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Behind Fadlabis Onset of Vertigo

It’s a painting about the artist being as shitty as everyone else and it’s a painting about Kunstnernes Hus. A salute to the house where the artist can tell such a story and feel he is celebrated.
- Fadlabi

The Onset of Vertigo is the title of the monumental floor painting made by the Norwegian Sudanese artist Fadlabi dedicated to Kunstnernes Hus’ small-scale 90thcelebratory exhibition. Inspired by 90 years of history, Fadlabi establishes an inverted dialogue with Per Krohg’s ceiling fresco from Kunstnernes Hus’ iconic staircase.

Kunstnernes Hus was built by artists and for artists, hence Fadlabi’s voice and response to its history holds a central position in this exhibition.

The Onset of Vertigo is painted with acrylic paint and protected with a thick layer of lacquer, which allows any visitor to walk on - and engage in - the work. The specific motifs are wilfully unspecified.

In order to make this painting, Fadlabi used 35 liters acrylic paint. The three layers of lacquer on top of that allows the work to remain undamaged.

Fadlabi worked directly in the room between March 1sty and May 15th. He did not work with a sketch, and spent a good amount of time looking through Kunstnernes Hus' archive before he started to paint.

A trained eye might recognise a few motifs and artworks from Kunstnernes Hus' exhibition history, but Fadlabi’s main attempt is to grasp the implications of an artist’s struggle as depicted by Per Krohg above Kunstnernes Hus' staircase.

In Krohg’s ceiling fresco entitled An Artist’s Thorny Path to the Heights, a male figure is depicted opening three different doors, representing three stages of his artistic path. The first stage is nature and the study of anatomy. The second is the encounter of illusion, lie and truth. The third one is the tunnel of wisdom; the artist reaches the light on the other side of the tunnel only to realize that the circular journey is endless. By representing the ancient symbol of a snake biting his tail, Krohg seems to incite artists to start their journey all over again. Fast forward 88 years, Fadlabi embarks on his own dialogue with Per Krohg and Kunstnernes Hus’ history, calling his new work “not just a painting, but a time machine.”

Where Krohg sends the artist on a vertical journey to the heights, Fadlabi grounds him on a horizontal reality. Where Krohg seeks light, Fadlabi seeks answers. Where Krohg finds a circular path, Fadlabi finds a network; a network of stories, deceptions, pain, and fulfilment.

Fadlabi (f. 1975) is born in Sudan. His youth was nourished by the colourful visuals of painted barbershop charts, from which he learnt that painting “captures reality beyond that which an eye can see.” His projects often challenge preconceptions of ethnicity, as well as ask who has the defining power over history. He has studied political science and art at the University of Khartoum and art at the Oslo Art Academy.

The painting is presented alongside a timeline of Kunstnernes Hus’ exhibitions since 1930, as well as a selection of video footage from the nationalbroadcastingarchives.