Vilde Rudjord: Is the sun goddess a witch?

19 May – 4 June

BABEL visningsrom for kunst welcomes you to the solo exhibition Is the sun goddess a witch? by Vilde Rudjord.

Opening reception: Friday, May 19th from 19.00 – 21.00
Performance by Liz Dom: Sunday, May 21st at 14.00
Artist talk between Vilde Rudjord and Mishi Foltyn: Sunday, June 4th at 14.00

Opening hours:
Thurs – Fri 16 – 19
Sat – Sun 12 – 16

Once upon a time there was a princess who wanted to paint everything she saw. First she painted on the computer. She painted every day. She made hundreds of pictures. But her paintings were trapped in the binary code. One day the princess met a witch who said she could teach the princess to paint in real life if she ate a seashell. The princess was happy to do so and boink! She was transformed into a seventeen-year-older confused artist who was to have an exhibition BABEL visningsrom for kunst. What was she going to show? Now that she had big, grown-up hands, she covered large canvases. She took the pictures she had made on the old dusty computer and transformed them into large surfaces of coloured oil. One day, the witch came to visit her studio and pushed the confused artist into a mirror. It was boiling hot inside the mirror. All her past lives flashed before her eyes. Peasant girls were burned at the stake, mothers were raped while their children watched, shopaholics drank sangria in the sunset, Eva & Lillith scowled at each other, and old grandmothers rolled up their breasts after a long day in the steam room. They dissolved and the princess saw that she was sailing away from a ball of fire. Was it all a dream? A luminous female figure waved goodbye. She seemed familiar. Who is she? I can’t tell… Maybe it will all make sense at Babel? The artist smiled before falling asleep.

Two ideas shape this exhibition. What is the true face of the witch? She must have more to her than the demon we know from the Bible or Hollywood’s femme fatale. The other idea is returning. Is it possible to continue where we left off or are we doomed to make sandcastles at the watershed of time? 

Vilde Rudjord (b. 1995, Norway) works with painting and installation. With a playful colour palette, she explores allegories, embraces the grotesque or goes looking for lost times. Rudjord holds a MFA (2022)  and BFA (2020) from the Trondheim Academy of Fine Art. This exhibit at Babel is her biggest solo show to date. Rudjord has previously exhibited at Kjøpmannsgata Ung Kunst, Nils Aas kunstnerverksteder, Galleri KiT, Galleri Blunk, Trondheim Kunstmuseum Gråmølna, Mikrogalleri Nor, EKA Art Academy, Academy of Fine Arts Münster, Bilhuset and Galleri Vekta.

The exhibition is supported by Kunstsentrene i Norge.


“Is the Sun Goddess a Witch?”

Katherine Butcher

Time unfurls and folds as you step within the confines of the black box at BABEL visingsrom for kunst, an installation comprised of two thousand, two hundred and forty white plaster casts of the artists’ breasts. These breasts were modeled by the artist during her foundation year before entering the art academy, embodying her younger self and serving as the muse and guide for this exhibition. Rudjord, in her artistic exploration, communes with herself to delve into a range of themes revolving around women and the enduring archetypes that persist in our contemporary world. The commanding presence of Rudjord’s breasts exerts a powerful control over the space, creating a trompe-l’œil effect that confronts any attempt to objectify her sexuality with sheer force. This space acts as a bridge across time, allowing Rudjord to venture with her muse into an exploration of the realities experienced by women.

Rudjord’s body of work presented in the exhibition is a combination of new and existing pieces, all connected by a central question that demands viewer engagement: “Is the Sun Goddess a Witch?”. This question draws inspiration from violence and folklore as vehicles to delve into the female archetype. By deliberately framing the exhibition as a question, Rudjord beckons viewers to venture into the enigmatic realms of femininity, challenging preconceived notions and inviting critical engagement.

Through her art, Rudjord skillfully interweaves the threads of violence, power, and the supernatural. Her paintings depict symbolic eve-type characters placed within bawdy landscapes where they are seated alongside tender-stretched meat, perched on monsters, framed by sunsets and curtained stages, or surrounded by soft verdant environments with bulging floral eyes. 

Rudjord’s paintings spin the timeline within the artworks themselves, employing the technique of mise en abyme, translated directly to ‘placed within abyss’, or a story within a story. These paintings are based on drawings made in 1985 using Microsoft Paint on the family computer, with the original artist unaware that her more mature self would transfer this innocence to canvas, resulting in an absurd and bawdy evocation of the loss of it. “SENEN” – a misspelling of scene – presents a hero image of a broomstick-riding witch suspended within a blazing pink moon. Her younger self, with an intuitive understanding of classical painterly techniques, deftly controlled the mouse and pointer to stage the scene revealing a kind of foresight in creating the conditions for depictive and bodily co-presence across time.

Within the main space it is hard to ignore the stories that reach out toward each other. The little girl with wild red hair is now a third reproduction. The original digital sketch was made into a cute wearable badge by Rudjord’s mother. The badge has been copied on a slight tilt to reveal an absence of colour to the right of the canvas, recalling directly a sense that all stories are repeated. The small girl in painterly largescale now transfixes her omniscient gaze, toward the violent death of the seated woman, perpetually smited by a bright yellow lighting bolt from above, the girl trapped in an unblinkable loop of witness.  

A manifestation of the artist turning to herself, a younger self to serve as muse and guide in a bridge across time to explore a reality that brutalised women and men in witch trials in the middle ages. And here in Trondheim, in the case of Finn-Kirsten Iversdatter, the last person to be executed for witchcraft in Central Norway was recorded in the Trondheim Court of Appeal records 1671–76. Finn-Kirsten, abused and tortured, confessed ‘to have given herself to the Devil’, identified herself as an apprentice of Satan, and claimed that he used to come to her in the shape of a dog. Knowing the past here reveals an introspective examinination of Rudjord’s sweet portrait of the family pet staged in silhouette, a direct nod to the ‘Elg i solnedgang’ aesthetic from Norwegian huts and households now marred by a fresh and chilling darkness.

Unraveling Rudjord’s role as both muse and guide reveals the intricate tapestry of the female experience. Rudjord handles her work with a brillant sense of playfulness and humor to intrigue us to question the sense of belonging and safety within a community built upon a unquestioning the narrative, Is the sun goddess a witch? 

Photos: Susann Jamtøy/BABEL visningsrom for kunst