Art house Messen, Ålvik, Norway
Kunstnarhuset Messen, Ålvik, Norge

Coming into the Fjord

Hello from North Carolina!

Now, deep in January—which I realize may mean something very different in the American South than it does in Norway, or Australia, or in the other far-flung places from which artists and writers have come to Ǻlvik—I’m warmed by thoughts of my August on the fjord. (Does anyone else from the Not-Norwegian world find that their automatic-pilot typing fingers resist typing a “j” right after an “f?”)

Here are a few of the poems that landed on me sitting on the rocks looking out over the water. You know what I mean.

Coming into the Fjord

A seagull yaps like a puppy announcing a new arrival.
Another creaks like a gate too long unopened.
A fly hums by me but doesn’t land.

No midges or mosquitoes, here. No fire-ants
To keep you tense and dodging. A few furred bees, is all,
mumbling on the yellow vetch.

Any biting thing, I brought it with me.
I can send it back. Tonight, I’ll sleep with the window wide
and let the air come in.


The air here is—What can you say of an air that doesn’t bear
The smell of smoke, perfume, or must? Only that it changes.
Steady sameness makes us blind and numb.

Swinging puffs of gentleness cool my skin.
Then pause and let it heat again. The sun.

A person could get sun-burned here.
I think a person wouldn’t care. The wind.

Thanking and Asking

For moments—more than moments, really—for whole minutes of savored mental peace.
For pieces knitting back together.
For finding a gift.
For learning to ask, consciously, and in all directions.
For healing: brain, body, and beyond.
For stories.
For joy.
For union and re-union.
For swilling it around in my mouth to get every bit of the flavor.
For the trail of crumbs.
For eyes to see the crumbs and courage to follow them into the dark woods,
bending under the low branches, bowing to the shadows.
For this channel, this invisible-on-the-surface path through the shallows
between rocks where the surf breaks and boats and bones could break too
if it weren’t for this one deep still safe strand of true water
that may carry me, if I don’t steer stupid and fight the flow.

Writing in the dark, you can’t even see the words you leave behind your self.
You just fling them down. The birds will come and neaten up after you are done.


Let me walk in the sun today
And let the sun speak

Let it speak to my eyes,
To my visual cortex
To my pituitary
To my neurochemistry
To every cell of me
Let the sun speak
And let my cells listen
To that ancient agitation,
Molecular ears trembling
With atomic wonder.

Let my neurons shiver and crack with it
Let my thoughts hatch out
Feathered by the message of the sun.

Staying Afloat

It’s whitewater
this swirl of adrenaline serotonin
PEA cortisol testosterone oxitocin
and the unnamed effluents of factories undiscovered.

and me in this tiny, tossing shell
gripping my paddle
for dear life
for life is dear
and if I go down
if this torrent takes me
down where there is no air
down where there is no breath
where the battering currents
break my tender body on the rocks
or pin it under hungry fallen trees…

…then I come apart

then I am just another stream
hither-and-thither molecules
just bits

no boat

no paddler

no eye.

Donna Glee Williams, RN, MFA, PhD
NCCAT Center Fellow
The North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching


photograph: Hans Pulles


February 12, 2015
Coming into the Fjord

God Jul !

This year, 2014, has been a exciting and dynamic year for Messen. Why? Because we have had special visitors from all over the world! Writers, poets, painters, performancers, photographers, people making beautiful drawings and people doing creative research. We laughed, talked and made lots of new friends. Sometimes the projects and initiative of an artist became a bigger plan, like a publication of the work made in Messen, or an exhibition with all the work made in Messen. We like that ofcourse. But also without a visual result, we are sure that the time in Messen influenced somehow the creative mind.

It was also a dynamic year because the artists of Messen and some of the guest artists gave a serie of workshops to the local schools. That was fun and informative ! And to be continued in 2015.

It is always a bit sad to say goodbye again to someone, who has been a housemate for a while, and even became a friend. But luckily for us, a lot of you return to Messen one day, for a new creative dive into the Hardanger !

So, we hope to see you again in 2015, and we hope to meet you in 2015 !

Merry X-mass


December 16, 2014
God Jul !

