Review: The Mother – Strategically Placed to Become an Iconic Figure of Oslo

Text and Photos by Leanna Lunde / The Oslo Desk

The Mother, by British artist Tracey Emin, is a nine-meter-high sculpture that was unveiled on the 4th of June 2022 next to the newly built Munch gallery in Oslo.

The piece was chosen from an international art competition in 2018 to make the Bjørvika area, commonly known as the Barcode district, more attractive. The sculpture symbolises motherhood and can be seen as the mother of people, nature and the city itself.

A case of what was envisioned is not what we see

The piece is of a female figure kneeling and looking at something in her hands. From Oslo Municipality’s description, the artist describes her work as a “sphinx waiting for the tide” to be a companion to the “spirit of Munch”; “to protect the place that houses the Norwegian artist’s life work, and to welcome visitors”.

Looking upon the artwork, one sees a paper maché quality of a submissive figure, almost childlike, kneeling in grass with a backdrop of expensive waterfront apartment buildings. The Mother’s back is turned away from the Munch gallery and is not looking out into the fjord but instead her attention is turned down towards her own hands – more a comment on the mobile age. This artwork demonstrates a conflict between what is meant to be and what stands before us. And one addition cannot be overlooked: from the front angle, there is an unfortunate stump between the statue’s legs that reflects the sunlight and stands out as a male appendage. An offshoot of Gender Politics or an artistic oversight?

Still, the artwork – by a non-Norwegian artist paying tribute to Norway’s world-famous painter – is strategically placed and designed to become an iconic figure in the Oslo city landscape.

You can find Oslo Municipality’s page on The Mother here.

Leanna Lunde

Leanna Lunde is an Australian and has lived in Norway for 18 years. Educated in Performing Arts, Leanna has worked in creative, technical and management positions for theatrical production companies, culture houses and festivals.