Torbjørn Rødland: The Touch That Made You
Torbjørn Rødland (b. 1970, Stavanger, Norway) is a Los Angeles-based photographer who creates portraits, still lifes and landscapes, which simultaneously inhabit, defamiliarise and disrupt the realm of the everyday.
Depicting situations that can appear overly familiar, Rødland’s photographs reveal an underlying lyricism and poetic language that result from the artist’s reconfiguration of the diverse material and media that surround us.
At first glance, Rødland’s work often inhabits the aesthetic space of commercial photography due to a formal clarity and, at times, fetishistic approach to subjects, objects and materials. Recurring tropes within his images include produce such as oranges, bananas, cakes and octopus tentacles, and close-ups of body parts and related accessories. Knees, feet and torsos partner with pads, socks and tattoos, while viscous substances, such as honey and paint, coat, ooze and drip over his subjects.
Rødland’s approach to image-making – using analogue photography in mostly staged scenarios – draws attention to the constructed nature of the image, while leaving open the potential for unexpected outcomes. That his images hold the viewer’s gaze is not only the result of a certain pleasure in the act of looking, but also the indirect, uncertain nature of their messages. As the artist states, his photographs aim to “keep you in the process of looking”.
The Touch That Made You at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery – Rødland’s first exhibition in the UK – brought together a diverse selection of works from the past two decades, which demonstrated the breadth of subjects captured and scenarios created by the artist. It also included Rødland’s film, 132 BPM (2005), animating subjects with the continuous, metronomic beats of dance music. The exhibition title refers to the physical and immaterial aspects of his images, from the rays of light and liquid touches that gradually reveal an image in the darkroom, to the framing and staging enacted through the lens.