Halvor Rønning: I would button up my t-shirt I could
I Would Button up My T-shirt if I Could consists of 142 collages, cutouts, paintings and drawing. The body of work is accompanied by commissioned essays by the German art critic Hanna Magauer and the Norwegian curator and art historian Steinar Sekkingstad. There are English translations in addition to a version in the respective mother tongue of the authors.
Collected in this artist’s book are a selection of collages that Halvor Rønning produced between 2012 and 2017. At the base of these collages are clippings from printed media, from gossip magazines to architecture journals, or advertisements from Fendi to Versace, Rolex watches and diamond bracelets, crossword puzzles and tribal tattoos. Combined with abstract gestural painting and figurative, caricaturesque line drawings, one could see it as a collision of tastes, a deliberate confrontation of contradictory aesthetic codes.
Strategies of ironic refraction certainly abound. They are emphasized by the placement of the collages on facing double-page spreads. A reddish-purple, freestyle brush-stroked page of the gossip magazine “Cuore” showing a topless Leonardo DiCaprio flanked by hashtags claiming supposed plus-size trends, is set against the heading “Grand Gestures,” a feature on a Houston collector couple; or a pinkish-brown composition with tire tracks and flame tattoos opposite the heading “A Fine Balance” from an architecture magazine. The juxtaposed pages engage with one another and establish a relationship via the recurring colors and formats. Types and figures also recur: stars and B-grade celebrities, comical sketches of androgynous dandies, a model styled as a Ken dress-up doll in tight underpants, women with bikini “nip slips” and plumped-up lips. The motifs are so in-your-face and corporeally present that there is no escaping them.
At times painting itself gets the upper hand, and the ironic messages give way to formal repetition. At other times delicate, almost elegant drawings take the paparazzi pics as motifs and pull the carpet out from under our voyeuristic gaze on unglamorous poses. While flipping through the pages, formalism and humorous commentary do not grant us any well-defined position from which to desire or ironize any superiority over the material. It’s a shaky ground of repulsion and attraction, entangling both the spectator and the artist.
I Would Button up My T-shirt if I Could
Design: Alexander Nussbaumer with Benjamin Zivota at FONDAZIONE Europa