Carol Archer: thoughts on the sublime

Carol Archer Profile pictureMaking art at Messen Kunstnarhuset impressed on me the wonders of light, colour and nature in this remarkable part of the world. The sky exerted a magnetic attraction on me and I found myself noting its changing colour throughout the days and nights I spent there, particularly as the days lengthened between mid-June (when I arrived) and the time of the summer solstice.

I loved the sustained twilight and the deep blues of the midsummer night sky.

Day sky Messen midsummer14

Night skyMessenmidsummer14

Although I’ve taught students about Romantic painting for years, it was my stay on Hardanger fjord that really deepened my understanding of the notion of the sublime. Such environments are humbling because of the inescapable knowledge that one’s own efforts – and one’s very being – cannot but be puny and transient by comparison.

During my stay at Messen I was lucky to see an exhibition in nearby Oystese of Norwegian Romantic Painting, including many wonderful works portraying the Hardanger fjord.  It is true, I think, that the sublime environment stirs one’s creative impulses – even if, like me, the portrayal of the grandeur of that environment is not the subject of one’s work. Although I did some studies of the view of the fjord from my studio window and the Folgefonna glacier, my own work at Messen was centred on smaller wonders: the local trees and their leaves and the stones at the nearby fjord beach.

two tree studies Messen 14

Tree studies, watercolour on handmade paper, 22 x 15 cm.

Tree study messen july14

Tree study, oil on handmade paper, 22 x 15 cm.



Plantand stonestudies14 Messen

An Ålvik Tree and Stone Register, ink and watercolour on paper in a Chinese folding book approximately 10 x 25cm in size.

Carol stayed for 2 months in Messen, last summer, together with the artist and writer Kit Kelen.

November 21, 2014
Carol Archer: thoughts on the sublime

Kit Kelen

20140719_172406Christopher (Kit) Kelen is a well known Australian poet, scholar and visual artist, and Professor of English at the University of Macau, where he has taught Creative Writing and Literature for the last fourteen years. Volumes of his poetry have been published in Chinese, Portuguese, Italian, Swedish and Filipino languages. Japanese and Indonesian editions are currently in preparation

Kit Kelen stayed for 2 months in Messen, last summer, together with the artist Carol Archer.


Here are some of his poems and paintings created during his residence in Messen.


Boulders of Ålvik

must each have once tumbled into position
a river of ice ground these pebbles out
toys tall gods have tossed aside

now slugs cross fat with the season of life
and bitumen creeks pass

boulders of Ålvik each mossed to its spot
are alive with the place
snow knows them – and the running stream

they are bracken swept, fern beset
beside steep uphill climb
flowers have said summer over them

it’s here gulls perch to sing a sea
they fish fjord and balance boulders
here in my antipodes

runes in them are deeper than reading

in their few dry moments someone sat
saw turf roofs rise and crooked chimneys
long ships launch, clouds slant

carpet of needles then snow’s quilt
white as winter’s black all night

the lapping’s all below
and there’s more foliage sidling up
or tucking under lichen

once in a while a tree will try one
suggesting soil enough
that’s something like a royal reign

lightning strikes a dynasty
or nations fall and rise
there is a core of knowing though
the ice will come again


tree, rock, cloud and me

trees become rocks
and rocks turn tree
too slow to grow

slugs will be roots
if they look too hard

leaves blow off
a breeze

clouds stand idly
they are the slowest
thing in the sky

and you’ll
find yourself


tre, stein, skyer og meg

(Nynosk translation by Bjørn Otto Walevik)

tre vert stein
og stein vert tre
veks for seint sneglar

vert til røter
viss dei ser for hardt

blad bles av
ein bris

uverksame skyer

tingen på himmelen

og du vil
deg sjølv borte


on such a day

on the day
you hang your bedding out the window
and a towel to dry on top
air the stairs with a wide open door

on such a day
your hear hoses
passing gardens

old folk sit on a bench
to soak a dry wall
make petrichor

with purposeful stride
the one with the rake – leaf warrior
and even that’s painted bright

bicycle goes by with a nod
it’s the age of the helmet yet

on such a day
yes there are clouds
they’re thinking about it

there’s a sun
reluctant to set
afternoon’s evening
and evening goes on all night

it is the day of porpoises passing
not so ostentatious though
one fin at a time
turn by like a wheel

