Drawings subtly outmanouvering our perceptions
Martin Skauen is the first artist to exhibit in nordic art info this year. Skauen is known to many as the engine behind the underground gallery Subcomandante, a gallery that has made a name for itself both at home and abroad. In the exhibition ”American Elk” he shows his most recent drawings.
What is an original work of art?
Martin Skauen (b. 1975 in Fredrikstad.), shows photocopies of other people’s drawings of different animals’ anatomies. Skauen manipulates the drawings by adding tiny absurd elements that completely change the character of the works. These alterations make for an optimal change in the visual wholeness. Thus a deer’s legs become the frame around a spider’s web, or the neck of a dromedarian camel can be used as resting place for a bowling ball.
The choice of anatomical animal drawings brings the mind to the 19th century’s mapping of zoology, an almost nostalgic rendevouz with the past. In the installation ”Hunters at the Edge of the Night”, Skauen has pinned a drawing of two Indians sacrificing a hare to the wall. (Another type of mapping where the white man documented the world.) Skauen has illuminated the drawing in such a way that the shadow of the needle that pins the paper to the wall like a butterfly specimen, gives an illusion of a stream of blood from the hare that hits the hand of one of the Indians.
Challenging the perception
After studying Skauen’s drawings for a while things start to happen; I find myself looking for signs of the artist’s presence exactly what changes did he make? And then suddenly the change in vision occurs, from habitual glancing to the illumined gaze. Suddenly I notice the four legs in Wild Goose, and the cone shell hiding in the Elephant. And once I have noticed them, I cannot avoid seeing them. It becomes curious to ponder how I did not spot them at first. And then I need to go another round, and take a closer look at all the works.
Skauen challenges and changes our perception in more than one way: Take Greyhound for instance; by letting the dog hold its own leash different possibilities for reading the work emerge. The animal becomes something more than animal. It becomes a personification of somebody awaiting his/her own submission. The barely visible drawn wooden fence with sword points, following the animal’s underbelly may reinforce this reading.
Gallery Subcomandante Oslo’s and perhaps Norway’s most important underground gallery
Skauen is a busy young artist. Together with colleague Elna Hageman, he started and ran the alternative Gallery Subcomandante for several years. As the only alternative gallery, Subcomandante was invited to participate in Norway’s first artfair at Vestfossen Kunstlaboratorium last fall. The gallery has also been represented at Stockholm Art Fair, and arranged an exhibition during the Venice Biennial last year. At a time when most other established underground galleries had to throw in the towel Subcomandante represents perhaps the most important alternative scene in Norway maybe in the Nordic countries today.