Instead of investigating this question from a historical perspective – a task for which I an ill fit – I wish to begin with a brief exposition of the average Norwegian conceptions and ideas concerning Easter vacation. This point of departure is far from arbitrary: At present, I am situated in a mountain cottage in Svinslåa (a stone’s throw from one of the many Olympic ski hills in Gudbrandsdalen) while I listen to the radio’s description of rescue operations in adjacent mountain ranges.
Although the voice of the radio, at first listen, seems to maintain a certain level of objectivity, there is a dark undertone to the stories he tells. He seems mildly disgusted by what has happened, as if the unfortunate ski tourists are themselves to blame for nature’s sudden change in temperament. It’s as though the voice is accosting them for behaving some coarsely – for having added a hint of darkness to what most consider a time of light and hope.
Put another way: The voice’s implicit condemnation of the tourists´ behavior contains traces of denial, the implicit contention being that the Norwegian mountains are an idyllic place. Every experienced skier, however, knows that the mountains are a place of danger, and moreover, that the danger is what makes them so enticing. To him, nature is more than just Gore-Tex-clad families, drinking hot cocoa outside mountain ski resorts; it is also a place of physical ailments; of sore muscles, broken bones, frostbitten toes, skin cancer. Furthermore, the experienced skier knows that the former (the concept of nature as idyll) springs out of the latter: the sense that the nature is a place where death lurks around every corner. One moment, you’re lying in the snow under the hot sun; the next, you’re surrounded by snow and fog, with no shelter in sight.
Before Ingeborg Stana started working with images of white clouds and blue sky, her focus was minuscule, microscopic, though her vision was broad and expansive. Images of diseased blood cells, sores and skin were altered, in her paintings, to textures vaguely reminiscent of abstract expressionist art. Although were pleasing to the eye, there was always something vaguely threatening about them. Recently, Stana averted her eyes from the world of the microscopic. Her new motif is macroscopic and, at first glace, remarkably simple, even banal. Take a closer look, however, and another aspect of the painting becomes apparent. Like the previous series, there is something vaguely disturbing about her cloud painting. Like actual clouds, they are in constant, irredeemable flux – threatening, at each moment, to fill the room with fog, snow and wind.
Can a contemporary artist paint clouds and blue sky without bordering on self-parody? Yes; as long as the image is haunted by its exact opposite, an impending darkness, a vague sense that the storm is on its way.