Nils Olav Bøe - Photographic Constructions

20 September - 27 October 2018

We have the great pleasure of announcing our first show by the renowned Norwegian artist Nils Olav Bøe.
The exhibition will present new works from the series Constructed Sites, consisting of both photographs and video works, and unique Polaroids from his new series U.T. 

Bøe is also launching his new book "Photographic Constructions" presenting his comprehensive artistry for 30 years focusing on the photographic works. The book is written by art critic Arve Rød. 

Excerpt from the book :

Bøe’s constructed landscape draws the curtain aside to reveal limitless and timeless space, in grey tones – “if you take away the colour, you take away a little of time”, as Bøe explained when talking about the use of black and white rather than colour. The concrete elements are strictly speaking linked to our time. To the extent that Constructed Landscape and Constructed Sites represent a dystopian perspective of reality – industrialism’s conquest over nature, or as a consequence of this the end of humanity, are two feasible doomsday visions to be found in Bøe’s photographs – it is formulated as “an imprint of our own time”, according to the artist. The use of elements from the built world are perhaps just as applicable in relation to the “New Topographics” photographers of the 1970s, and how they introduced depictions of this reality as a subject for investigation in photographic art: panorama pictures of urban landscapes, highway intersections, and anonymous, modernistic architecture – also mainly in black and white.[1] In retrospect, it is primarily the German artists Bernd and Hilla Becher, and their cataloguing of industrial structures, which they called “typologies” – a visually sober and serial documentation of water towers, power stations, etc. – which remain standing as the most well known from the New Topographics group. As professor and instructor at the art academy in Düsseldorf they literally started their own school, with a number of prominent photo artists as their students who would later be known as the Becher Class, or the Düsseldorf School, in the international art world. From the second half of the 1980s and thereafter, artists such as Andreas Gursky, Thomas Struth, Candida Höfer and Axel Hütte became known for reproducing the sublime aspect of the modern world’s urban and industrial endless monotony. There is no futuristic intention or vision in such a perspective, neither in Constructed Landscape, Constructed Sites nor in the Polaroid pictures. They are interpretations of a world here and now, no matter how construed, atmospheric and dreamlike, which can of course increase the sphere of interpretation to encompass a more concrete critique of the political agenda.

On this point it is therefore relevant to view Bøe’s constructed landscapes in connection with more recent artistic projects such as the New Topographics photographers or the work of the Becher class.[2] Pictures such as Constructed Sites (Texas) (2013); a single tower situated at the centre of the picture plane, or the stylised wall in Constructed Landscape 4 (2004), one is immediately inclined to place in the same aesthetic tradition. Yet they also differ significantly from it. The nature and appearance of the miniature tableaus bring an additional ambiguity to the sublime effect, which draws them down to earth, based on the physical construction of the scenes and the manner in which they are photographed, close up. The final result is both very solemn and subtly charming in its warping of dimensions and distances (for example the apparently infinite background is in reality just a curved sheet of paper submitted to meticulous lighting), as though they were real scenes seen through a tilt-shift lens – a technology which gives the picture a selective focus, and which is often used to simulate miniature scenes in photographing locations or objects (also known as a diorama effect or diorama illusion). This is not the case here, of course; as already described Bøe’s pictures are constructed from scratch in the studio, but they gain tension in their form of expression somewhere between dystopian and unreal, in some cases almost witty, which further increases the pictures’ potential for narrative content.

The psychological aspect is nevertheless the most decisive motivational force, also in the photographic works. The modern realisation that we are more intimately connected to nature and matter than we have until now been willing to take in, and that the life-sustaining foundation for civilisation as we know it is perhaps about to be disturbed forever, are eco-political insights that also pertain to Bøe’s oeuvre. Yet at the same time such a realisation calls for concrete political action, it also opens up new inner rooms for art to decipher.

- Arve Rød, 2018


[1]  “New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape” was the title of an exhibition at the International Museum of Photography in New York in 1975, which would come to have enormous influence on photography as an artistic medium during the 1980s and 90s. Among the artists included in the exhibition were Bernd and Hilla Becher, Robert Adams, Frank Gohlke and Stephen Shore.

[2] One might also point to Thomas Demand, another of the artists from the so-called Becher Class, and his working method of photographing settings built out of cardboard and paper in the studio, in particular with regard to how Bøe also creates a large portion of his scenes and props himself.



Nils Olav Bøe:
Born 1958, Leirvik, Norway. Lives and work in Oslo, Norway. 

As a student of Norwegian Academy of Fine Arts, Bergen/Oslo 1981-85, Nils Olav attended the Experimental class. Until 1996 he worked with installations comprising sculptural objects, moving objects, video projection and sound. From 1996 onwards, the camera entered the picture as a new tool, radically changing the point of view and the format and his production. But the keynote is in many ways unchanged. 

The transition to photography implied a change from the staging and large physical objects to a downscaled world of models in small-scale, where direction takes place on a ”table” as if in a miniature movie studio. Scale he creates scenes is about 1:90, before he illuminates and photograph the scene. On one hand the pictures have a concrete theme, characterized by precision in a minimalist composition and structure. On the other hand this simplicity changes into a destabilizing atmosphere, infinite and defying definition in time and space. We are placed in a world that is completely constructed and artificial, but at the same time it conjures up a feeling of something well known and recognizable.