it’s glass
and the kraken
lies deeper than thought

blue tractor gets socks wet
bringing home the boat

oak and birch and aspen
pine and fir and spruce
each of them older than dreaming
still to learn their names

a toilet grows flowers
on the front lawn
a bicycle too

on such a day
one goes hunting for lines
they’re found
and out in the open

there’s mowing the lawn
and addressing one’s flowers

they bare their chests
who whisper engines
and with whom engines speak

moss has a thirst
on such a day
man washes his rock
and after, beer
as prescribed

it is true I’m pursued
by what isn’t a bee
by what I’d call a march fly
and I’d be wrong

on such a day
it’s the idea of dinner
draws indoors

the book hasn’t been written
to hold all one could do
on just such a day

I wonder if anyone can remember
precisely when peace was declared


at Messen

snow stands for true mountains
a midsummer sentry

a smoky man tends barbeque
such are the voices of the picnic garden
a fjord is part of the picture too

gathered like wildflowers
we ourselves are a summer

pick cherries every ripening day

the rain hasn’t come yet
but here we are,
over the rainbow
already planning for after


at Messen
rumble is the road
or thunder
men’s laughter
the factory’s dinner going down
the kraken waking
earth gives a shake
a train but very far
nobody knows what


it’s the gods in everything
like to make us guess
a crow says no, flies off
and everything’s still here

November 21, 2014
Kit Kelen

Workshops til ungdomsskule i Messen

Several Ungdomsskule from Hardanger, were visiting Messen, the last few months. Guest artists and local artists gave workshops to the pupils.

The workshops given until now:

Gökçen Dilek Acay (Turkey) – Soundeffect for film workshop

Nicolas Norris (USA) – drawing with poetry workshop

Hans Pulles (The Netherlands) – Folding 3D form workshop

Ross Donlon (Australia) – Poetry workshop


Busy folding at Hans workshop

Busy folding at Hans workshop


Results folding workshop

At the Poetry workshop of Ross Donlon

At the Poetry workshop of Ross Donlon


Translating the poem into nynorsk

November 14, 2014
Workshops til ungdomsskule i Messen

Living in a hologram

When I first came to Messen in Spring, 2011 I wasn’t sure what I would find.
I wondered if I would find anything. Was it a hoax, a scam, the fjord pictures photo-shopped? A hologram? Would there be nothing but a mocking face on a wall? Fooled you!

And I had come a long way to be fooled, as far as Ålvik is from Castlemaine, Victoria, Australia , a long way.

But there instead at the bus stop waiting to meet me was caretaker, Hans – and soon after I met his wife, Simone and little boy, Merlijn. Not long after that there was a friendly host of Dutch artist – settlers living in Hardanger and a little later Ingunn and Els the co-ordinators and the warm-hearted Norwegian artists from Hardingpuls, the local artists’ group. The current artist-residents and later newcomers followed.

Now, in 2014, I am here for the third time, again for three months  and again I am finding Messen a most pleasant and inspiring place to work as a writer.

There have been changes in the four years, the most notable structural change being that Messen is now owned by Kunstnarhuset Messen foundation, whereas before it was privately owned and up for sale. It says something about Norway and Kvam that the state thought this concept of an international artists’ house in a Hardangerfjord factory town worth supporting.

Why do I enjoy being here so much? I sometimes tell friends it’s like a luxury resort without the luxury resort. What you do have are wonderful views over the fjord and up the hillsides that make for uplifting walks – and places to swim when the weather allows. You also have a quiet and stimulating place to work as an artist – large light-filled studios if you’re a visual artist, quiet, comfy writing studios if that’s your craft. Bedrooms are comfy simple – the kitchen is roomy.

Add to this mix a coming and going of artists from around the world, the chatting and sharing in an otherwise self-catering , washing and cleaning  residency. As an added bonus, caretakers Simone and Hans, are the warmest and supportive of hosts (soon friends) and artists themselves, who will offer to include you in family celebrations, a drive to a nearby place of interest and more. Director Ingunn van Etten and the Board of Messen are watchful foundations of the concept.

Personally, I have made firm friends from the artists whose lives I’ve shared and professionally (while that word sits less comfortably) I have written good poems here, one winning an international poetry prize – Midsummer Night – set in Alvik of course and written ekphrastic poems drawn from artists’ work which have been later published in Australia in fine journals. With time to read, walk, chat and reflect, it’s an ideal place for this poet.

