Snabel [Trunk], Backaskolan primary school, Lund, 2014
Thale Vangen stages contexts that feel both familiar and strange, both inviting and frightening. Her work appears to move in a dimension of its own, creating a world of idiosyncratic symbols. Vangen has a background in biology and uses animal guises to play with identities and corporeal experience. Her work engages the viewer through displacement, using mobile mechanical parts or just the flight of fancy.
Animals, masks and transformation were the themes addressed in a workshop with some 80 pupils from the Backaskolan primary school who were asked to take part in the production of a new artwork for their schoolyard. Together with Vangen and an art educator they investigated various possibilities of these themes. At first the artist was not quite sure what means of expression she would choose for her work, but this became clear during these exercises with the children. By putting on a mask you can become another; when you try on a new face you become frightening or seductive, or you disappear. The animals, just like we, often perform this transformation. As humans we dress up in a suit or a uniform to send the appropriate signals to the surrounding world. Sometimes we want to blend in like a chameleon; sometimes we want to stand out like a peacock.
The transformation that happens behind the mask can also be felt on the inside. Behind a lion mask we may get the animal’s strength, power and courage. If we blend in with the environment we may be left alone, find a safe refuge. Trunk is a sculpture and a mask at the same time. Interacting with the work, the viewer is momentarily transformed into something that knows no limits other than those of the imagination.
Thale Vangen, born in 1974 in Drammen, Norway. Lives and works in Malmö. Studies at the Malmö Art Academy 2005–2010.