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Carl-Viggo Hølmebakk, Crematory and Administration Building, 2010-2011.
(In collaboration with Rickard Riesenfeld and Anders Holmer).

Kunsthall Oslo and The Drawing Association are pleased to welcome you to the Drawing Biennial 2014, which opens in seven different venues around central Oslo on Friday 10th October and runs until 23rd November.

This year’s Biennial is a curatorial collaboration between Kunsthall Oslo and the artist Terje Nicolaisen, representing the board of The Norwegian Drawing Association. The Drawing Association was founded in 1916, so the next Drawing Biennial will mark a centenary celebration. This year, in the almost-centenary, we are taking a different approach to the question of history. The practice of drawing already contains a double sense of time. It is undoubtedly ancient – the earliest known drawings predate Homo sapiens – but remains an immediate, ephemeral part of everyday life.

The Drawing Association’s 98-year existence also spans a significant part of the period of the development of modern and contemporary art; the existence of the Drawing Biennial itself as a medium-specific project owes as much to the Norwegian art world of 1916 as it does to the 21st century. With the theme of the biennial, ‘drawing after Modernism, or how the future shapes the past’, we hope to talk both about the deep and far-reaching ideas that have extended the possibilities open to art over this last century, and the way that the flux of modern culture also implies a continual reworking of history.

The key work of the Biennial is Robert Rauschenberg’s Erased de Kooning Drawing, and the exhibition can be seen as a constellation around it. We do not suggest that this work changed the course of art – it was not exhibited until many years after it was made, and was predated by many more radical anti-art gestures.

The significance of the Erased de Kooning Drawing for this exhibition is rather in its synthesis of ideas, its symbolic value and its generative power. We invoke it here as a pivot rather than a foundation, a nexus of possibilities for thinking about the medium of drawing in art, both for the future and the past. The earliest works in the Biennial exhibition are 1839 lithographs of the aurora borealis made from 1838–39 drawings by Louis Bevalet. These are some of the earliest self-consciously scientific images of the aurora, but almost as soon as they were made they had become something else. Louis Daguerre went public with his invention of Daguerreotype photography in 1839, and Bevalet’s beautifully flawed attempt to capture the fluctuations of the aurora in pencil on paper can now be understood as one of the last pictures of the pre-photographic world.

The newest work is Richard Wright’s solo exhibition at QB Gallery, a new-commissioned wall drawing that will be erased once the exhibition is over. Though he uses traditional techniques and still sees himself as a painter, Wright abandoned painting on canvas with the aim of responding directly to the exhibition situation, and also in order to avoid the artwork becoming directly entangled with its commodity status. The knowledge that the work will disappear is already part of its meaning: a withdrawal from the future market, and a consequently intensified period of existence. These themes – questions of time, meaning and value – run through the whole exhibition, but they are realised in very different ways.

In addition to Rauschenberg and Wright, the Danish group A Kassen also present a solo show, an unauthorised copy of the entire Carnegie Art Award 2014, over 150 paintings by 17 artists. A group exhibition of drawing and painting at Kunsthall Oslo takes its starting point from John Cage’s 1953 response to Rauschenberg’s work – “I have come to the conclusion that there is nothing in these paintings that could not be changed” – while the exhibition The Action of Shadows at Tegnerforbundet offers a symbolist response to the ritual aspects of the Erased De Kooning Drawing.