Following the well tarmaced road South (it was just a dirt track the last time I was here…), I am reaching Kautokeino, the final settlement before the Finnish border.
Here I had to re-visit a place that seems so outlandish but that is now such an integral part of the town that both are often mentioned in the same sentence.
The story goes back all the way to 1959 when a young German-Danish artist couple decided that their ideal working environment was not the Cote Azur or a Spanish metropolis, but the harsh climate of the tundra and one of the few remaining normadic communites on the European continent.
Regine and Frank Juhl got inspirated by the pureness of the snow covering the landscape around them for many months every year, by the Northern lights in the winter and by the never ending days in the summer.
They started with very humble beginnings – just a small house with a tiny work shop, but over the years their silver gallery grew and grew and individually designed extentions were added to the initial buildings in regular intervals.
Like Cesar Manrique’s House on Lanzarote, which fuses with the lava that formed the landscape there, the silver workshops and galleries grew like a strange flower among the uniform birch trees which are surounding the building, providing not only a fitting environment to display pieces of art, but working at the same time as a example for the ideal working environment they had imagined for themselves and for their co-workers and as an expression of the creativity of some exceptional human beings.
As individual as each extention looks from the outside, as diverse is the interior design and the display of items inside the buildings: there is a dedicated room for paintings and glass ware, another two for both traditional Sami silver as well as for the team’s own designs. One room shows household items of the Finnmark Vidda whereas another – layed out with carpets and decorated in a more oriental style – tells of the Juhl’s deep admiration for Afghanistan – a country they visited in the 1980th.
The importance of animals in their life is demonstrated in a room that features a large glass window allowing a view into a ordinary stable where sheep are sheltering and chicken are perching at eye level.
The Juhl’s admiration for animals appears to be followed by today’s management team which meant that Mia was not only tolerated but in fact warmly invited by a member of the team to enjoy the tranquil environment of the gallery as well. However, I elected to sideline with my canine companion the areas with the precious glass ware which was displayed on very low tables……
When entering the gallery one immediately notices the beautiful sculpture of a colourful finger with the imprint directed towards the viewer with the object itself surounded by uncleaned paintburshes, open pots of oil paint, by splattered ceramic tiles and various tools, just as if the artists had just left for a cigarette or a coffee – one of Frank’s final works and like the whole gallery his legacy to the world.
Regine and Frank’s silverware is now sold in dedicated galleries in larger Norwegian cities and in jewellery shops all over Scandinavia.