Critics’ Picks

TheMoen, Untitled (Abba), 2010, ink and wash on paper, 30 x 22".

Oslo

TheMoen

Kunsthall Oslo
Trelastgata 3
January 15 - February 27

The Kunsthall Oslo, located in the city’s new and much debated “cultural center” Bjørvika, has begun 2011 with something of a wild card: TheMoen’s first solo exhibition. Artist and musician Terje Moen’s quirky pseudonym is homonymous with the pronunciation of the Norwegian word for “demon.” Unknown to a larger audience, TheMoen enjoys local fame in the artistic community of Kristiansand in southern Norway, where he is recognized for his imaginative drawings and for having opened up his studio to artists, tourists, and the general public every Saturday for many years.

TheMoen’s work might be best described as suburban folk, and it is unmistakably informed by comics, although a coherent narrative is most often obscure. Animistic scenes seem influenced by traditional folktales of supernatural creatures residing in nature––the trolls in rocks and the nøkken in lakes. In one drawing, a town square is devoid of people but still eerily alive, as nearly every architectural element seems to double as a live creature: a serpent, a snowman’s head, a frightened monkey. The phenomenon of pareidolia––the experience of seeing faces everywhere, whether it’s a loved one in a cloud or the Virgin Mary on a fresh piece of toast––comes to mind here. In another drawing, a concert stage is raised into the air on poles and loaded down with heavy geometrically shaped equipment, which marks the horizon line across the pictorial space and divides it into an upper and a lower half; the sky below the performers on the stage is serene, while in the sky above them one notices a portrait of a stern old man in the clouds––Marx? Dostoyevsky?––looming over the band’s two female, slightly Robert Crumb–inspired singers.