Read More: Articles and exhibition texts

The Promised Land

 Å male landskap har alltid fått meg til å undre meg over meningen med livet. Der er noe kontemplativt ved selve det å male et landskap. Å reprodusere et bilde bringer en ufravikelig tilbake til minner knyttet til det bildet, og får en til å reflektere over selve ideen om tilblivelse. Mange malere har erfart at å male noe, ofte er det samme som å forstå det objektet. Å male et fjell er å forstå fjellet. Å male krever at man kan ta noen snarveier. Triks og illusjoner. Hemmeligheten bak disse snarveiene er en dyp kunnskap om ruten. Bare da, når man har forstått hvordan dalene møter steinete nuter, hvordan bratte topper faller ned mot runde heier, hvordan vannet renner fra stein til stein mot en elv...bare da kan man ta noen snarveier. Og det er da man forstår at man selv har vært en tektonisk kraft som har presset opp landmasser og formet dem til topper gjennom tyngdekraft, naturkrefter og tid. Fjellet er det arketypiske symbolet på noe man må overvinne. Det er en slags positiv hindring. En konkret hindring, som begynner, og slutter, som kan passeres via en oppmerket sti, som stiger sakte fra dalen til fjellets topp. Det er en sti full av vanskeligheter men likevel,

en synlig sti. Fjellet er et løfte om suksess gjennom hardt arbeid. Pilegrimsferder, mytologi og hellige steder har alltid vært en del av tankegodset bak mitt

arbeid. Guder og demoner nedkjemper hverandre og gjenoppstår i hverandre etter blodbadet. I gresk mytologi dreper Atalanta et fryktelig villsvin, som er sendt av Artemis for å ødelegge Calydonia. Drapet utløser en fryktelig krig hvor alle står mot alle, og frembringer en demon i ørneskikkelse. Ørnen spiser Prometheus´ innvoller, for alltid. Prometheus har brakt menneskene sivilisasjonen, gjennom å frembringe ild, og blir derfor underlagt en uendelig straff fra gudene. Slik inngår guder og mennesker i et evig kretsløp av død og skapelse. Mens du setter fot etter fot mot det lovede landet, på andre siden av fjellet, går sivilisasjoner under og gjenoppstår. Plutselig er du ikke alene på stien. Vi er tusener nå. Vi fyller opp hver tomme. Vi faller, og danner nye stier. Noen av oss når ikke fram. Men utsikten her oppefra er fantastisk.

God of the High Places

“When we walk, we naturally go to the fields and woods: What would become of us, if we walked only in a garden or a mall?” Henry David Thoreau in The Atlantic in 1862.


God of the high places is a series of works that up to now includes some twenty paintings of various sizes and thirty watercolours. This ongoing group of works is the natural continuation of 404 Days of Rain. During 404 days of rain I was mostly concerned about a sincere narration through paintings of happenings and landscapes previously experienced and seen.

The element that mostly defines this group of paintings is a colourful palette and a clear figurative and unpretentious style. The use of figurative style was for me a great statement per se, it may be seen by many as backwards, anachronistic, but it offered me the great opportunity to see how the fictional representation of paintings has changed in the age of the digital technologies and as well it was for me, a painter, the most straightforward way to articulate emotions.

God of the high places was born as a result of my artist residency in Aurland, The series subjectively explores the connections between a clarifying walk/hike in the nature defined remedy to rumination by naturalistic philosophers and modern scientists and the archaic concept of sacredness of the high places (often the God of the Old Testament demanded the construction of altars/piles of stones on them). This love for “hiking” shared by archaic religions and modern thinkers, who are often against said religions has often fascinated me, but my Italian background, where the altars of the high places were quickly replaced by bell towers and nature is friendly to man, helped me maintaining a certain scepticism.

I decided then to “consecrate” my residency in Aurland to hike on the surrounding mountains for ten days. My impressions were recorded by pictures and watercolours.

These documentation is currently being re-elaborated into paintings. I finally rely on them the duty to explicit my thoughts, and feelings about long walks through high places.

White Series

Each of my works contains references to events that has happened or is happening throughout our society.