We are guided onto unsafe ground through NOB`s multi-linked mediating of an original and true reality. His tableaux can be viewed as a critical and fresh visualization of the hyper-mediated associations, which is filtered through in our time. 

Selection from a catalogue text: Toril Smit Director Vigeland Museum, Oslo 

Nils Olav Bøe is a recognized artist, with exhibitions including Berlin, London, New York, Houston and Oslo. He is among other purchased by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Oslo. In addition to other national and international collectors. 



Education (selection)

                        The National Academy of Fine Art, Oslo 1983-85

                        The National Academy of Fine Art, Bergen 1981-83

Solo Exhibitions (Selection)

                        Reykjavik Museum of Photography, “Constructed sites”.Island 2013

                        Galerie Alte Schule, Berlin 2010

                        Red Door Gallery. Zurich Switzerland 2008

                        Field Gallery, Berlin. Germany. 2007/2008

                        Galleri Brandstrup, Oslo 2007

                        Anders Svor Museum, Horningdal, Norway 2006

                        Laznia Center of Contemporary Art, Gdansk, Poland, 2006

                        Galerie Blickensdorff, Berlin 2005

                        Vigeland-museet, Oslo 2004-05

                        Galleri Brandstrup, Oslo 2004

                        Galleri Brandstrup, Oslo 2002

                        Galleri Olle Olson huset, Stockholm 2000

                        Kunstnerforbundet, Oslo 1999

                        Haugar Vestfold artmuseum, Tønsberg 1998

                        Gulp Gallery, Reykjavik 1997

                        østfold Art Center, Fredrikstad 1996

                        The Exhibitionroom USF, Bergen 1995

                        Galleri-K, Oslo 1993

                        Wang Kunsthandel, Oslo 1989

                        Norwegian Technical Museum, Oslo 1988/89

                        Henie-Onstad Art Center, Oslo 1986

Group Exhibitions (Selection)

                        NO.sphere Arts, New York 2014

                        "International Discoveries IV", FotoFest Gallery, Houston Texas. 2013

                        Pie Factory Gallery Margate, “Nostalgia”, United Kingdom 2013

                        Cass Gallery, “The Northern Lights”. London 2013.

                        Gallery .NO New Your 2012

                        2010 Seljord Art Association, Telemark, Norway

                        Marziart International Galerie, Hamburg 2010

                        Field Gallery, Berlin. Germany 2007

                        Art league, Houston, USA

                        St.Petersburg, Central exhibition Hall, Russia 2006

                        Arkhangelsk Museum of Art, Russia 2006

                        Novosibirsk Art Museum, Russia 2006

                        Galerie Schloss Mondsee, salzburg, Austria 2005

                        B4 - Video, art Center, Berlin, 2005

                        Galleri Asbæk, Copenhagen, Denmark 2004

                        Museu Arte Moderna, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil 2003

                        Husesyn, Touring the House, Uppsala Kunstmuseum, Sweden 2002

                        Modellmakarane, kunstnernes Hus, Oslo 2000

                        Fellessentralen, Kunstnernes Hus, Oslo 1998

                        Brudd, Bergen Society of Fine Art 1996

                        Asosiation of Norwegian Skulptures 50th anniversary exhibition, Henie-Onstad Art Center, Oslo 1996

                        Steen & Strøm / Art in a warehouse (w. Sven Påhlson), Oslo 1995

                        Nettopp ankommet, The National Museum of Contemporary art, Oslo 1991

                        U.K.S. Gallery (w. Yngve Næsheim), Oslo1991

                        The Baltic Stats Art Triennial, Vilnius 1990

                        Aurora, Scandinavian Biennial, Sveaborg, Finland 1991. Kulturhuset Stockholm 1992

                        Galleri F-15, Moss 1986

                        Galleri Rotor, Gøteborg 1995

Collective Exhibitions (Selections)

                        The National Annual Autumn Exhibition 2009 Oslo Norway

                        The National Annual Autumn Exhibition 1982, 92, 95, 97

                        The Western Norway Exhibition 1984

                        The Eastern Norway Exhibition 1984

Purchased by Public institutions

                        Gothenburg Museum of Art, Sweden. 2014

                        Sogn og fjordane Art-museum 2006, Førde, Norway

                        Statoil 2003

                        The national museum of contemporary art 2002

                        Norges Bank 2002

                        The Norwegian Board of Culture 1986

Public art

                        St. Olavs Hospital, Trondheim 2013

                        Gjøvik, Workingmonument 2011

                        Ocarsborg Fort, Norway. 2010

                        Høgskolen i Harstad. 2005

                        Elvebakken High school, Oslo 2004-05

                        Norsk Hydro 2003

                        Hotell Refsnes Gods, Moss 2003

                        Huseby Kompetansesenter for svaksynte og blinde, Oslo 2000

                        Nye Rikshospitalet, Oslo 1999


                        Government work Grant fore Artist. ( guarantee income until 67 year of age).

                        Member of the Norwegian National Jury, 1991-1992, 2012 - 2013

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