Growth rings, knots, sapwood, heartwood. Hard, soft, light, heavy. Alive. A multitude of colours and sheens. Intarsia, carving, turning, gluing, carpentry. Reuse, tradition and innovation. The forest has been an essential natural resource that has given us shelter, warmth, tools for survival, jobs and industry. Our relationship with the forest is twofold: on one side, it is easy to get lost in a forest, thus it has become a psychological metaphor for the all-consuming and unknown darkness in our subconscious. On the other side, it has provided us with lovely memories of warm summer forests bursting with sounds and sweet scents.
The forest, a starting point for our interaction with our surroundings and reality, but also a material with which we shape our intellectual and emotional lives. As we are presented with cultural objects of the past, a handful of wooden objects have the ability to provide us with an immediately meaningful and recognisable relation to history, tradition and culture. Since the tourism-oriented wood workshops were founded in Norway in the 1850s, woodcarving has played a key role in the development of the concepts of folk art and applied art. In those days, woodcarving reinvented itself by leaning on both tradition and innovation. It referenced the traditional whilst laying the foundations for a professionalised art form. What Wood Would – Stories Told in Wood is not a sentimental return to the traditional references of folk art, but rather it keeps building on the notion of the woodcarvers in the times of yore: handicraft and the concept of art must go hand in hand in order to make the most of the material’s potential in innovative ways.
This notion is still applicable for contemporary applied arts using wood as the main material today. The techniques have changed, but this closeness to the material still has a significant influence on wood art. What Wood Would – Stories Told in Wood presents works by a selection of contemporary Norwegian artists who have been wandering in the forest without getting lost. This is an exhibition about wood’s standing in today’s contemporary Norwegian art.