For example the painting 'Delhi delight' which is based on a chronicle of “everyday Indian injustice” by the writer and journalist Arundathi Roy.

In the work 'pufferfish' (temporary title) the theme spans over the Inquisition and a couple of texts relating to that. One of them from the papal bull of Clement V, in which he approved the use of torture for a greater good, and another one from the archive of Francisco Franco, some lines that was part of a larger program to rehabilitate the image of the Sacred Inquisition by rewriting its history.

The work 'crane' (temporary title) mixes two texts, one is taken from a North Korean documentary about western propaganda and the other is taken from a 'Ted talks' interview of a North Korean girl who succeeded in escaping her country. Everything is covered by a traditional oriental decorative pattern representing flying cranes.

The work 'Act of faith' contains references to the Ezekiel's vision of God's Chariot, moving via the mundane act of faith of a killer-whale master, the idea of courtly love (‘o amor cortese’) and the open stigmata of Saint Frances, for his God-understanding.

In the paintings 'Holy family' and 'snake' (temporary titles) the references are more personal and melancholic.

The writings in my work are central. A text is something that needs a certain time, engagement and willingness to be read, especially if hand-written. Part of the writings underline a particular aspect of a work (the writings are the only subject of the work 'Detroit'), some of them are alien to the work (“a cold blue light, the light of a dying flame. Few days were left, at that point everything was crucial. The king called me. His castle was magnificent and sumptuous. I still remember the finely chiseled candelabra”... from 'Holy Family'), but in every case the writing amazes me for being an abstract pictorial gesture and at the same time a bridge to something that is figurative and solid.

All these themes mixed together give the viewers a wider sense of silent drama. Each painting’s story blends with the others, forming a different atmosphere.

In my personal understanding of a painter solo show, the atmosphere created by the combination of the singular paintings' individuality is what really matters. For instance, a “bad” painting in the context of a solo show can become fundamental and change radically the output of the whole show.

ACT OF FAITH, text by Riccardo Freddi

In the recent work of Manuel Portioli communication uses the dual means of representation and signification of the written text. On these canvases the pictorial elements are stacked in layers that virtually extend the space suited to accommodate information. White paint is used to restore this space lying on those previously executed marks, partly covering and partly leaving glimpses of them, so that the canvas appears as a palimpsest. The subject is drawn over these layers with a graphic trace, and sometimes it only consists of the writing itself, while the color, if there is any, normally doesn't cross the edge of the thin graphic trace that mark each tabula rasa.

The main feature of this practice is that the more authentically pictorial execution is limited to the creation of a background for the text, and to its partial concealing. This restriction, similar to a conceptual operation, is employed with its overabundant painterly gestures in order to introduce to the composition. The intelligible message of these works is not really entrusted to the painting, but to the literalness of writing and drawing.

The series' intent is, however, expressive, as the cursive and the scarce legibility of the text due to the succession of pictorial events highlights the writing's value of frieze at the expenses of the function of linguistic signifier.

The track on the regained space is clear and explicit. The chaotic series of data crammed onto the canvas is reminiscent of the early urban graffiti, as the author's bulimic appropriation of different information regards forms of folk as well as of applied arts, at a time when global society is set up as decentralized and pluralistic. The overlapping of images, actual and evoked from the written text, often highlights problematic aspects, but the drama does not have a palpable consistency, since it is reduced to an icon. The show emptied of its terrible content is a cynical proposal, built in analogy with the operation of information storage, common to the web users. In particular, this exuberantly and discontinuous style outlines in constant association content of moral and pornographic character. Obscenity sometimes occupies the deepest layer and emerges, thanks to transparency, to relieve the pomposity, forming with it a curse, pronounced in the consciousness of the dissolution of the sense of the image.

The obstension introduces the celebration of the icon, or the exclusive domain of the vision over the meaning.  

Cold Venus

We are proud to host the first solo- exhibition in Vedholmen Galleri by Manuel Portioli.

The elements that make up the group of paintings composing COLD VENUS, are a colorful palette, figurative and unpretentious style. All the paintings in the series are made in the same period, spring 2017. This is the first time for them to be shown in public.

