Torbjørn Rødland creates photographic images, produced through film cameras and chemical processes, that specifically address viewers directly, evoking different emotions and psychological reactions in them: curiosity and critically, humour and romanticism are elements that appear throughout his work and often even in the images themselves. His pictures in fact provoke in the viewer a reaction of repulsion and of attraction at the same time, of intimacy and of estrangement from the portrayed subjects. Through the art of photography, Rødland reflects and explores aspects of everyday life with a special, personal and poetic look. “Old Shep” is his fourth solo exhibition presented at Galerie Eva Presenhuber: the artist chooses the sad Elvis song as the title of the exhibition because it tells the story of a boy and his dog, who spends his whole life by his side. The photographs presented in fact revolve around the theme of time: people, plants and things in moments of transition and disappearance, breaking points where one phase of life ends and another begins.
Slightly drooping pink flowers supported by a piece of wood, a heavy elderly man with beard and a hat seeking support from an enormous tree trunk, a hilly landscape containing a ripped chair immortalised as a white skeleton. The theme of vanitas is present in all these images, a haunting symbolism of transience, transformation and ultimately death. Rødland’s photographs always appear easily tangible in their imagery, but looking at them closely they convey a psychological dimension that goes beyond the depicted element, such as the eggshells that seem as light as feathers and almost otherworldly, recalling a symbolism that is both seductive and morbid. The recall of artificial and stereotypical Hollywood scenarios is another aspect that is denoted in the photographs by Rødland, who, after being born and raised in Norway, has long lived in Los Angeles: the picture of the red dancing shoes with white polka-dot socks subduing the curly-haired dog could come straight from an American musical from the 1950s. An image, like so many others by the artist, that seems delicate and innocent, but in reality hides a sense of potential danger and violence.
Rødland appeals to our general visual memory, but not without disrupting it in an almost surrealist manner.
Rødland’s photographs force the viewer to stop and reflect, although this is not so easy given to the often strange and irritating images. It is precisely with the stop-and-go of the gaze, with the back-and-forth of temporality, that the artist draws the viewer into his images. The theme of time that is presented in the exhibition is also part of the artist’s reflection on his work: the sense of slowness in Rødland’s studio is opposed to the mad pace of today’s photography and makes the old theme of death inherent in the practice still relevant, all the more so in an age when images disappear faster than they can manifest themselves in space and time.
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