Sunday, April 8, 2007

The Dancers from Gustav Vigeland

The Dancers by Gustav Vigeland, at the National gallery, Oslo. A close-up (down).

The togetherness is explicitly evident in the facial expression of the dancers; no doubt they are made for each other. Infallible expression, precise body language, and anatomical accuracy are some of the features that makes Vigeland's sculptures breathtaking.

Images taken by the author/owner of the blog.

Amazing Vigeland Park

Sculptures by Gustav Vigeland at the open air gallery at Frogner Park.
Images taken by the author/owner of the blog.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

A visit to the Vigeland Park, Oslo

Whenever my husband talked of taking me for a walk down the Vigeland Park, amidst the numerous human sculptures, I thought it must be great. Around two weeks back, my wait was finally over. We made our first visit, together, to the Park. The experience exceeded all my expectations. The intricate, graceful stone carvings simply left me dumbstruck. Silent. With wonder and an inexpressible, passionate, coagulated emotion of love. It never occurred to me before stone figures can be so real, so expressive, and touching.

One of the mo
st attractive tourist destinations in Oslo, Norway, the Vigeland Park sprawls on about 80 acres of open land, at Frogner Park. It homes over 200 astonishingly expressive stone structures, carved by one of Norway’s great sculptors, Gustav Vigeland, between 1924 and 1943. Apart from being the unique open air gallery designed by Vigeland, the Park also couples as one of Oslo’s sunshine zones, where people come to relax, jog, picnic, or sunbath in summer.

The pebbled path leading ahead, as we entered the intricately designed wrought iron gates, is lined with maple trees and huge (read, twice the real size) sculptures. Even if you are a casual onlooker, you won’t miss the strong emotion and expressions lining the faces of these giant figures. I was awed by the father holding up his two offsprings with pride, the child reaching up and hugging her mother, the silent lovers lost in their skins touching each other, the wild dancer, the two kids looking up, the angry kid stomping his foot, the grandpa on a stride with his small sprinting heir, and many more; all of them exhibiting lively sentiments. The passion and force that led the creator chisel out these marvelous pieces is so evident in all these figurines, one is bound to be touched. The cycle of human transformation, the stages of our livings from birth to maturity, the conditions of our minds from joy to fear to love to desire to content to anger is so pronounced in these works, it is difficult to avoid being affected.

Forgetting to speak, wide-eyed, and deeply engrossed, we reached the fountain. It is a huge vessel, upheld by six giant figures, all bowing under the weight, their muscles taut and swollen. The tree figures and the small paneled sculptures surrounding the fountain allows you to take a break from the awe, because, by this time, you are familiar with the surprising elegance with which Vigeland carved his human figures almost 100 years back. The body languages are so explicit. Every part of the nude bodies, every carved muscle speaks.

A group of joggers, elderly neighbors on a stroll with their pets, and young couples passed by. Some s
topped to take a look, others went on their way. A few sat and enjoyed the afternoon sun or simply read. Two h
uge bus-full of tourists came about swarming, robbing us of our silent conversations. We waited till they pass and subtlety returns. With all the jostling, it wasn’t that easy anymore. A few minutes later, there were girls standing beside the stout male figures and young boys and men, alike, jumping and climbing all over the statues, posing for the camera. Their reactions and acts suddenly made explicit the vulgarity and obscenity portrayed by nude human bodies, even though they were meant to worship beauty. What was more pathetic was the enthusiasm with which they were riding up the figures! I remembered, a few days back someone or some people tried to censor these statuettes by covering the genitals and bare bodies with black papers. We just wished, the sculptures will withstand the torture and we all will be able to savor the beauty 20 years down the line.

Sadly, we moved up. A series of stairs and open courtyards led to another set of figures, bigger than the earlier ones, surrounding a 20 ton monolithic structure. This is considered the pinnacle of this amazing sculpture park as well as Vigeland’s sculpting career. Vigeland finished this work just before his death and never explained it.
Critics still speculate whether it shows humanity struggling up or losing its grip, Man's resurrection or the struggle for existence. Once you look beyond this 14.12 meters column, you can see the sheath of human bodies, the Wheel of Life, which marks the final boundary of this Park.

A striking feature o
f all these over 200 figurines and statues in the Park lies in the absolute perfection with which Vigeland has carved out every line, every bulging muscle, every expression. You can be sure of the proud, contented smile on the father’s face or the sublime pleasure on the lovers’ from a distance. These nude statuettes clearly show Vigeland’s expertise in human anatomy. The strong, subtle, aesthetic expression of love that these figures exude made me wonder about the creator – his thoughts. The same feeling that occurred to me when I saw his 'Dancers’ at the National Gallery.

The sun was
setting. The maple leaves created a mysterious, pastel-shaded haze. We decided to come back again. Before we left, we stood in front of Gustav Vigeland’s life sized figure, a strong surging swelling inside us that talked of many things, but mainly of love and its various forms of expression. We wished someone should do something to protect these wonderful sculptures, to ensure their respect and dignity, to ensure we can bring our children here and show them the wide expanse of human intelligence and conditions. We wish our generation and our future men and women can appreciate the beauty of human life and strike that string of spiritualism that artists like Vigeland touches through love and passion.