2004 Solo exhibition ( Kunstnerforbundet)
1998 Solo exhibition in Galleri Roenland, Jevnaker
Summarising his own career, and quite properly attacking conceptual sculpture - ""conceptual art rehashes triviality itself"" - and rubbish sculpture, the Norwegian artist Knut Steen titled his autobiographical essay From Garbage to Marble, and identified himself as an apostate garbage collector turned marble carver and bronze modeller.
""Garbage collector"" because of his frist job on leaving school was to drive a horse and cart for the Oslo Public Cleansing Department. Then, unfit for military service (this astonishingly powerful stone carver operates on only one lung, the other having long since succumbed to tuberculosis), he had a wartime job as a porter in the Oslo Accident Hospital.
For all that, as he pointed out in his essay ""the artist exist outside the world of art"" and the inevitable happened. As soon as he was free, he began to sculpt, to draw and to make prints - more often than not concerned with the human form, though in such work as the fountain recently set up at the Sheraton Hotel at Sandvika, he relies on stylised leaf and shell forms.
He chooses his marble, his chief medium, as much for the colour and veining as for texture; and this he then works often to a near-transparent thickness which makes the stone seem to breathe, and gives it a lightness which makes it appear likely to blow away in a light breeze. Like Brancusi (to my view th God of sculpture as was Rembrandt the God of Western painting), Steen believes, and exeemplifies that belief in his best work, ""that carving is the true way of sculpture"".
He expresses himself in other media too - in drawing and graphics. ""Three compulsions I cannot control. I want to see the marble float in the air. I want to feel the bronze move under my hand. I want to make something living leap out of the piece of paper"". I once heard Brancusi, standing amid his creations, spell it out even more forcefully. ""Here I give you pure joy!""
(from: http://www.knut-steen.com/index.html )
It is no accident that Knut Steen has made a design for a Promentheus. Likewise it is no accident that this design was never realised. Nothing is mere chance in this artist's life, and therefore it is just as tempting to write about his life-story as of his art.Today he is accepted as Norway's leading sculptor. Not so long ago he was talked about as this country's most ill-used artist. Perhaps he has learned from the birds to sail on the headwinds.
First he was dustman and jazz-musician. Then he became a hospital porter and had to deal particularly with corpses and remains. Perhaps it stems from this that he has an aversion to the tendency within this art form that makes use of rubbish and waste. Knut Steen's goal has always been the unattainable beauty.
In the beginning Prometheus brought fire to us; we took it and made use of it. In latter times doubts have arisen as to how far this was of benefit. In any event Prometheus got his punishment and right enough it was his liver especially that was affected. This piece is not going to deal with Knut Steen's inner organs - but it is apt to say he is among those who have borne the fame onward. The artist is a torch-bearer who raises his torch against a seemingly greater force of darkness.
An inner organ plays, though, an explanatory role in the story of how the coachman's boy became the great Knut Steen. As a youth he contracted turberculolsis and for ten years of his life he lived not far from death's door.
He got over it. He survived with one lung less than most people. It suited him ideally to execute a memorial to Rudlf Nilsen, the worker-author who died young of this disease. Knut Steen came out of a sanitorium cured, and made one of Norwegian sculpture's most virile monuments.
The author Rudolf Nilsen is scarcely known outside Norway but the statue could certainly be. It is a work of youth with the imprint of a man who early has understood what life is all about.
""I want to live!"" This is the young Knut Steen's message to the people of Oslo's east side. For the sake of the anecdote, it can be mentioned that this naked bronze man with sex-organ in glistening metal was received with a strom of protests in the press and in reader's letters, something which did not fail to make an impression on the young sculptor. No one becomes a prophet in his own back-yard, but to be born at Kampen is quite a start. A Norwegian artist must struggle both against the public's and his own puritanism, for cultivated sensuousness is not found so far north!
In the fifties Knut Steen worked on a monument to the Norwegian whale-fishing which at that time was still a real source of wealth for the country. It was a work which grew with its creator.
The whaling monument in Sandefjord was undeniably a masterpiece in modern Norwegian sculptur. Today we can look with ecological hindsight on this activity. But Knut Steen's big fountain is not a homage to the extermination of this mighty animal. It is a work of art by a man who