After completing her training as a sculptor in 1949, Aase Texmon Rygh became one of the pioneers of abstract sculpture in Norway. But she spent many years waging a quiet struggle to gain a hearing for the sculptural forms that had long been prevalent in Europe. For years she could adorn herself with the title “Norway’s most rejected sculptor”. She was almost considered a leper in an otherwise healthy and naturalistic and reactionary artist environment.
Aase Texmon Rygh (1925 – 2019) has dedicated her career to developing an abstract idiom, exploring in particular the properties of the Möbius strip and translating them to sculpture. Her series of Möbius sculptures is based on a geometric phenomenon discovered by the nineteenth-century German mathematician August Ferdinand Möbius: in essence, a strip is held firm at one end and rotated once around itself, before the two ends of the strip are joined together, thus creating an infinity loop.
She was educated at the Norwegian National Academy of Art in 1944 – 46 and at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen in 1948 – 49. Central to the artist’s oeuvre is an exploration of what Texmon Rygh calls ‘form principles’, and the balance between formal expression and the properties of the material.
In his book about Aase Texmon Rygh, art history professor Øivind Storm Bjerknes writes that “despite Texmon Rygh being the pioneer among Norwegian sculptors when it came to abstraction, Arnold Haukeland was given much of the credit for the breakthrough.”
Texmon Rygh created her sculptures in bronze as well as in stone. She has made not only single Möbius strips, but also double and triple ones, some lying and some standing. She refined the form by rotating the sculpture and adding additional loops. These sculptural variations are complex, with extra dimensions of spatiality.
Her explorations began early on; over the early years, her style moved rapidly towards further simplification and abstraction, where variations of geometric and symbolically charged forms – like the yin and yang shape, and especially the Möbius strip – recur in numerous varieties. For Texmon Rygh, these forms hold interest as expressions of cosmic and mathematical principles, and as such the deep forces of nature and man.
A decade and a half was to pass from her debut in 1950 until she became a member of the Norwegian Sculptors’ Association, which was completely dominated by naturalistic sculptors, and thus received public decorating assignments. If the criticism was positive, her application for membership in the Young Artists’ Society (Unge kunstneres samfund) was rejected and her exhibition applications were often rejected. Her short stay at the Academy of Fine Arts under Professor Per Palle Storm’s catheter, threatened to take away from her both self-confidence and enthusiasm.
Until her death, Texmon Rygh stayed active as an artist and in recent years her work received increasing national and international recognition. In 2001 she was appointed a Knight, First Class of the Order of St. Olav, and in 2012 she was represented at the Documenta exhibition of international contemporary art in Kassel, Germany. In 2016 she was included in Skulptur i Pilane, Sweden, and in October 2016 the Norwegian National Museum of Art opened the traveling solo exhibition Evighetens form (The Form of Eternity).
Norway’s Most Rejected Sculptor, written by Tor Kjolberg
Feature image (on top): Aase Texmon Rygh and her sculpture of eternity. Photo: National Museum, Oslo