Review: Alpha Beta

Edinburgh Printmakers. January 2010.

Eighties pop star to printmaker does not seem to be a particularly logical career progression, but a-ha keyboardist Magne Furuholmen’s latest exhibition would suggest otherwise. The works, comprising of drypoint and monotype prints of each letter of the alphabet plus Norwegian letters and a rather lonely looking exclamation mark, have an instantly appealing lyrical quality.

The afore-mentioned exclamation mark opens the exhibition, simple and striking in monochrome. The rest of the exhibition is spread over two rooms, which feels slightly disjointed – it is odd for something as instantly familiar as the alphabet to suddenly stop and then continue around a corner. Seemingly caused by space constraints rather than any particular artistic meaning, the split is certainly not a major problem, but does perhaps interrupt the fluency of the exhibition somewhat. However, Magne F’s choice of colours certainly helps to keep it cohesive. Black and white are predominant alongside purple, grey and brown: a quietly beautiful palette.

Many of the prints feature lines of poetry, or the artist’s musings. Some are fairly obviously linked with the letters (‘N’ and ‘note to self’), but most are more oblique: ‘R’ is printed alongside the words ‘self serving pretention’ and ‘M’ tells us that ‘some lines form a perfect circle/some take shapes you can’t predict’. Combined with the scribbled handwriting – often partly obscured by layered cut-outs – this gives the exhibition a highly personal feel. I couldn’t decide whether I was trying to decipher a code, where the once so familiar letters take on new meaning, or simply leafing through someone’s rather angsty diary.

Considering the inclusion of the three Norwegian letters æ, å and ø at the end of the alphabet series, it would have been interesting to see more of a relationship between English – as used in the rest of the prints – and Norwegian. These letters are clearly sufficiently significant to the artist to warrant a place in the exhibition, yet until the end of the second room we would have no idea of a Norwegian influence. Another potential level to the exhibition which is left unopened is the music Magne F has composed, titled ‘Word Symphony’. It was composed alongside the prints, but does not feature in the exhibition: copies are instead being given away with the first 500 prints sold.

The exhibition is undoubtedly aesthetically pleasing and provides a quick hit of visual poetry. It is a shame that its potentially multi-faceted nature is not explored, but this does not detract from the instant beauty of the decidedly individual works.

Originally published in The Student.

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