Marius Amdam's "the great train robbery" (120 cm by 120 cm)
A dozen museums dot the city center in Trondheim, Norway. There’s the Museum of Decorative Arts, the Tramway Museum, and the Norwegian Resistance museum, which favors dioramas—plastic destroyers, cotton balls painted black. Downtown is a peninsula, tacked to the mainland with spidery bridges. Cranes swing out over the canals from the tops of boxy warehouses. The buildings, even the new ones, are all in the same style—wide and low painted clapboard boxes, in colors at once saturated and muted: poppy red, ocher, mustard, powder blue, and sage. It has a more vibrant art scene than you would expect in a city of about 175,000 souls: more galleries than you can shake a salted fish at. The current installation at Trondheim Kunstmuseum — “sacro e profano,” which in Italian means, of course, “sacred and profane” (in Norse it’d be hellig og profan) — comprises fifteen paintings and three sculptures by local artist Marius Amdam.
The first thing you notice as you begin to move about the installation is texture: Amdam’s not afraid of it. The second painting clockwise from the entrance, “stor våt hund i øyekroken” (“big wet dog in the corner of my eye,” according to Google Translate), depicts a skeleton dripping with gold jewelry. At the bottom of the panel is a crusted wad of black paint so thick it sticks out from the canvas like a shelf. The next panel, “just like honey,” is three-dimensional in a more subtle way. The canvas is three-quarters filled with a pale, feminine face, her expression vacant and almost moronic, like a still frame of Clara Bow or an anime princess. She wears an impressive, powdery-white, Marie Antoinette updo. Inky tears spill from her enormous eyes. At her throat, a chain of loops and whirls draws the eye downward and to the left. There’s something irresistible about the necklace—you can’t stop looking at it. From a distance it looks like old bronze; up close, you can see that the chain is made up of three-dimensional hoops of black, purple, orange, and mud-colored paint, washed with a thin coat of white that shows brightly against the turbulent colors beneath it, giving an overall look of burnished metal.