Press photo: Munch Museum
Press photo: Munch Museum

Munch/​Cronqvist/​Bjørlo: Keep it in the family

Cronqvist and Bjørlo’s investigation into family life is a brutal and grotesque affair that reduces Munch’s pictures to blasé birthday cards.

Contemporary artists Lena Cronqvist and Per Inge Bjørlo had the chance to pick out whichever Edvard Munch paintings most inspired them for the exhibition «Head By Head – Cronqvist/Bjørlo/Munch». It wasn’t easy.

Bjørlo is one of Norway’s most important living artists, and is internationally known for his pictures and installations. In this exhibition he investigates his relationship to his mother. The result is hard, using metal and nails. The mother’s dead is portrayed with a morbid touch, the eyes and mouth burned away.

The contrast with Munch’s pieces is stark. The modest pencil sketches hang alongside Bjørlo’s almost aggressive art. Bjørlo comes across like he was inspired by Munch, and then suddenly wanted to kill him.

Swedish artist Lena Cronqvist is a pioneer in using one’s own experiences in art. The pieces are raw, and explicit details pop out at you. We see little girls torturing doll versions of their parents, and a mother screaming into the mouth of her newborn baby. She depicts a bestial history, but the effect is like a house burning to the ground: you can’t look away.

Bjørlo and Cronqvist’s works are shown individually, alongside Much, and all three artists together. There is little Munch, and a lot of the other two. Bjørlo and Cronqvist produce sparks of glorious disharmony when their unfortunate experiences are shown together, but Munch’s work ends up drowning.

His beautiful piece «Head By Head» shows a woman leaning her face in close to a frightened lover. That tenderness is completely absent from Bjørlo and Cronqvist. If you manage to spot Munch in all this misery, you can heave a sigh of relief. If not, you won’t find him until you’re in the giftshop.