Notes on Julie Sass in Steinprent

Foto: Steinprent

Foto: Steinprent

It is always a true inspiration to visit Steinprent, the Lithographic Workshop in Tórshavn. Almost everytime I go there, I meet different interesting artists. Last week it was the Faroese artist Bárður Jákupsson who is currently exhibiting his paintings and prints in the art gallery downstairs - the workshop itself is located on the first floor. The week before that, it was the British artist, Ian Mckeever collaborating with the American poet, Peter Levitt.

Today I met the Danish artist Julie Sass, who is currently working at the workshop together with the printers Fríða Matras Brekku and Jan Andersson. Somehow this meeting inspired me to write in english, maybe because Fríða, who´s an artist as well as a lithographic printer, suddenly said that she was longing for an inspirational tour to New York to visit art galleries and museums, and I mentioned that I´ve never been there. Julie has been there a lot. She lived and studied there. I suppose she thinks, that it has influenced her quite a bit, but I believe that her expression is very Nordic too.

It´s obviously somehow complex and problematic to talk about art in this sort of national or regional way. But there´s something in the light and in the way Julie Sass arranges her compositions, the colors and forms in her paintings and graphic images in which I recognize something that I seem to know and understand. Maybe it´s a connection with Scandinavian design and the cold weather of the north, a sense of something ascetic and harsh combined with a luxurious feeling of beauty and warmth in the embedded forms in her work.

Maybe I should explain, that in Faroese art we don´t have a very strong tradition in regard to nonfigurative art. Faroese art history is very short in comparison with the other European and Nordic countries, it didn´t start until around 1900. There has been many different speculations and explanations for this late start, one is the hard living conditions on the islands in the old days. It´s indeed a fact that visual art posses no direct utility value and the materials required to make art are costly. Visual art calls for full working capacity. As contrasted with storytelling and singing songs for which we have a strong and old tradition, visual art cannot be properly executed at the same time as doing the household chores. But this is only part of an explanation, because adverse circumstances have not prevented other people who were much poorer than the people in the Faroe Islands from developing a visual art expression. I don´t know the exact reasons for the slow development, but I have an idea that some of the surpressed creativity emerged in the beautiful patterns in the knitted Faroese sweater and in the sublime form of the Faroese rowing boat. I´m not used to writing these sorts of explanations, they aren´t nessecary, as this art blog/site is usually written in my native language, Faroese, which unfortunately isn’t googleable. 

Art is in general about communication and Julie Sass is certainly about communication - she is an extremely talented communicator who is at the same time unusually open minded as a person and a determined, focused and ambitious artist. Sass has been working in Steinprent (Faroese word for lithography) several times and I have been fortunate to know her for some years, so I know her as an interesting person with many different skills.

As an artist Julie Sass works with the non representational in images, which combine a sensuous and analytical approach, focusing on the interrelations between forms on the surface both in the individual work and between her works. She has a special talent for dialogues, which is evident both in her present work in Steinprent, but also is noticeable in her work as a curator in relation to her own exhibitions and projects like Minimal Baroque: Post-Minimalism and Contemporary Art, which examined the encounter between different artistic and architectural styles.

This time Julie Sass´ main task is finishing a book, made in original heliographic and lithographic printing. The book is absolutely astonishing, and the making of it presented a real challenge for the experienced  and skilled litographer, Jan Andersson who has worked with a lot of Faroese and international artists since he founded Steinprent in Tórshavn in 1999 together with Fríða Matras Brekku.  

Julie Sass´ book is about exploring ideas about abstraction. In the book there are interesting dialogues between Julie Sass and fellow artists; Arturo Herrera, Erin Lawlor, Ann Pibal and Steel Stillman. In the preface Julie presents her ideas for the book: “I asked each artist to pose questions about abstraction that -while addressed specifically to my work, also related to their own concerns. Each dialogue developed differently. And part of my response was visual, taking the form of heliographs and lithographs made in collaboration with Jan Andersson at Steinprent”.

Julie Sass will be presenting her book, VOLUME RHYTHM MATTER dialogues at the Danish National Art Library in Copenhagen, May 5th, 2017