When the Norwegian research vessel “G.O. Sars” set out on June 3 on its expedition to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, Ørnulf Opdahl was on the crew list as ship’s artist, together with the international team of MAR-ECO scientists. His first works from the cruise are currently on display in the Henie-Onstad Art Center at Høvikodden, near Oslo.
Anette W. Petersen
The artist, who comes from Godøya, near Ålesund, joined the research cruise for a month as ship’s artist, a role with a long tradition that has gradually disappeared as photography and other forms of documentation took over. Opdahl uses his artistic talent to convey something of the diversity of the life and mysteries that lie hidden in this part of the ocean.
“I have received a lot of feedback from people who feel that the MAR-ECO part of the exhibition contained a lot that was new and very exciting”, says Opdahl. The opening on October 21 drew some 500 guests, and on the following Sunday no fewer than 1000 people came to the art centre to see his works.
The series of watercolours which he made on board the R/V “G.O. Sars” are being displayed in a room of their own.
“What I found was that I tended to work a little bit like the scientists, in that I gathered my impressions in the shape of sketches. This material makes up my own “findings”, which I will continue to work with as the basis for oils, watercolours and prints“, says Opdahl. The artist therefore intends to hold on to the current series of watercolours himself, but of course it will be possible to buy the completed works of art when they are ready.
The tour was an important experience for the ship’s artist. “What really struck me was how nature evolves to meet extreme conditions. We experienced an enormous diversity of life forms, from sea-birds in the sky and large marine mammals on the surface, to unknown species at great depths”.
In some of the motifs of the works he is showing at present, the source of inspiration is recognisably nature itself; such works include a series of studies of the sky and the sea. Others tend to be non-figurative. “For fourteen days, I followed what was brought up by the trawls and the remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV), until a whole stream of images based on impressions of what I had seen and experienced suddenly emerged”.
However, none of the works in the current exhibition present life on board the research vessel. “I have a whole series from the trawl deck, the gear and the fishermen working there. I will be coming back to these and may well use them for an exhibition on just that topic”.
Ørnulf Opdahl’s findings and subsequent results from the MAR-ECO expedition will be on view at a number of exhibitions in the future. When the Henie-Onstad exhibition closes on February 20 next year, it will immediately be sent to “Nordens Hus” in Reykjavik in Iceland. Plans for further exhibitions are under discussion.