Years ago, when the tiny airplane I had boarded in Denmark made its way through the clouds to descend into a proportionately tiny airport perched atop a Norwegian mountain, what immediately struck me about the landscape below – and continued to thrill throughout that and every visit – was its extraordinary depth and scale. The eye could see for miles and miles, and in that sightline it found extraordinary nature whose shapes, details, and overall composition takes your breath away at every turn. And it’s not just the altitudes, although that probably helps seal the high you experience in those vast spaces.
When I made my way to the Red Room Gallery at Co|So, the Copley Society of Art on Newbury Street yesterday and discovered the work of Norwegian artist Pippip Ferner, what immediately struck me was her ability – even with her smallest works and even though her subject matter is not strictly speaking Norwegian or even landscape-focused – to capture that depth and scale native to her land.
At first glance I thought the show, titled “Sjø,” had something to do with fun (and it is!), because the Danish word for fun is “sjøv.” But the name is actually the Norwegian word for “sea,” which makes a bit more sense. Though I didn’t immediately realize it (many of the works appear abstract from a distance), the drawings and installations in this particular exhibition actually depict sea creatures and organisms, executed with a masterful blend of scientific detail and artistic skill. Always visually fascinating and surprising, never clinical. I felt I could look at them for ages, switching between following the intricate lines and absorbing their gestalt effect.
Ferner, a former graphic designer and illustrator, describes her current project as “a renewed look at small organisms in the water, invertebrates especially” – stunning, often colorful works that harmoniously combine her controlled line work with loose, free-flowing color – an ode to nature’s own blend of chaos and structure, I think.
The small (and, at $100 a piece, fairly affordable) “Urchin” installations on the Red Room Gallery walls capture that combination of controlled chaos in a beautiful, soothing form. The “Sjø” collection offers a good introduction to her total oeuvre of painting, drawing, sculpture and installation, but I’d encourage you to explore Ferner’s online portfolio for the full effect (unless of course you can make it to Norway). I wish I could have seen some of the larger, more abstract pieced in person, because they look stunning and enveloping on line and in print.
Intrigued with the artist and wanting to understand her approach and get to know her, even if from afar, I googled and found this great video, In Studio With Pippip Ferner. In addition to introducing this very open, genuine, pensive and funny individual, it also offers a glimpse into her unique creative process – and really makes you want to pick up a brush, paint and canvas and let loose the creative spirit within. With her confidence and trust in her creative vision, she makes it look so easy. Though we know it isn’t. But I guess that’s the proof of any true talent.
Co|So is located at 158 Newbury Street, Boston, MA 02116 and is open Tuesday – Saturday 11-6, Sunday 12-5, and Monday by appointment. Phone: (617) 536-5049