1. There’s the apparent of the first order: gravel, stones and pebbles of various materials, colors, shapes, sizes, also pieces of glass and bronze, all set in concrete, in a relief of square tiles.

2. On a second order there is the visual reference to concrete as a material that structures the urban public realm, in roads, sidewalks, but more precisely the façades of Erling Viksjø, and the concept of Naturbetong he developed with engineer Sverre Jystad. And, connected to this, there is also the reference to this particular Nordic form of brutalist architecture, that had an important role in defining the image of Norway as a modern social-democratic welfare state. In Oslo it is difficult to see this without thinking of the current debate about demolishing or reconstructing Viksjø's Y-Block.

3. On a third level there is a composition, a mosaic-like collage of building materials, forming a surprisingly soft, flowing and open imagery, that allows for associations with Northern romantic abstraction, or more figuratively with natural sedimentation.

4. The title for the show - Aggregate - refers to the different materials that form the mix of concrete, that give it structural strength. To make sure the aggregates are spread evenly in the mix, concrete needs to be in constant motion until it is poured into a form, compacted, allowed to rest and harden. Naturbetong requires a slightly different method: formwork is filled with the different types of aggregate, then cement mortar is pressed into it until all cavities are filled. After hardening, the surface of the concrete is sandblasted to expose the aggregate. Commonly this is river gravel, as if revealing concrete’s natura - the hidden natural element, or, closer to the original latin, its innate disposition, its core - the essence of the material. The essence of Naturbetong could be read as a message: big buildings are made of small stones.

5. But too much of a focus on the inner workings of the material neglects the concept of the overall form. It’s the unapologetic artistic gesture, the boldness of the form, that not only gave brutalism its name, but its sculptural coherence that infuse these buildings with symbolism: to get together with a vision for a greater good for all - the architect as a curator of a public form, illustrating a democratic mindset.

6. Today it is hard to find a similarly positivist outlook. But is there an alternative? Are artist or architects today merely administrators of market forces? How to suggest a visionary form to a democratic public, how to suggest shapes of new beginnings?

7. Looking at the structures these ideas produced does not necessarily imply nostalgia or sentimentality. The only responses to the international political spectacle are action or abstraction. By realizing that the larger construction today is bigger than only one country, and we are the aggregates that compose its material. This concrete artistic statement is a response to chaos.

8. Nothing is set in stone. Ever.


  • NoPlace's Exhibitions 14

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