The paintings are a continuation of the series «God of the High Places» which was made as a result of Manuel Portioli´s Artist Residency in Aurland 2015, followed by a solo exhibition in the new Gallery Vinjum 2016, also in Aurland.

Nevertheless Portioli, only thirty years of age, is already a complex artist investigating different types of expressions and formats in his various exhibitions. «I was wondering what would have been Venus's birthplace if she was born in the North... Not the hot sand/crystal blue waters of Cyprus, but the gray skies, great precipices, and dark waters of Sogn og Fjordane. »

Manuel Portioli´s paintings are far from gray, or dark but quite the opposite. With a wide range of colours, vivid contrasts, playful brushstrokes, balanced compositions, he shows fundamental technical craftsmanship and artistic maturity.

Portioli might be a newcomer to the Norwegian Landscape and Scenery, but the tales he tells, are highly evocative, convincing, and personal. The tale of a Northern Venus, born from the cold sea, may seem a fancy-full illusion? She may not be present in Portioli's paintings, - but her colours, sensuality and power are a strong and ever tangible presence…

The exhibition is supported by Grieg Foundation.

Vibeke Harild

404 days of rain

 404 days of rain, is a very personal series of paintings in which I'm mostly concerned about a sincere narration trough paintings of the experiences that have characterized my last two years. The element that mostly defines this group of paintings is a colorful palette and a clear figurative style. The use of figurative style is for me a great statement per se, it may be seen by many as backwards, anachronistic, but to me offers the great opportunity to see how the fictional representation of paintings has chanced in the age of the digital technologies. This ongoing series of works allows me to investigate the classic painting genre of landscapes, and as well to get engaged with themes dear to the Expressionists.

Bella Vista

The series plays with kitsch and icons, which from time to time are nothing more than synonyms, and with the baroque idea of spectacle. Spectacle, with its flamboyance, it's one of the best method to pursue the covering of a void. An hollow filled-up with emptiness and covered with a wonderful tromp-l'oeil summoning remote ideas and positive deeds. The idea of spectacle stands efficiently in the shape of an icon, which could be an over-sized Madonna or a well known picture of a landscape eventually become a “bella vista”.

Anything can become an empty symbol, thanks to the passing of time the sharp edges get knocked-off and things that use to be vessels of engaging meanings and great sentiments become either forgotten or shifted into the realm of pure visuality.

The pornography goes along with the concept of symbol (a symbol is an object that represents, stands for, or suggests an idea, visual image, belief, action, or material entity) for its own becoming a symbol. Pornography attacks the physical and psychological values of sex as efficiently as the church and other creeds do.

The symbol of sex is the pornography itself. To be clear, sex is becoming a spin-off of pornography not vice versa.

In a society where the “symbolic exchange” is subject to continuous fluctuations of trends, the referents come forth without their references, therefore the images come before their producers. If the smell of a cake resembles in our minds the shape and the qualities of the object that produces that peculiar odor, the cake, pornography among the youngest generations resemble the act of sex. With, all its pro and con.

The fuel of these paintings is the contrast between dying and growing icons.

The emerging and rising of pornography as a new myth is placed underneath the falling of the ancient ones. 

“to live without God is nothing but torture . . . Man cannot live without kneeling . . . If he rejects God, he kneels before an idol . . .”

- Fëdor Dostoevskij -


The paintings of Manuel Portioli are manifestos of philosophical positions in images, they combine opposite poles in an attempt to challenge and mutually contaminate each other: the metropolitan graffiti is connected to the peaks of religion, the sacred is joined to the roughness of pornography,which is presented as completely natural; object of research for it is a possibility of existence. His works are placed on the narrow border between expression of subjectivity and reworking of objective statements of a group: an act of oral sex meets the miraculous catch of fish; recollections of familiar places meet the strong leadership of Ezekiel, the major prophet.

The will to feed on the most diverse and disparate images is clear in his work: the human imagination is hardly original, it feeds on what is found wandering on the web. Google is erected as new humanity's Bible. Then Samson, who encountering the lion affirms to be chosen by God – herald of unrepresentable transcendence - is drawn with comic lines, he turns into a manga fighting to assert his own identity on a red background of passion. What's a stronger thrust than that to defend one's identity and autonomy?

