We're delighted to announce the launch of IN HOUSE, a new series of collaborations between the House of Sarah Baker and artists, illustrators and designers.
IN HOUSE will see invited visual creatives take over the brand's Instagram channel with their personal responses to our fragrances.
You can now see the first in the IN HOUSE series with the distinctive imagery of Norwegian artist Aleksander Nærbø showcased on our Insta stream.
Aleksander first studied art in Stavanger in his native Norway before moving to London to continue his studies, most recently graduating with an MA from Chelsea College of Art, University of the Arts.
Aleksander's artistic practice is diverse, ranging from performance, drawing and writing to video and digital art. Drawing on worlds of gay culture and clubbing subculture, his work—which often features writing—has an impressionistic, stream-of-consciousness feel, played out in the language of our fast-fire digital age.
However, look more closely at Aleksander’s work—beyond the garish colours or images that draw on popular music culture—and one realises that his work maps onto a particularly Norwegian tendence; a tradition of artists who address issues of sexual and social identity in a unique way. This is less often through proclamations of the validity of an identity and more often by directing our gaze to aspects that question this social ideal.
For example, when approaching the work of vaunted Norwegian artists such as Bjarne Melgaard or Børre Sæthre, polite society might refer to them as “gay” artists. More political positions demand that they are viewed as “queer” artists, for all the best reasons.
As in the singular visions of these Norwegian artists of an earlier generation, Aleksander’s work is challenging, takes no prisoners and knowingly unfolds a discourse likely to make the audience uncomfortable. Diaristic memories of an eating disorder, body dysmorphia or experiencing borderline sexual violence at a young age… This is not so much a matter of addressing the elephant in the room as inviting it onto the dance floor in leather chaps.
Aleksander—as with the earlier generation—understands his work as inherently reacting to growing up in an affluent, somewhat conservative Norwegian society in which social consensus is a kind of Holy Grail. Those who fall outside of it, because of sexuality, social identity or simply holding different opinions, run the risk of being smothered with tolerance. So, yes, saying the “unspeakable” or reminding people of things best ignored is all part of it.
Within his practice, the performative is deep and intrinsic. Aleksander remains fascinated by the mode in which stand-up comedians operate; to say so little and address “inappropriate” topics relying almost entirely on non-textual delivery such as tone and vocal melodics. Redeployed in the context of the gallery or other less traditional performance venues, it’s a tool that he uses within his work.
Just when we think we’re looking at jolly and frivolous imagery, it turns out that we’re actually viewing a rendered avatar that imbues all of a gay man’s anxieties about his physicality, his corporal existential "worth". Or, when we read a seemingly offhand reference to an “overshare” we gradually realise that here, oversharing is more likely to be used as a blunt instrument rather than a witty aside by a “sweet” gay boy.
Aleksander Nærbø is part of a perhaps unexpected, enduring wave of Norwegian “queer” artists who prove that sometimes the best and most elegant surfing can take place in seemingly inhospitable waters off bleak, icy coasts; where one would least expect it. Rubber up if you want to ride these waves.
You can learn more about him and his work on his website.
Curator text: Ken Pratt
Keep an eye on our Instagram channel: the next 3 artists are already creating their own works inspired by the house. We're doing it IN HOUSE.