Anne Katrine Dolven (aka AK Dolven) is a Norwegian painter and video artist who has been exhibiting since 1985. As though taking her cue from arguably Norway’s most famous painter, Edvard Munch, her most recent exhibition, ‘Teenagers Lifting The Sky’ at London’s Wilkinson gallery has something of the sinister and deathly about it. It was a collection mainly consisting of minimal finger paintings, with ‘This Is A Political Painting’ summing up the unsettling mood. On the surface, it’s a simple abstract, composed entirely of a few red dots stretched across the canvas. But what you get from it depends entirely on your mood. Viewed in the cold setting of an empty gallery on a particularly sickly wet day in England’s capital, it has the ability to get under your skin.
‘Closed Eyes’ upped the ante. Despite it being an abstract, it’s possible to make out a cavernous mouth crying desperately for help. With little effort, it’s easy to bring to mind Munch’s infamous ‘Scream’ painting. The Norwegian master’s influence on Dolven’s work is in no way exaggerated; we’re not looking for something that isn’t actually there. It wasn’t too long ago when she produced ’Portrait With Cigarette’, an homage to Munch’s smoky self-portrait which, critics argue, teaches us everything we need to know about his artistic soul. Dolven, posing hauntingly against a contextless black background, left hand blurred, is reminding us of the importance of his work.
“The issues in Munch’s work,” she says, “ … it doesn’t matter that he’s from Norway, he could be from anywhere. His issues are so much a part of everyday life. The landscape is not important, it’s the issues that are important.”
Dolven reminds us not to forget an artist just because his time is seemingly past. For her, Munch, a man whose life was never far away from sickness and death, confronted issues that are timeless and which still face us – and torment us – daily. Another video, 2000’s Puberty, was inspired by Munch’s ‘Puberty’ painting. Dolven’s model poses naked except for a pair of headphone which, she says, is representative of a young woman finding it hard to find balance during her tentative years when life is suddenly strange and awkward, frightening and puzzling.
It is these themes, borrowed from Munch, that continue to inform her work. ‘Closed Eyes’ is bleak and helpless. ‘Black Light’ seems to all intents and purposes to be a glimpse into life at night for a wanderer who is lost, trying to find their way home. Half of the painting is covered in pitch-black, the offer half offering a faint residue of foggy light, a tiny ray of hope amidst the darkness that is actually little help at all. It is the dark shadow of the future hanging over the adolescent, the confusion and bewilderment.
“Munch’s work feels so contemporary, so fresh,” she continues. “He’s dealing with real things in his life. Death, tuberculosis. He painted issues of his own time but it still feels contemporary today.”