nearby Blaafarveverket in Modum, as we had heard they usually have some good exhibitions there during summer.
On arrival we were presented with the options of buying discounted tickets for any two of three sites, or all three. We thought that we had time for only two, and when hearing that one of them had some embroidery on show, we decided on that one, in addition to the main site, – which showed paintings in blue colours and also lots of blue glass and china, linked to the former production of cobalt mined in this area.
The second site, Nyfossum, used to be the director’s dwelling. The old house and gardens are being restored to former glory, while the log barn in the photo above has been turned into a gallery to house the annual summer exhibitions.
What a surprise to step into the barn and discover that the embroidery on show was actually THE Four Seasons Frieze, also called the Life Frieze, made by Torvald Moseid during the years 1961-1977. I had read about it in some magazine many, many years ago, and I think I also may have glimpsed it on tv at some time, but had never seen it in “person”.
Impressive is an understatement. It is 62 meters long and 58 centimeters tall, and all in one long piece of linen fabric, embroidered all over, mostly using the couching stitch with yarn spun from wool from the double coated Norwegian tail-less breed Spelsau.
The whole piece was hung around the walls in three separate rooms and a hallway. It was not possible to see all of it at once, – you had to move from room to room.
Below are more photos showing details from the frieze. I have put them into four groups, one for each season.
For every season there was also a small text explaining some of the scenes. As they were only in Norwegian I have tried to write up an English version, but I fear the poetry of the texts got lost in translation.
Early spring starts with naked trees and dead leaves.
The break through is like a powerful gust of wind. Flocks of migratory birds are carried by the wind. They fly with their heads stretched out towards the spring, and the wind is playing in groves and thickets.
The woods turn green, and flowers spring. The tree of spring spreads its glory like an open fan.
Flowers and plants are grown and tended to. Two who are enthralled with each other stand in the middle of them, as if they are part of the flowers’ beauty and vitality.
Summer starts with the big wedding feast. Flutes are played, and in the flowering fields there are undulating rows of dancers.
The summer bride has got her finery on. She has a classic profile, she is pale, and a myrtle garland is tied around her brow. The summer breeze is playing with her long hair. A knot of glorious summer flowers is tied behind her neck, and the wind blows her bridal veil into the wedding feast.
The wedding feast is like a flaming bonfire which turns into cascades of colourful midsummer plants. The midsummer sun shines in bright red and yellow.
Midsummer blooming has a boundless lavishness of shapes and colours. Large flower bowls are opening up, and children are playing with pollen stamens.
The birds bring the first signs of autumn. They pull golden threads across the earth. The threads turn into light, golden veils which are pulled over the woods.
Nature closes down towards the winter time. Colours and shapes change the trees and plants. Large, brown, knotty plants with filled seed pods are contrasting with the blue.
The winter opens with the stormy wind hitting the trees, and dead leaves in brown, yellow, and red are blown into the air.
Through winter cold and frost the death rider on his wild horse charges into the night. Nature is desolate and silent.
The wind plays with light snowflakes, and they are dancing around like pearl embroidered suns.
In the darkness of the winter night a flaming ice rose shines like the fiery northern lights, filled with hope.
Needless to say I was above impressed when walking along the frieze, trying to take it all in, – and even more so now, when working with the photos for this blog post, and I really got to study the details.
One cannot help but wonder about the drive and stamina that the artist would need to finish a piece like this. And even so, when comparing the beginning and the end, one can almost get the impression that he did not want it to end, as the sheer masses and density of the stitches are ever increasing towards the end.
Still, the artist has produced two similar works of art after this one. His second frieze, the 50 meters long Orfeus and Euridike (1978 – 1985), was also displayed at Nyfossum in the neighbouring rooms, and was almost as impressive as this one, although a bit different. I took lots of photos here as well.
His third and last work of this scale, is the 70 meters long frieze based on Draumkvedet, a Norwegian medieval ballad often compared to Dante’s Divina Commedia. This was finished in 1993. I should like to see that one as well, – maybe I will be so lucky some time in the future.
“The Four Seasons” and “Orfeus and Euridike” will hang at Nyfossum till the middle of September this year. There are still two more weeks to get to see them.