The Oregon Coast Council for the Arts presents the exhibition “Drawing in the Northern Light,” featuring photographs and poems by Joseph Ohmann-Krause, from November 1 to December 28 in the Upstairs Gallery at the Newport Visual Arts Center. “Drawing in the Northern Light” is traveling from The Little Gallery at Oregon State University (Helen Wilhelm, Curator), where it was on exhibit from May – September, 2019. An opening reception for “Drawing in the Northern Light” will be held on Saturday, December 7, 2-5pm, with an artist talk at 3:30pm.
According to the exhibit catalog, the images and poems in “Drawing in the Northern Light” are inspired by Vilhelm Hammershoi (1864-1916), a Danish painter who painted in the northern light. Hammershoi was a Symbolist painter. Symbolism followed, and was a partly a reaction to Realism. In Symbolist paintings, objects are reduced to their simple geometrics; the details, and especially the fine details, are not rendered, to overburden and tire the viewer.
“Northern light. A softer, perhaps lower-angle light, as one finds in the far north. A gentler lighting in which images are not pressed on the viewer, with their sharp edges, too-strong contrasts, and too firm insistence,” writes exhibit curator Helen Wilhelm. “The viewer is invited into the scene of relaxed calm, to wander about, wondering at this never before seen space.”
Joseph Ohmann-Krause, professor of French at Oregon State University, first came upon the work of Vilhelm Hammershoi in 2015 through a catalog of the artist’s paintings. That very same afternoon he wrote the poems that appear in the exhibit, as “a personal wording of Hammershoi’s quiet interior scenes.” The photographs came later, but with the same reference point to Hammershoi’s work.
“The term northern light is used here less in geographic or cartographic terms, and more as an aesthetic or visual compass needle,” writes Ohmann-Krause. “The north is less a reference to the polar star than it is to a protection against the direct sun, le plein sud in French, a warm attractive light much favored by Matisse or D.H. Lawrence, or several generations of painters and writers who, in the early 20th century, were drawn southward to the Mediterranean, to colonial Africa or to Mexico in search of more radiance. The northern mists of romantic nationalism had long hidden the industrial squalor that it contained.”
“Drawing in the Northern Light” includes 10 photographs, poems and related text. Images capture landscapes in Newport, Pistol River, Brookings, Florence, the Finley National Wildlife Refuge, and South Corvallis, Oregon, as well as Carmel, California.
Joseph Ohmann-Krause served for 12 years as Chair of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures at Oregon State University. He is the co-editor of the journal Pacific: Poetry International. He was a fellow for the Fondation Saint-John Perse in Aix-en-Providence in southern France and is the author of nine collections of poetry in French. He is presently co-editing a collection of essays on post-colonial North African women artists.
Helen Wilhelm is the Director of The Little Gallery at Oregon State University’s Department of World Languages and Cultures. She studied music and dance at the Kansas City Conservatory of Music and is currently the President of the Corvallis Youth Symphony Foundation.
The Upstairs Gallery is open Tuesday-Saturday, noon to 4pm.