‘The landscape of Jølster; that smell and mouldy dampness of old heathendom and primitive religion, that earth rich in sagas; these often raw colours have more importance than as mere subjects for my pictures. And this in my opinion is what motifs should be to all painters, that they in other words should be closer bound to the earth…’
– Nikolai Astrup
Astrup sought a national “visual language” that evoked the traditions and folklore of his homeland. Best known for his luminous paintings of Midsummer Eve bonfires, Astrup’s landscapes evoke the atmosphere and changing seasons of his home district of Jølster. Places important to Astrup – the old parsonage where he grew up, his beautiful farmstead at Sandalstrand (named “Astruptunet” after him), and the lake Jølstravatnet were to become the focus and inspiration of a unique and extraordinary body of work.
“Enter the mausoleum slowly and try not to wake up the mythical creatures. If they detect your presence, they will react to your movements and transform.”
Nexus Interactive Arts was commissioned to produce an original installation for Dulwich Picture Gallery in London. Entitled “Forest Folk”, the responsive installation is an extension of the ‘Nikolai Astrup: Painting Norway’ Exhibit – one of Norway’s finest twentieth-century landscape artists.
A characteristic trait of Astrup’s work was to project his childhood memories onto the landscape of his hometown, allowing his childlike imagination to permeate his work. The concept of transformation is a key element: from shape-shifters to trolls to other Norwegian mythological creatures, any part of his paintings can come alive, especially if you know to look out for these surprises.
NIA had carte blanche to create a complementary piece, drawing on Astrup’s central themes of transformation and mythology, and to immerse Gallery audiences into a world of magical landscapes where reality and the surreal blend together in unexpected moments.
Visitors are invited to enter the gallery’s private Mausoleum slowly, and try not to wake up the mythical creatures camouflaged within two impressive digital 4k screens set up as a diptych. Through the combination of custom software and motion sensor cameras, the artwork can detect visitor’s presence and awaken from their idle state to morph into a living and breathing entity. A hauntingly low melody set to diegetic sounds of the forest further envelops audiences, while taking them through a cycle of the four seasons represented in the artwork.
Every element in the composition was shot in live-action against a green screen, then composited in post-production to form the overall image. Director Matt Jakob creates a pictorial quality that allows the artwork to embody Astrup’s style, whilst remaining interactive and modern at its core.