I like to think that I can continue coming so long as they’ll have me  – and the tolls don’t get me first!

Ross DonlonRoss Donlon-net

September 19, 2014
Living in a hologram

Can we speak with light using our body?

Can we speak with light using our body?
This was a central question I hoped to answer when I arrived at Kunstnarhuset Messen this June.
If light is language, it is always speaking into me.
And what am I saying with it?
Can one understand the sun from a rocky shore?
Can one understand distance through an outstretched arm?


I knew that I would uncover something during my time at Messen, but I could hardly have fathomed the magnitude, beauty and wealth of my discovery. The natural beauty of the region invites meditative contemplation, and the long days helped me develop a stronger appreciation for the subtleties of the constantly shifting present moment. The vertical presence of the craggy mountains and their silent snowy caps were well balanced by the horizontal complexities of the meandering fjord and its shimmering waves. During my time there, these snow caps quietly dissipated into the glittering falls feeding the endless blue fjord. And thus a season moved into my own veins.

With rather limited mobility (the bus only runs about every 2 hours and the nearest coffee shop is about 25 minutes away) I became intimately familiar with my immediate surroundings. I hiked up the mountain over the village several times and was constantly stunned by the vistas. The terrain shifts noticeably when you approach the tree line, moving from woody abundance into a stronger sense of brutality and spareness in the heights. I found myself small and welcome in them. I found myself intensely alone and was grateful.

I came to continue my work on a large cross arts project that explores sunlight, displacement, and devastation. It requires me to move meditatively in the light, and with 18 hour days, I had ample opportunity to discover what the light was speaking into me. In fact, I tried to inundate myself with this long daylight as much as I could. A family member had packed a sleeping mask for me since I have a hard time sleeping in Philadelphia due to the ambient street light coming in through my windows. While at Messen, however, I quickly put that aside and opted to soak myself in the natural light, even moving my mattress to the floor under the window when I slept. I found that within just a few days, I was sleeping incredibly well. Dreamlessly. With blue resilience.


It is hard to describe all the things I discovered and found in Messen. The wonderful artists I met, the quiet beauties I experienced, the long walks filled with the humming chatter of bees. The kindness and welcome, the friends I made.

But most essentially, I experienced a profound peace.

And this has led me to my outstanding discovery–the sun’s light wishes us well. It wants to accomplish life with us.

To speak this daylight in our bodies, we need only assent. To confirm the radiant blue gold distance pouring through ourselves, too.

I stayed at Messen, but Messen now stays in me. It has opened this channel inside me, confirmed in a solar display. I feel it as firmly as the word “home” inside my spine. I hope to return.

May we all find such aerial kindness inside.

Sueyeun Juliette Lee

August 4, 2014
Can we speak with light using our body?

The Bumblebee in Norway

Linda Molenaar creates accessible objects which creates questions. In their simplicity here ‘animal-objects’ mirror you, not critically or socially, but in stillness; one that invites you to take a close look at yourself. The longer you look, the more you see.

During the residency in Messen she created the bumblebee (work is still in progress) for her next performance in Germany this summer.


photo: Annana Suwalowska

Here are some pictures from her ‘Horse’ performance, recently in The Garden of Delights in Wildenborch, the Netherlands.


photo: maik te Veer


photo: Mechteld de Jongh

June 26, 2014
The Bumblebee in Norway

Dreams wanted

Anna Suwalowska from Poland, makes
paintings, drawings, photography, collage and installations.

In Messen she was mainly working on her dream project. She asked the local people, to write down their dreams and post them in the dreambox in the library. She would use the dreams as inspiration, for her drawings and show the result at her presentation in Messen.

Dream_BOXAnna presentasjon2


the presentation in Messen

Anna presentasjon4

Anna presentasjon3


May 21, 2014
Dreams wanted

Pasta on the fire

Giovanni Calabrese from Italy is a painter and works with architecture, but above all he is a social artist!
He organized a pasta-on-the-fire-afternoon, after italien tradition, and invited the whole village, to join and have a taste.


Giovanni and Snowy (resident from Hong Kong) working hard to make dinner for the villagers.




May 21, 2014
Pasta on the fire