Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Sculpture at Pilane, West Sweden

American artist is inspired by a stunning landscape and Iron Age heritage

On the island of Tjörn, just north of Gothenburg, Sweden, the gently rolling hills hold ancient secrets and modern surprises. There, among the Iron Age stone carvings and “judgment circles,” you’ll find Sculpture at Pilane, an annual exhibition of contemporary sculpture by some of the world’s leading artists.

Artists selected for exhibition this year include American sculptor Keith Edmier; Swedish sculptors Klara Kristalova, Eric Langert, Kent Karlsson, Nils Ramhöj and Peter Tillberg; Eva Rothschild and Tony Cragg of the United Kingdom; Erwin Wurm of Austria and Lori Hersberger of Switzerland.

The site is open daily from June 2 to September 11.

The Inspiration of Pilane

Pilane’s history has been traced back to the Stone Age, some 4,500 years ago, when sheep grazed along the shoreline. The natural rock formations still reveal traces of Bronze Age carvings dating back 3,000 years, but Pilane is best known as an Iron Age burial ground and meeting site.

Among the burial mounds are more than a dozen arrangements of stones known as judgment circles. They were the location for legal hearings and councils in the community. The fact that each judgment circle is made up of an odd number of stone “seats” indicates that no vote taken there would ever end in a tie.

American sculptor Keith Edmier was captivated and inspired by Pilane, both its natural beauty and its rich, mysterious history. His site-specific installation for Sculpture at Pilane 2011, “You gotta go out, you don’t have to come back,” takes its cues from the ship-shaped Viking burial mounds at Pilane and the Iron Age practice of building the furnaces used to forge iron into steel for Viking swords at or near burial sites.

Edmier says the shipwreck of the freighter S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald on Lake Superior in 1975 also informed his work. The shape of his piece echoes the shape of the lifeboats from the wreck and the sculpture is crafted using taconite pellets, a type of iron ore used in the manufacturing of steel. The Edmund Fitzgerald was carrying a load of taconite on its tragic final voyage.

The quiet, meditative environment at Pilane is a most fitting place to see this remarkable new work.

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