Skotnes saddles up for Europe Europe

23 February 2004

Professor Pippa Skotnes has seen her art grace galleries around the globe, but an upcoming show in Norway has some fringe attractions - not only will it mark her debut in the country, but it will also accord her the opportunity to reconnect with some of her European ancestry.

Over the past couple of weeks, Skotnes, director of the Michaelis School of Fine Art, and flustered removal company packers have been thrashing out how best to package and prep the many pieces that comprise her Lamb of God collection - in particular the bulky but delicate skeletal remains of three horses - for a long haul to Norway and Lithuania. The work will be on show in these two countries for the next year, the first time that Skotnes will exhibit there.

The exhibition is made up of a collection of skeletons (the three horses and a number of other smaller bovids and mammals) on which have been inscribed various texts, embellished with vellum, gold and silver. It also includes sets of images and cases of objects, along with textual inclusions and banners, video and print publications.

The texts on the horses are "books" written by hand in pigment-based ink. Two are compiled by the artist, while the third is a composite of 19th century texts assembled from /Xam narrators by Lucy Lloyd, written in the now extinct /Xam language.

The work's theme is the relationship between sacrifice and redemption (twin obsessions at the heart of Judeo-Christian tradition, according to the artist) and sets these in the context of both colonial acts of "sacrifice" - the decimation of hunter-gatherer populations in southern Africa, and a broader context of major multinational wars, in particular World War 1.

The upcoming European journey is significant as it is the first time that Lamb of God will leave Skotnes' studio-cum-gallery at Michaelis.

The artist has been invited by the Norwegian Cultural Fund and its Ministry of Foreign Affairs to exhibit the work in both Norway and Lithuania. It's first stopover will be Norway's Stiftelsen3.14, aka the Hordaland International Art Gallery, where it will go on display from April 2 to May 26.

From there, it will be carted across land and sea to the National Museum of Lithuania, before returning to Norway, more specifically to the national museum in Oslo. Which means Lamb of God will be in and out of boxes aplenty over the next few months. "It's been a logistical nightmare," says Skotnes of the efforts to brace the work for its passage.

Although she has exhibited in many countries, the Norwegian government show has a unique appeal, says Skotnes. It is, after all, the land where her ancestors lived as trappers and fishermen. While in the country for the opening at the Stiftelsen3.14 museum, she'll catch up on her Norwegian legacy when she visits the museum in Tromso, where her great uncle's hut is preserved. It is here that he died in 1908 along with his catch of 22 polar bears, 23 blue foxes, 36 reindeer, bearded seals and 15 geese.

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