“Stop, Stawwwp,” I said to Magellan as he was driving our rented motorhome across a small bridge over the rushingVåtedal River in the small Norwegian town of Byrkjelo. I’d spotted a weird assortment of sculptures jammed together on the riverside green. Sculptures so controversial that some Byrkjelo citizens say they cause traffic-danger situations on the E39 and should be removed.
Magellan stopped in a hurry, accident-free on a rainy Thursday in off-season, early September. But on a weekend in mid-summer, local critics may have a point.
Skulpturparken på Byrkjelo is the personal creation of Stig Eikåas, whose studio is just across the river.
Unable to translate the lone sign on the property and enticed by sculptures of bulky granite and twisted steel, many touched with humour and slightly debauched, we wandered around, delighted by our surprise finding, cameras clicking. With nameplates at their bases, the sculptures seemed like tombstones.
Plebians in the parken.
Stig’s sculptures, I discovered in researching this story, are monuments of key people in the county that he thinks should be known and honoured.
Albert Joleik from Florø, a well-known radio host. The painter Nicolai Astrup. Petter Eide, a politician. Fridtj Nansen, a scientist, polar hero, political activist, diplomat and the first High Commissioner for Refugees appointed by the League of Nations. And Ludwig Wittgenstein, one of the greatest philosophers of the twentieth century who lived in Skjolden for a period and is known for logical positivism and analytical-language philosophy. (“If people never did silly things nothing intelligent would ever get done,” he wrote. I didn’t see that sculpture, which is too bad because one of my favourite novels is Wittgenstein’s Mistress by David Markson.)
An ever-growing number of sculptures, (he wants to create 200 of them) are crammed into a small space on the west side of the river, a handful spilling over to the east bank.
“All of these are a source of insight, and if we are to take care of further construction of the county, then one must take care of the past,” Stig says. (Well, that’s how Google translated it from the Norwegian—almost nothing is written about Stig in English.)
“I’m not afraid that they will not be placed, but I have to get hotels, businesses and others on the team. I hope the art can be used as cultural attractions in the future,” he’s hoping.
The 69-year-old Stig is not without confidence.
“No visual artist in Sogn og Fjordane has left deeper traces behind than me. My art has been a great success.
“Making sculptures is like having good sex. I touch, feel and feel my sculptures while I make them,” he told a reporter, adding that he likes to create engaging and controversial art.
Stig, the son of the more renowned artist Ludvig Eikaas, opened his park in 2008. To varying reception.
The established art community heaves negative criticism on every sculpture Stig unveils and calls for stronger oversight of public art in Sogn og Fjordane. Nevertheless, Stig constantly gets new assignments in the county.
And the locals, besides thinking Stig’s art is a traffic hazard?
Some agree with the critics. Others think the sculpture park has given Byrkjelo (pop. 324) a facelift and is kind of fun. School children in the municipality completed a comprehensive study and evaluation of the sculpture park. Many thought the sculptures were just fine, especially those of the painter, illustrator and musician Oddvar Torsheim. Others thought some of the artworks were disgusting. The municipality is developing a comprehensive plan for the park and removing sculptures on the east side of the river.
Ambiguous I was, according to my diary: “Before Fjærland (the book town we were going to and wrote about earlier) we stopped to photograph sculptures.”
Magellan, who took a sculpture class awhile back and admires the discipline, said, “I recall liking the diversity of material he works with.”
We had fun seeing them. And knowing, now, why Stig is creating these sculptures, crude as many of them are… What’s your p.o.v.?
Dyregrov, Tobias. “Excited Controversy over art park.” NRK. December 11, 2016.
Uglum, Arve. “Hudflettar Stig Eikaas.” NRK. April 28, 2008.