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Andreas Siegfried - a narrative on Kjetil Berge

23rd Jan 2018

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Andreas Siegfried is one of London’s most sought-after art advisors. As well as being the UK VIP ambassador for Art Basel, he has also founded Siegfried Contemporary, a London-based art consultancy and advisory service for private and corporate clients. Specialising in modern and contemporary art, particularly from Europe and North America, he spends time maintaining close relationships with galleries, foundations, artists and auction houses. As part of the service, he also analyses trends and up-and-coming artists to advise clients wishing to create and develop a collection. Siegfried Contemporary launched its private showroom in spring 2012, aiming to showcase modern and contemporary art in a domestic context.

Here, he gives us a professional insight into the latest exhibition at his gallery: a collection of physical and more conceptual pieces from Swedish artist, Kjetil Berge.

"In winter when confronted with this cold, unstable weather we tend to gravitate towards staying inside and keeping warm near a cosy fire or just letting our bodies relax. Times like these often prompt moments of deep reflection. Moments for us to think about our childhood and times past, and noticing with a sharpened sense of nostalgia and hindsight, how much the world has changed on so many levels. We dwell on many changes: those of climate, political shifts, and the evolution of communication – even small irregularities in our daily routine like confrontation with an unfamiliar face. As humans, we were built to think and contemplate, but sometimes it’s nice for our deep thoughts to be met by something akin to answers. In response to these winter-fuelled ruminations, and such important topics and questions that are permanently in our minds, I recently invited Norwegian artist, Kjetil Berge to create an exhibition – The Weather in Russia is Fine – in my gallery space that would investigate the nature of these topics.

Berge’s work is about translating human perception, interaction and communication into artistic form. He has this rare talent for creating an atmosphere of warmth and understanding in each of his endeavours, which I believe to be a pre-requisite in displaying any comprehension of art or actually of life in general. His immense curiosity for life and material clearly filters into his work and his desire to reveal without ever reaching revelation keeps his work open and alive for the spectator to come to their own conclusion. In practice, Berge’s work predominantly takes the form of filmed performative pieces – installations that contain sculpture, drawing and photography. He uses an exploratory approach to making art that informs each project as it develops. By fostering opportunities for collaboration on different levels he often involves contributors in the planning, conception and implementation of his work.

The materials that Berge chooses to work with are very much based on the ordinary. Exemplified in his London showcase, simple concrete sculptures have been cast from cheap plastic containers – embedded with mundane objects like a garden hose or a water glass. In another medium, security tape is used to create wonderful spontaneous collages. His interest in brutalist architecture combines with a true love for simple everyday items without making any socio-political comment, bringing them into play with his own desires rather than using them to represent ideas.

His whole exhibition in London The Weather in Russia is Fine took its title from a passage of Berge’s film Breaking the Ice which actually formed the backbone of the exhibition. The film documents a performative interaction, whereby the artist, travelling in an ice cream van on a 4,000km journey from England to Russia, hands out free ice cream in exchange for a conversation about the weather. In this work Berge explores how we govern and understand the world through contemporary dialogue. It plays with the position of the artist as the vehicle for conveying a message of significance and he is interested in the role of conviction and incentive as a key element in what people chose to absorb and ignore both visually and verbally.

What is so striking about Berge’s film is how delighted people are to realise that all they need to provide in return for ice cream is essentially their company. The imposed discussion about the weather, though allusive to pressing ecological issues, is not really about the weather, but an excuse for communication, for human interaction and warmth. The themes he has addressed in the film are then taken further in the realisation of photographic collages, a large windmill-like performative sculpture well as some incredibly simple but beautiful cast cement sculptures. The collages and drawings can aesthetically be approached and enjoyed at face value. Many recall the automatic drawing of Max Ernst or André Masson, mid-century surrealists who created flowing, biomorphic patterns without initial planning.

Although well-established in the commercial galleries and the young, hip scene in Oslo, Berge is relatively unknown on the London art scene. This solo exhibition was a significant show; his first opportunity to display a large body of works on paper. Showing alongside two films (Breaking the Ice and The Ice Cream Eaters), the manifold pastiche of conceptual and tangible art mediums draws a parallel and discourse not previously investigated in the works of this artistic polymath."

Siegfried Contemporary: