Sannergata 25, 0557 Oslo, Norway
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13 In Memoriam: Lillebeth Foss (1930—2017)

12 Sigmund Skard: Plommer i egget

11 Nora Joung: Operette Morali

10 Exhibition A 025: Jakob Weidemann

09 Exhibition Y 003: Multiples

08 Exhibition Y 009: International Photography & Conceptual Art

07 Calle Segelberg: Logo till 30-åriga kriget

Across the street from Diorama is a thai massage parlour. It was suggested that Calle and I should have our meeting there. The staff at Thai SPA & Aroma Ltd had first been reluctant when we asked them to set up two massage benches in the same room. Apparantly their service menu didn’t cater to couples. But they had complied in the end, likely concluding that it could prove a fiscally fertile strategy to bend their services to the requests of their neighbours.

Echoing massage benches, Calle Segelberg’s large scale paintings for his exhibition at Diorama carry the frontal imprints of bodies. Not real bodies. Their narrow shoulders, spherical heads and thick arms and legs without joints, make ‘logo-bodies’ seem a more apt description. If they had faces they’d be smiling to sell you something. Their symmetrical poses too, bring to mind the kind of visuals that are made by graphic designers to communicate an organsiation or firm’s underlying ethos. Thai SPA & Aroma Ltd’s sign display no such stylized figure. In the usual vein of small businesses with little to no money to float towards professional designers, they have settled for a more indistinct and homemade visual profile: an ornate purple font and a series of close-ups of elated women, signalling an atmosphere of relaxation, cleanliness and subtle eroticism.

Less in need of wearing the nature of their business on their sleeve, Diorama has opted to keep the window sign left behind by the former proprietor: a laundry service. Large white vinyl lettering spell out services no longer rendered. Unlike Diorama’s spurious window decorum, Calle’s paintings, spread over a newly erected wall on the obverse side of Diorama’s facade, do aspire to the status of a logo, at least according to the title of his exhibition, Logo til 30-åriga kriget (logo for the Thirty Years War). Contrasting the logo-ish appearance of his figures, his bland tempera doused canvases, however, evince little of the iconographic distinctiveness we associate with commercial visuals. Instead of coming forward to greet us, his figures fall back and are eaten through with background noise. The edge-to-edge grid of meticulously applied dots over which his featureless bodies hover — while Calle tells me this his back is being kneaded by lithe hands — were initially conceived as a means to simply fill the canvas. The people came later.

How to make a logo for a war — to design a figure that lends a sense of communicability to the unfathomable — is a question that echoes another question perhaps more indigenous to painting: How to make your canvas touch the world, i.e. to not only insist on being of the world as a simple materialist fact, but actually try to give shape to our experience of it. Citing Theodore Géricault’s extensive research for his seminal painting Le Radeau de la Méduse (1819), where the artist had conducted interviews with the survivors of the event that the painting was inspired by, as well as visiting morgues and hospitals to study the texture and colour of the flesh of the dying and dead, as an inspiration, Calle gave the impression that he felt sympathetic towards the painter as an agent of representation.

A need to conduct some (any?) form of research had prompted Calle to, during a longer stay in Leipzig in 2015, seek out the site where the famed battle of Breitenfeld (a turning point in the Thirty Years War) had taken place. Calle had hoped that he could forge some kind of connection to what had transpired there, to conjure a representative figure from the landscape. But standing on that indistinct field of grass next to a heavily trafficked stretch of freeway, more present to him than any historical events, or even nature, was the futility of his search for a handle on his surroundings. Fittingly, the sketches he made as he hoofed around on this field outside Leipzig, broached no connection whatsoever to either place or history, but were instead send-ups of the visual idiom of the logo: vapid forward-facing human bodies freed of belonging.

It was like with Thai SPA & Aroma Ltd’s burning of incense during our half hour massage; it registered more as hokum than as a component endemic to the otherwise professional treatment. So too had Calle’s research trip to Breitenfeld amounted to little more than a theatrical side show, a performance of ineptitude, an exotic gesture.

—Calle Segelberg: Logo till 30-åriga kriget, 16 September — 30 October, 2016, Diorama, Sannergata 25 —0557 Oslo

06 Sanna Helena Berger: The edge must be scalloped

05 Lise Soskolne: Bethenny

04 Nils Rundgren: The Underbidder

03 Sigmund Skard: Plommer i egget

02 Axel Ekwall: Big Sur

01 Andreas Slominski: A Hunt for Optimism