Human Nature and Wildness
Born in 1972, Christian Houge is a Norwegian photographer who lives and works in Oslo, Norway.
His photographs explore the human condition as realized through and influenced by nature. Pervading his work is a curiosity for myth and folklore, spurred by the Norse legends of his youth. His Barentsburg and Shadow within series were both nominated at the Prix Pictet, the global award in photography and sustainability.
For over 20 years, Christian Houge questions the place of Man in his environment, amongst harmony and confrontation, and the opposition between nature and culture.His 'Barentsburg / Pyramid' and 'Arctic Technology' series, realized during different stays in the Svalbard archipelago - in Arctic, often called as a "new frontier" - show the impact of the human activity on an almost virgin environment.Houge's work is regularly shown in exhibitions throughout the USA, Europe and Asia. In 2015, his exhibition 'Paradise Lost' was exhibited in three Chinese cities including Beijing, at the Three Shadows Photography Art Center.
For almost twenty years Christian Houge has used photography and film as tools in his art projects. He has been drawn to explore themes relating to nature and culture that have dealt with taboos arising from the juxtaposition of man and environment, and ultimately ourselves. In exploring this relation between nature and culture, he touches upon the human condition.
The concept "Paradise Lost" derives from the late poet John Milton and revolves around how Man lost his innocence with nature. The three series shown (in all 85 images and three films) are made over the past fifteen years of extensive work. Most of these images are made with a large format 6x17 analog panoramic camera, producing extremely high quality images.
"Shadow Within" explores Man's relation to the wolf and ultimately, to Himself. In this photo project, I wish to invite the viewer to look at the raw nature and purity which the wolf represents and how this reflects the condition of Man and his own shadows materialized as taboos in our society.
Darkness Burns Bright
Even with all our technology and development, we are also part of something much bigger than ourselves. Something natural that surpasses culture. A starting point that was sustainable for millions of years before humans developed into a species on earth. A belonging to something primal.
After completing the `Shadow Within` project in 2013, I wanted to explore my affinity for the wolf and express myself more organically. To stand as a kind of natural link between technology and the natural, between culture and nature with the wolf as a driving force and impulse. In the narratives of Mowgli in the Jungle Book and the Remus and Romulus brothers, this predator has raised strong figures of care and love, which the wolf also represents. Red hat was originally created in the 1600s by Frenchman Charles Perrault, but had to be rewritten before it eventually reached popular culture through the Grimm brothers in the 1900s. Original history was too erotic and bloody, full of symbolism and metaphors.
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Who is Christian ?
Christian Houge, born in 1972, lives and works in Norway. After finishing his studies in Oxford in 1992 with an arts major, he has worked with both photography, film and installations exploring the relation between nature and culture. Environmental issues and the consequences of Man is an important part of this.
Christian’s large-scale photographic series include panorama projects like Arctic Technology and The Seedvault and Barentsburg ( a Russian coal mining community which is set on a remote island between Greenland and the North Pole. Here Christian explores the ideas of Man versus the manmade, primal landscapes versus technology and culture built around natural resources leading to global changes in climate. Technological installations search for answers to climate change while the seed vault protects the most important seeds of biodiversity from natural or manmade disasters.
His Darkness Burns Bright series are large unique installations with uv print on cowhide, beeswax,ash and gold leaf. This organic series explores how wolves may invite viewers to mirror their own nature and the non-verbal in this stigmatized animal representing some of the last true nature which has not been overrun by Man and culture.
The series has been shown in international galleries and museums, as well as being part of art/climate/awareness symposiums (Johnson Museum, New York).
Shadow Within explores man's relation to the wolf and ultimately, to himself. Photographer Christian Houge invites us to contemplate the raw nature and purity that the wolf represents and how this reflects the condition of man and his own shadows in society. Houge reveals the wolf's natural habitat by capturing in his photos the mysterious cracks in the mountains, the different types of holes they retreat to, and their reflections in water - metaphors for the inner/outer way we operate as humans. We can look to the wolf as an opportunity to learn about our own shadow. They can reflect back to us the parts of ourselves we are afraid to see: fear, social hierarchy, aggression, and loneliness.
His endeavor and exploration has earned awards as well as two nominations from annual Prix Pictet Awards on sustainability in Fine Art Photography for the themes Earth and Power.
His work from the Arctic Technology series is now on a three year US/Canada tour with the exhibition Vanishing Ice (Museum of Washington). Three of his series make up the exhibition Paradise Lost which is touring Chinese museums at the moment.
Christian has exhibited his works internationally in solo and group shows at museums, institutions and galleries throughout the past twenty years.