Scenes from the Second World War

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Two exhibitions in Oslo lately, have focused on presenting Norwegian painters and their images of the World Wars. One was in Kunstnernes Hus (Artists’ House) named ‘Shadows of War’, and more recently the exhibition ‘Scenes from the Second World War’ by painter Vebjørn Sand at Aker Brygge.

This year, 70 years after the invasion of Norway, the established art centers have nothing to contribute with from the Second World War. Some explained it as “the non-figurative language of form did not invite to painted documentation of a world war many prefer to leave behind.”

SONY DSCNorwegian painter Vebjørn Sand’s exhibition at Aker Brygge seems to be an exception. The often abused Sand was now, for the first time, met by great critical acclaim when he exhibits scenes from the Second World War.

The American art critic and professor Donald Kuspit says, “Sand’s paintings are tours de force of history painting, and unique by reason of the unique events they deal with, as well unique in themselves. They stand on their own as masterpieces of painting. The subtle irony of his work breaks new ground in modern history painting.

I regard Sand as one of the leaders in what I have called the New Old Master movement, more broadly, in the New Figuration developing in American and European painting.”

In the Faith Middleton Show in National Public Radio, Faith Middleton stated, “It is one of the most remarkable series of paintings I have seen in a long time. These are gauzy patina meant to fool: there is an intelligence about them striking enough to start a novel length discussion. They are remarkable.”

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In Museum Beat Roberta Graff wrote: “Every so often we have a good fortune to find a book, a movie or an exhibition so powerful that it stays with us long after the page is turned and the final credits have been shown. These are happenings we look for in the arts, those rare experiences that make a difference in the way we look at life.

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‘Scenes from the Second World War’ paintings from 2010-2013 is like no other exhibition I have ever seen.”

Study to Stalingrad

The exhibition in Oslo showed six new compositions from World War II in addition to several other works.

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“There are no angels in this world…. We hear a lot about terrible crimes committed by Germans during World War II, but we hear very little about crimes against Germans,”  writes Giles MacDonogh in his book After the Reich. In his current show, Sand is dealing with the brutal history of the allied occupation, as well as three other themes; the Wannsee Conference, Janusz Korczak, and the Nuremberg trials.

The underlying theme of this series is the individual choice, and the individual responsibility. This was emphasized so powerfully through the Nuremberg trials and its chief prosecutor Robert Jackson. We are all responsible for what we do.

In one large composition, Ich bin Der Zweite, we see some of the major Nazi players in one of the most absurd and surprising moments of the trial.

Vebjørn Sand (born March 11, 1966 in Bærum is known for his paintings as well as his public arts projects, such as the Da Vinci Project, and the Kepler star monument (Norwegian Peace Star) at Oslo Airport, Gardermoen. Sand attended a Steiner (Waldorf) school.

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The above image is Breakfast from the series The Banality of Evil.

Senior officials of the Nazi regime met in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee, where the so-called Final Solution of the Jewish problem was determined. (The Banality of Evil , titled after Hannah Arendt’s study of Adolf Eichmann, the ruthlessly efficient SS specialist on the emigration and evacuation of Jews to extermination camps.)

All photos: Tor Kjolberg