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GIBCA • Olav Christopher Jenssen
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Olav Christopher Jenssen

Lingaphone (2011)

Olav Christopher Jenssen in conversation with Gertrud Sanqvist, professor at the Malmö Art Academy and co-curator of Pandemonium – Art in a Time of Creativity Fever. 

Gertrud Sandqvist Tell me how Lingaphone came about!

Olav Christopher Jenssen It’s a methodological analysis, above all. The first Lingaphone originated in a public work planned for a spatially challenging setting in the city of Lund in 2008. I didn’t have a ready-made sculptural vocabulary at the time, so I started with the simplest word. My method consisted of folding a paper twice and cutting it. The result was a shape with an inner unity. In that way, I created a flexible system in Lingaphone that could be used in any context whatsoever. It can be produced in any size, since the unit is complete in itself. It’s just the proportions that change, in relation to the setting and the scale of the site.

This sculptural unit became even more defined when I tried placing a few Lingaphones in a natural environment. The sculptures are white, in memory of the sheet of paper, and that gives them their distinct character. They become entirely autonomous in relation to their surroundings – we forget how little in our environment that is actually white. The point is that they remain alien to their surroundings.

GS Isn’t Lingaphone a disc?

OCJ Yes, I stuck with the paper illusion. Their effect is strongly frontal, and they are not thicker than they need to be to support their own weight. Since the expression is so frontal, they don’t have to be thicker than a couple of centimetres. This frontal volume makes them instantly recognisable.

GS You mean they influence the environment rather than being influenced by it?

OCJ Yes, the vocabulary isn’t elaborate. It is easy to trace it back to other states. This simplification is also a kind of smallest common denominator with other sculptures. A kind of modesty on my part. The challenge lies in finding something that is immediately identifiable, and entirely autonomous in this context.

GS These shapes also turn up in some of your paintings. I am thinking especially of paintings in the series The Protagonist.

OCJ Yes, they are latent in several situations. And other images were spawned by the sculpture. That’s how I work. I try to find a clue in the logic of a chronology. It’s not something I speculate about, I just discover it and acknowledge its importance in hindsight.

GS Another series of sculptures is called Thinking Bells. How did you create them?

OCJ A simple process, in which I rolled balls of ceramic clay and stacked them on each other. The sculptures created themselves, through their own weight, and the varying wetness of the clay. So they’re the result of their own experience.

That, in turn, gave rise to a series of small sculptures that work as a form of drawings.

GS Lingaphone, Thinking Bells. You have a special relationship to language? 

OCJ To me, words are more or less onomatopoeic. It’s the phonetics, how the words sound, that is crucial to me. The spoken word, the familiar in the spoken, is moving and creates closeness. It’s the simplest process in the world, really. And that’s what makes it so astounding.

Biography Born 1954 in Norway, lives and works in Germany. Olav Christopher Jenssen is best known as a painter. Recently he has also worked with sculture. The sculpture Lingaphone will remain after the end of the exhibition as a permanent public art piece. Solo exhibitions include: 2009 Panorama, Kunsthallen Brandts, Odense, 2009; Zeitweise, Haus am Waldsee, Berlin, 2008; Time Paintings, Kunstmuseum Bonn, Bonn, 2003.

Photo: Hendrik Zeitler