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The materials that make up the world around us carry stories with them. Stories of the meeting between function and aesthetics, time and forces, needs and properties. At times, these stories are so ingrained in us that we take them for granted and don't question the associations and narratives they give us. Such as white, shining surfaces being a symbol of cleanliness, or the swan being a symbol of grace, elegance and light. It's not easy to determine what came first – did we create stories that fit and gave meaning to materials and animals, or did we spin grand narratives where we placed materials and animals to give the story meaning?

In Cygnus Purus, which means pure swan in Latin, Camilla Luihn invites us to an exhibition where our established ideas and associations are challenged. The swan is represented in the form of seven works crafted in copper, six of which are enamelled in white tones and one in blue, with clear brushstrokes. By using white enamel – a material often associated with sanitary fixtures like sinks and bathtubs – Luihn combines the material's inherent history with the swan's position as a mythological symbol. Enamel has aesthetic qualities and possibilities, but also function in forming smooth, protective layers between the objects it coats and the world outside. This layer makes it easy to remove dust, dirt and grime from the surface, a crucial factor for the extensive use enamel has had in hygiene and sanitation. Like the swan, the colour white has been crucial to our interpretation of cleanliness and something as pure. From a distance, both the surface of the swan and enamelled objects give the impression of being homogeneous, unbroken surfaces of shining white. An exterior surface where the value lies as much in what is as is in what is not. But both the optical illusion of purity and the construction of the swan's mythological history do not delve deeper than the outer layer they bear. Can we really trust what our eyes tell us about purity, and wasn't there a myth that tells of a deity who dons the guise of a swan precisely to exploit the swan's beauty and innocence to commit abuse?

Camilla Luihn (b. 1968, Norway) completed her master's degree in the art at the Oslo National Academy of the Arts in 1994. She has exhibited at venues including Kunstnerforbundet and RAM Galleri in Oslo, Galleri F15 in Moss, and Galleri Four in Gothenburg. Luihn is represented in major public collections in Norway and received the Norwegian Form's Prize for Young Designers in 2002 and the Oslo City Cultural Grant for 2000. In 2022, she received the Craft Prize from BKH for her work What Remains. Luihn has been employed at the Oslo National Academy of the Arts since 2019.

Source: Visit Bergen


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