Ships/Backgrounds

Text by Maria Yufa

If one tries to imagine something typical of and inherent to the art of Norway, one most probably comes to think of the sea, fiords and ships. Vemund Thoe’s exhibition “Ships / Backgrounds” presents ships of all kinds: nuclear missile-carriers and fishermen’s boats, passenger craft and lifeboats, sailing ships and icebreakers. The fluid artistic space of Thoe’s works is fraught with the impressions or rather reminiscences of these boats. Devoid of typical seascape painters fondness of detailed technical description of vessels or sea catastrophes, Vemund Thoe faces the sea with the pure eye of a poet and a romanticist. His works are rather a reflection of the art of the past than a depiction of modern achievements of shipbuilding. The vague silhouettes of his boats floating in the free element of the sea and the sky remind of the history of arts, of art museums, of paintings by Turner and French impressionists.

Thoe grew up in the Lofoten Islands, among fishing boats and cargo ships. Boats for him are a metaphor of human life. Here is what the artist himself says: “Ships are used for transport,for leisure, for luxury, to save lives, and to take lives in order to protect lives. A ship despite its robust structure is susceptible to its unruly environment. So we are bold and robust, but at the same time fragile.”

Among Thoe’s works presented at the exhibition, one can find “A ship of fools”, a canvas showing the most fragile type of a boat. We see a sinking rubber boat full of Norway police officers, a rescue team which requires rescue itself.

Another important topic of Vemund Thoe is polar exploration. He has numerous pictures of Russian icebreakers, including “Ermak”, the first arctic steam icebreaker in the world. Realizing that ships are an inherent part of the Russian history, the Norwegian artist depicts the nuclear missile cruiser “Peter the Great”, as well as numerous civil ships of Russia. Most of these pictures date back to 2014—2015, when Thoe resided in Murmansk.

Vemund Thoe’s personal exhibition in Petrozavodsk media-center “Vyhod” is a part of a large-scale program of Russia-Norway cooperation “High North AiR network: AiR Barents 2016

February 2016, Petrozavodsk