Oslo

Going out with a bang, we vowed to relish the final stop on our Capital Cities of the Baltic Cruise, as we docked in Oslo, Norway.

To see the city through local eyes, we followed resident student Lars on a walking tour.

The Tiger Statue

The Tiger

Meeting at Central Station, Lars introduced us to Elena Engelsen’s Tiger Statue.

We took turns petting the 4.5-metre bronze beast as Lars explained its inspiration. Commissioned by the estate management company Eiendomsspar, to mark the region’s 1000-year anniversary, the statue’s feline form was chosen to reflect Oslo’s nickname, Tiger City.

Some claim the alias is inspired by a Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson poem, which refers to Oslo being a fierce like a tiger. However, others say the statue makes reference to the area’s poor past, when it was referred to as Tiggerstaden or City of Beggars.

Far from poverty, the city is now punctuated with designer shops and multi-storey offices. We admired the mix of old and new architecture as we wandered up the road.

The Glove

Chritian IV’s Glove

Stopping at Christiania Torv Square, we contemplated a circular fountain, topped with a downward pointing hand sculpture.

Lars explained the statue was called Chritian IV’s Glove, but has also been known as Hanske, since being built in 1997, by local artist Wenche Gulbransen.

Gulbransen rooted the work here to mark the spot that King Christian IV decided to rebuild, after the city’s fire in 1624. Legend has it the king pointed to the ground there and said, ‘the new town will lie here!’

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Akershus Fortress

Journeying further back in time, Lars took us 15 minutes’ walk to The Fortress of Akershus. Built in 1299 under King Haakon V, the fortress started life as a medieval castle, which withstood a number of sieges, before being renovated into a Renaissance royal residence.

With winding walls, spires and dry moats, it is easy to believe Lars when he says Akershus Fortress is haunted. The castle served as a prison in the 18 and 19 Centuries, before being occupied by Nazis during WWII.

Now a testimony to modern law enforcement, the fortress hosts the Norway Ministry of Defence headquarters, a temporary office for the Prime Minister and a cultural centre.

Oslo_National_Theatre

The National Theatre

Heading back toward the city centre, Lars brought us to see the National Theatre building. With Neoclassical columns, domed ceilings and four stages the theatre was designed by architect Henrik Bull in 1864, however it can trace roots back to the original Christiania Theatre of 1829.

Town_Hall_Clock

Rådhuset

Hopping just across the road, Lars led us to the jewel of our tour, Rådhuset or the City Hall. Designed by Arnstein Arneberg and Magnus Poulson, the Hall’s brick façade only reveals its beauty as you reach the entrance and see its giant zodiac clock.

TownHall

Entering the hall where Nobel Peace Prizes are awarded, the walls were rich with frescos by artists such as Henrik Sørensen, Per Krohg, and Edvard Munch. Their brightly coloured scenes showed the history of Norway and its neighbours, from industrial challenges to political milestones.

After aweing us with art, Lars concluded the tour outside. Thanking our guide, we set off ourselves for one final stop.

Opera House

Oslo Opera House

For our last look at the city, we climbed the Oslo Opera House. Designed by architects Snøhetta and completed in 2007, the building’s Italian marble and white granite slopes up to an alpine peak, perfect for people watching.

The largest cultural building constructed in Norway since the Nidaros Cathedral, the Opera House hosts both indoor and outdoor events throughout the year.

From its roof we scanned the city’s port, parks and streets, before snapping a selfie to remember our trip.

Travelogue

Travelouge 3

If you enjoy Nordic fiction, then why not explore the landscape through visual art? This voyage can be taken in Glasgow’s Briggait (studio) through Clive A Brandon’s Travelogue exhibition (running April 27 to June 5).

Travelogue showcases Brandon’s work from residencies in Norway, Scotland, Sweden and Iceland.

He explained: “I had visited Scandinavia several times before Travelogue and had a yearning to explore these countries more deeply. I loved the atmosphere and wanted to experience what it was like to live and work there, even if only for short time.”

In April 2013 Brandon left for a 20 month journey through Northern Europe, completing residencies that examined natural and manufactured elements of remote places.

He said: “I wanted to see how my work, which had become very ‘urban’, would develop in natural landscapes.”

Brandon explored these landscapes through excursions; making photos, sketches and watercolours that he combined with recycled materials and local information. These became a bricolage of material.

Brandon recalled: “When travelling I couldn’t carry very much, so I worked out a basic art kit with a watercolour travel set, acrylic paint, brushes, canvas, watercolour pads, moleskin sketchbooks, scissors, pens/pencils and graph paper. I made a rule that this all had to fit into an A3 folder and pencil case.”

On arrival at each residency, Brandon scoured the area for base materials such as cardboard. This often involved rummaging through recycling bins or asking strangers for shoe boxes.

He said: “I did get some strange looks, but if anyone asked what I was doing I just told them I was an artist, which normally excuses all sorts of behaviour.”

At the end of each residency Brandon would package most of his work and post it back home.

He added: “I left different things at each place; sometimes pieces just wouldn’t fit in postage, other times I donated paintings or sketches to my hosts.”

Meeting interesting people was – Brandon said – one of the highlights of his trip. He listed other highlights as: challenging his work patterns, having to be resourceful, seeing amazing countries and living like a local.

However living like a local was not always easy.

Brandon explained: “Before Travelogue I had never done any residencies; so arriving in another country without familiar studios, friends or materials was hard.

“The first day of each residency was a bit strange; I would arrive to an empty room and wonder how I was going to make something from nothing.

“My first actions were normally to get some ideas up on the walls, rearrange the space and make it feel like mine.”

After setting up, Brandon absorbed his environments by collecting materials and making sketches, this – he said – helped him to relax and built towards his final projects.

He added: “I’m really happy with the body of work I produced, which is why I was keen to collectively show it when I returned.”

Before his travels Brandon lived and worked in England, having studied an MA at Wimbledon and BA at Leicester De Montfort.

Upon returning to the UK Brandon started touring his exhibition.

He said: “I found that travelling can be a brilliant experience that can change your work forever.

“To any artist considering working abroad I would say: plan ahead, set goals (but have an open mind and avoid being too prescribed) then get to know the local people and arts scenes.”

International residency opportunities can be found at Res artists’, Transartists’ and WASPS studios’ websites.

WASPS studios hold special resonance with Brandon, as they are hosting his Travelogue exhibition.

Brandon said: “This is my first Scottish show and first solo show in the UK, so it’s a very exciting time.

“I hope people will get a lot out of Travelogue; it is a large body of work that allows viewers to immerse themselves in the sense of place. It shows how palettes change with the seasons, and landscapes shift from rolling hills, to forests to volcanic areas.”

Travelogue dates and locations can be found on Brandon’s website.