On the verge. Sidsel Paaske (1937–1980)

21 October 2016–26 February 2017

The Museum of Contemporary Art
Final week!

“Just as a musician improvises on a theme, I fantasize on mine. (...) The things I make are a long way from the ‘academic/ classical’. Sugai & Tamayo, Billie Holiday, and Garner & Mingus have been my role models. Ornament, symmetry and rhythm are my starting points, rather than anatomy and realism. Poetry and folk music mean more to me than the ‘Old Masters’.”

Sidsel Paaske: Øye-blikk (1977)

We play while we practise,” was Sidsel Paaske's motto in life. During her short artistic career, Paaske was always open to new ideas and expressed herself in many different media. She started out as a textile artist, but was quick to break into new “ism-free” territory. Her innate desire to experiment caused her to throw herself into a range of different styles and she moved freely among different media, including watercolour, oil painting, textiles, enamel, music, text, book illustration, sculpture and jewellery.

At the centre of Oslo's art scene
Paaske was a key figure in Oslo's art scene in the years 1965–80. Her sculpture Brent fyrstikk [Extinguised Match] (1966) has been described as Norway's first example of pop art. A variation on the same motif was created 21 years later by Claes Oldenburg, the father of American pop art.

A brief artistic career
At the time of her sudden death, aged just 43, Paaske had held around 10 solo exhibitions and had participated in as many group shows. She had sung with the American jazz musician Don Cherry and had published, illustrated, curated and debated and been an active member of Norwegian artists' organizations. Paaske also collaborated with composers and musicians, including Arne Nordheim and Jan Garbarek, on audio-visual projects.

What has happened since?
There was not a single mention of Paaske when volume 7 of Norsk Kunsthistorie, the standard Norwegian art historical reference work, was published only three years after her death. Despite the fact that she was editor of the Norwegian art periodical Billedkunstneren from 1978 to 1980, the only mention in the magazine of her passing was a brief poetic lament under the heading “Sidsel Paaske is dead”. The poem was signed ‘Gro’, and was a personal tribute from Paaske’s fellow artist Gro Jessen. The new editor did not include either a formal statement nor obituary. Not until 1989, 9 years after her death, there was a memorial Sidsel Paaske exhibition.

In this exhibition, we attempt to understand why there has been so little awareness of such a complex and interesting artistic practice as Paaske's in the decades following her death. Why has Extinguised Match not been accorded the central place in Norwegian art history that it deserves? Why have Paaske's artistic achievements not been taken seriously? And what are the mechanisms that actually govern the process of canonization?

Research project
The exhibition is based on an extensive research project conducted over recent years by the curator Stina Högkvist. Högkvist has undertaken a systematic review of all of the extant material left behind by Paaske. A large part of this material became available when Paaske's son, Carl Størmer, literally emptied his cellar of all the items he had inherited from his mother and transported them to the Museum of Contemporary Art.

This vast collection of material – including letters, posters, diaries, photograph albums, sculptures, jewellery, illustrations, music, sketches, collages and paintings – spans the period from Paaske's early childhood until her death.

The resulting two-part project has resulted in an exhibition and an extended catalogue. The catalogue also includes texts by Jorunn Veiteberg, Terje Mosnes and Jan Erik Vold.

The exhibition presents works by artists including Claes Oldenburg and Henrik Olesen alongside works by Sidsel Paaske. The exhibition is designed in close cooperation with the Swedish artist Bella Rune.

The exhibition will be accompanied by an extensive programme of events.


Location: The Museum of Contemporary Art
Bankplassen 4, Oslo 


General:info@nasjonalmuseet.no tel: +47 21 98 2000 
Press contact:Elise Lundtel: +47 993 21 942
Curator exhibition:Stina Högkvisttel: +47 450 34 635
Curator education:Anita Rebolledotel: +47 992 90 429
Project manager:Marthe Tveitantel: +47 970 83 686


«Blått brev»: Jazz concert and performance:

The concert took place at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 3 November 2016. Performers: Mats Eilertsen (bass), Trygve Seim (sax), Øyvind Brække (trombone), Carl Størmer (drums) og Frode Haltli (accordion). They are improvising to the piece «Blått brev» in the exhibition «On the verge. Sidsel Paaske (1937–1980)».

Production: Nasjonalmuseet / Annar Bjørgli.