Torbjørn Rødland (1970, Stavanger) is a photographer whose work tends to divide the audience. Oftentimes his pieces are referred to as “perverse” and while some do make uncomfortable viewing, the artist’s aim to disturb and activate the photographic genre is largely very successful and works with contemporary iconography.
Some of his most memorable and visually disturbing pieces are experiments in action, putting pressure on the tradition of portraiture by placing his subjects in uncomfortable positions to be viewed. His aim? To force portraiture to do something new. No mean feat to ask to one of the oldest forms of art in existence. His accomplishment in making his viewers imagine the scenario that may well have led up to, or have come after, the single frames he presents in large configurations, does lend something new to the works. Each one is a little twisted or “not right” causing you to think that something strange may be to blame. In fact, there is a touch of mystery and magic about many of his pieces, a hand aflame may in words seem painful but with the hand in such a position, is it more a suggestion of control of the fire than the complete opposite?
The reality is that the amount of detail and attention that Rødland pays to every element of the texture and composition of his images leads your mind to create its own scenarios. In Trichotillomania (2010) the affliction itself comes to life with plucked strands of hair strewn across freshly chopped fruit. In such a scene of calm the idea of someone literally, and compulsively, pulling their hair out is completely incongruous and therefore more illustrative of the impacts of such a disorder that can destroy the happiness of a summer day spent enjoying oranges.
Purely aesthetically, Rødland’s works are so enjoyable to look at. Not only because they are masterfully framed stills, but exactly because they cause that little shudder of discomfort. These images are so tactile in that they feel almost like they are pressing in on you as you wonder exactly what has happened or is about to.
Torbjørn Rødland is based in Los Angeles. He has exhibited widely including in 2017 at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery with The Touch That Made You. His other exhibitions include; Matthew Mark Luke John and Other Photographs, Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zürich, I Am a Photograph, Galerie Rodolphe Janssen, Brussels, Corpus Dubium, Algus Greenspon, New York and 132 BPM, Studio Exhibition, Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, Hiroshima, Japan.
Amy E. Brown