Having spent a wonderful 6 weeks at Messen Kunstnarhuset over the previous summer, I was keen to return there for September and October 2015. It is really an inspirational residency. The environment – on the banks of Hardanger fjord – is spectacular. There are wonderful trees and plants and rocks to draw, endless walking possibilities, and at that time of year, a plentiful supply of blueberries to eat as you go. And at least as inspiring as the stunning natural environment is the generous artistic community that thrives at Messen.
The residency exists because of the continuing vision and efforts of a group of artists who are from or have moved to this special part of Norway. As a visiting artist, one has many opportunities for creative exchange – with fellow artists-in-residence, with those artists who live and/or have permanent studios there, and with those who belong to the two artist collectives associated with managing the house and residency.
Links are forged between resident artists and the local community. In late September, the public were invited to presentations/open studio sessions by me and fellow resident artists – Karla Caprali (Brazil/USA) and Kit Kelen (Macao/Australia). Around this time too, at the invitation of Simone Hooymans and Hans Pulles (Messen’s resident artists and caretakers), I enjoyed running a collaborative forest drawing workshop for a group of eight-year old Ålvik children, guiding them in drawing a large collaborative forest picture.
Around a month later, the public were invited to another event. The Messen Autumn Show (October 24-25, 2015) was the initiative of the six of us who were resident in October – Kit Kelen, Kristen Keegan (Canada), Ranveig Lægreid (Norway), George Ridgway (UK) and Dafna Staretz (Israel/Germany). The presentation of paintings, drawings and installation works was accompanied by the performance of poetry, vocal and musical improvisation works. My contribution to the exhibition consisted of two folding books – Scots Pines of Ålvik and the next chapter of the Tree Diary (a work-in-progress begun at ARNA Art and Nature Residency in Harlosa in Sweden during the summer, as well as a number of small ink and watercolour drawings, a drawing installation and two larger watercolour and ink works.
Planning and presenting this event (which was amazingly well-attended despite the short notice!) was a real pleasure – evidence of the good will, generosity and creativity not just of the current artists-in-residence but of the communities who foster and maintain this fantastic residency.