Review of Katharina Grosse at Gagosian gallery by Otthar of Nidaros

I was wandering along the curiously straight streets of Ny Jorvik until my feet grew weary and I stopped by the house of one Gagosian, where, as it seems to be the custom in this peculiar city, pieces of painted sails are displayed prominently for a tired traveler to rest his eyes upon. These particular pieces were painted on by a painter named Katharina Grosse, and here is what I saw on them. The paintings I saw first reminded me of many layered curtains, hung about as if they were meant to conceal some opening, or hide something, and so masterfully they were drawn that I had to stay my hand from reaching out and trying to push the curtains aside.

Long have I stood before them, musing and wondering, what is there, behind those tapestries? A pile of treasure? A comely woman? A lavish feast? Or maybe some mysterious door, a magical portal that would lead me back to my beloved long ship, back to my land? Lost in those sad thoughts, I stepped into the next room and staggered. The colors, oh, sweet Frygg, the colors! Slashes of green and red, scarlet blood on emerald grass, in my face, together with something else, shreds of clothing perhaps, chips of paint from splintered shields, bright painted shields clashing together in a horrible music of a shield wall. I am down, my face pressed against that bloodied grass, that field, I cannot see anything but the overwhelming, piercing colors, their chaotic mix shrieking wildly like berserkers in battle rage! Forgive me, it was not manly of me. Some of the paintings reminded me of the time I fought with Olaf of Lochlann against the Irish. I have fallen down and could not get up for what seemed like hours. I was young then, it was one of my first battles. I remember it still, at times I dream of it. Seeing some of these paintings made me dream of it in the middle of the day. There is no place quite like the battlefield to feel the brightness of life and the intensity of death, for the two are twined together in a dance of swords. There is nothing as jarring and as disturbing as the field of battle.

Installation view – Photo by Rob McKeever

I had to flee that room and find solace in a most pleasant painting, a whimsical depiction of a man with the head of a horse. I heard stories of creatures who looked like horses with torsos of men, but never before have I seen the opposite. I have to admit that upon seeing it I clapped my hands in childlike wonder. Katharina Grosse is a painter who mystified, disturbed and delighted me at the same time. It is not an easy feat. And it looks like she has been in a middle of a battle, has fallen down and survived, which is an even harder thing to pull off. When my travels bring me home, i shall make sure to send her a long dagger with a whale-hross tooth for a hilt.

Otthar’ bio:
Otthar of Nidaros (also known as Ohthere and Ottar fra Halogaland) is a IX century Viking explorer and adventurer. He has traveled far and wide over the world, fought in many battles and has seen many remarkable things, both wondrous and terrible.

Born in Norway in 841, he is self-educated. He has been favorably received at the court of Alfred the Great of Wessex and his work has been extensively cited in Historiarum Adversum Paganos Libri Septim by Paulus Orosius.

Otthar currently resides in New York City where he is trying his hand at reviewing art.

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