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In the mid-nineteenth century, European art and literature moved away from the idealistic drama of Romanticism, and Realism emerged: the attempt to accurately and naturalistically depict everyday life. Christian Krohg (1852-1925) was a Realist painter and writer from Norway. He was preoccupied with depicting the the struggle for existence among the poor, something that people didn't necessarily want to be confronted with: his 1886 novel Albertine, which was about a poor girl who becomes a prostitute, caused great controversy because of it subject. This painting you see here is Albertine i politilægens venteværelse (Albertine in the police doctor's waiting room), depicting a scene from the novel Albertine. It hangs in the National Gallery in Oslo. It shows the prostitutes queing up to be checked by the police doctor for venereal disease. Krohg had great feeling and sympathy for the plight of these uneducated and exploited women, and his art forces...

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The next stop on this mini-tour of the history of Norwegian art is painter and illustrator Erik Werenskiold (1855-1938). As a painter he was influenced by French naturalists, depicting farming communities in their natural environment, and he was also a portrait painter, best known for portaits of writers such as Bjørnson and Ibsen. Although he studied abroad, he returned to Norway in 1883 and was able to survive as an artist in his homeland. He is best remembered in Norway as an illustrator of books of Norwegian fairy tales. He drew fantasy creatures like trolls in the same naturalistic manner as he drew human characters; he had a knack of making fairy tales a little bit more believable. Let's take a look at one of his more serious paintings, The Peasant Burial, hanging in the National Gallery in Oslo. I could not find a reproduction of it online (at least...

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This painting, Brudeferden i Hardanger (the bridal voyage in the Hardanger fjord), hangs in the National Gallery in Oslo, and is one of the best known paintings from the National Romantic period of Norwegian art. It is often re-enacted with live actors; in fact some people get married that way! It was painted by Adolph Tidemand (1814-1876) and Hans Gude (1825-1903). Tidemand painted the landscape, and Gude the people. It was painted for the "tableau" held at Christiania Theatre in 1848 (Oslo was called Christiania at the time), an event which also featured Norwegian violin legend Ole Bull, and the poet Andreas Munch. Like most Norwegian artists of their generation, Tidemand and Gude were based in Germany, but their presence in Norway at the time is explained by the 1848 revolutions in Europe. Both painters were committed to painting the Norwegian landscape, and the life of the Norwegian people, but...

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Johan Christian Dahl (1788-1857) is the 'father' of Norwegian painting. He was the first Norwegian artist to gain international standing in his lifetime. He moved to Dresden in Germany in the 1820s. There he became a professor of art, and an important figure in the Romantic movement. He even lived in the same house as Caspar David Friedrich, the most significant painter in German romantic painting. Landscape painting before Romanticism was not held in high regard. The Romantics brought it to a new level. They dispensed with the unemotional, distant feeling of neoclassicism, and began to show the exciting drama of nature. This was influenced by philosophers who distinguished the 'beautiful' from the 'sublime'. Nature was sublime: a great power to gaze in awe upon. Edmund Burke, in A Philosophical Enquiry into Our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful (1757) defined the sublime as something that gives us delight...

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I'm inside this building, the tallest wooden house in Norway, as I type this blog entry. I'm in Trondheim to play a konsert and I'm staying in the old "anarchist squat" area of the city, literally on the "wrong" side of the train tracks. Artist types have developed this little spot into a nice little wooden community, and I'm to perform in their bar this evening. Opposite me is a massive concrete structure where German U-Boats docked during the war. The Norwegians were going to blow it up, but then realized the required amount of dynamite would actually raze Trondheim, so they kept it. In fact, they are adding to it; there's scaffolding on it now. These are the outskirts of Trondheim, but really the city is quite small and the town centre is a short walk. I get the feeling I am in Galway or somewhere like that. But...

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Things are progressing. In the building where I live, an old shop unit is being turned into our very own bar. A consortium of current and former residents are behind this venture, most of them artists, and its purpose is to be an artist-owned and artist-run space for cultural events (and some alcohol consumption). The interior walls will be white, and drink will be served through a hatch, two features that allow for excellent video projection. I am told that there is a job for me there too, so in a couple of months' time, I should be living and working in one place, a cosy world. We gathered this morning with tools to knock down an unwanted wall (see the dust mask in the picture? I was wearing one of these too, all day). This kind of shared, collective work for a common purpose (especially if unpaid) is known...

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There is no major exposition in this week's entry. I've been in seclusion, practising for the upcoming live music performances I'll be doing in Oslo and Trondheim. I hired out some practise space in the (surely world-famous?) Brugata collective. I am using the room normally occupied by ambient/noise musician Kai Mikalsen. At night, the room is also being used as sleeping quarters for the girls from the Japanese band Afrirampo, who are touring Norway at the moment. There's not much else to report about this scenario. I spend my time playing songs. But there is one interesting thing I discovered. There are shelves of CDs, my eye picked out the box set of the music of Deathprod, and let me quote from the accompanying booklet: "Physicists tell us that the human ear can detect frequencies between 20 and 20,000 vibrations per second. The lower the frequency, the deeper the sounds...

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("Work"). I have been unemployed long enough to realize I don't really want a proper job and money and all that, like the rest of the hamster people on the universal treadmill. Of course, the only way out - at least for now - is to sell my body. So that's what I'm doing. In fact, I'm going one better, by selling my personality as well. To advertisers. And movie moguls. Job number one: flirter. I registered with a casting agency, and they phoned me up about a week later, asking me to audtion for an advert for Statoil that, according to my contract, will be broadcast on TV, cinemas and on the internet. The audition went well and I was picked for the part. I didn't have to speak any Norwegian, as the advert is all visual, a bit like a silent movie. I presume there'll be music playing...

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I have just moved apartment in Oslo. I am now two tram stops north, in an area called Grünerløkka, sharing with two people. There is also an African Grey parrot, who will be receiving lessons in Irish from me. The rent is much cheaper for me here, which is helpful, as is the unconventional work I have obtained (details in next week's entry). This area of the city was established about a century ago, by a family of German property owners called Grüner. The architecture is therefore German, and is supposed to be representative of what Berlin looked like before it was flattened in the war. German architecture students tend to come here on field trips. Where I live, three interconnected buildings open onto a private yard. Good friends of mine live here, including Bjarne, who says it is perfect material for a sitcom, with people strolling into each others'...

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The story goes that one evening in 1998 some Norwegian musicians were listening to the 1970s German group Neu! and immediately decided to form a new band. This became Salvatore, and they explored Neu!'s greatest invention, the "motorik" or "endlose gerade" drum beat, a 4/4 beat with no fills continuing in a trance-like fashion for an incredibly long time. But this was only the beginning. While their search for euphoric music may have begun with Neu!, they went on to use other kinds of grooves that also have a great sense of affirmation. Salvatore play instrumental rock music, but this is something quite distinct from the "post-rock" scene. Post-rock tends to be musically complicated, mathematical and almost a kind of jazz. Salvatore use simplicity and repetition with an optimistic, emotional feel. It's an underground band, but I detect none of the usual urban angst in this music. Instead there is...