The trace is often close to the underground scene, but it is contaminated by free associations. If the picture becomes icon when it is exposed - if the exposition accords the work its privileged status - Ezekiel can only be represented in agreement with the traditional imagery, even in its techniques. Then the trace of the marker deliberately becomes echoes of the woodcarvings used to decorate and spread through the sacred scenes in the past centuries. There it stands the Michelangelesque figure of a major prophet who conscious of the transcendence of God simply indicates it:the masses, like dead resurrected from their graves, rise up from their fall and turn their gazes to the sky. It is a message of hope that overlaps with that yearned home from which we are separated by a still too long way.

The representation allows a signification of ideas and instances: the union between man and nature, pornography and spirit, transcendence and animal immanence is the task of the artist. He has to define his thought, and substantiates man's; his task is to identify the suggestions of the group, allow them to become artistic images, and finally to rebuild his own identity.

This process happens in Hijacked Democracies, although less explicitly - previously the intervention was active, here is surely mediated - but still present: the imaginary is not autonomously created in the artist's mind, not born anew through an original invention, it always springs from the processing of social, indeed, global premises.

His gesture is charged with a force that seeks liberation onto the canvas, it almost shows an anxiety of accomplishment; after all, the only possibility of signification is in pictorial writing: it - which is realized trough an instinctive path - pushes the artist to deform, mutate everything that is under his control, and to build a new icon having witnessed the collapse of those of the past.

The image, as an element that is imposed before anything else, has granted a nearly sacred dimension, like an icon it becomes bearer of condensed meanings, collected in the course of time and in the evolution of style. The artist faces this set of elements not merely as a passive person, and not as an observant of the semantic layering. It should then be noticed a new emergence, a new idol, namely pornography as symbol of sex: tool capable of changing our own perception of it. Pornography has an active

part in opening a new era of empowerment where it is celebrated in its identity, as a signifier of itself; victorious over the stories of the past.

Michele Bertolino


Hijacked Democracies

The series 'Hijacked democracies' aims to eliminate the untouchability of the artwork and part of its subjectivity. An artwork is the fruit of the artist's subjectivity, and by consequence it's dogmatic and unquestionable. The viewer’s opinion is not asked for. The duty of the spectator is accomplished in the observation of the artwork. Once the guest has been counted and/or his ticket has been registered, the relation between viewer and artwork is concluded.

In 'Hijacked democracies' the relation between the two parts is more lively. The spectator is kindly invited to leave a trace of his passing by, on the work itself, within the boundaries of the supplied means and the given time.

The work becomes not only a portrait of the artist's subjectivity, but also a portrait of a defined group of people, in a certain place and in a particular moment.

In our contemporary democracies the input or law is debatable and modifiable within certain given limits. Considering the predefined limits and the selection of people on who the input is applied, the output is often predictable.

The value of the artwork in the 'Hijacked democracies', shifts from the aesthetic to the relational.

The concept of an 'Hijacked democracies' show is to exhibit in the same space a group of “open” works (modifiable during the whole period of the exhibition) equipped with shelves with markers in front of each one, and a group of 'Hijacked democracies' already “concluded”, so not modifiable, coming from other exhibitions/performances, and therefore already “hijacked”.

The title of the work corresponds to the time and the place where the “performance” has happened (for instance: 72 hours of hijacked democracy at KHIB). 

Rise and fall of a living human

Rise and fall of a living human is a polyptych composed by 4 canvases each 2m x 1,40m.

The work spans over crucial themes and moments of someone's life. Religion and family, nature and sexuality.

The moments are intertwined and united. In three of the four paintings pornographic drawings pop out in a more or less visible way. The big icon, made like a “madonnaro” would do it, is an exception. Family and religion tend to not admit pornography transparently. But the pornography is there, the pornography of an over-sized icon, kitsch and empty, and therefore universal. And if “the call of the wild” is the leading feeling in the fourth canvas, in the second the idea of a mathematical and statistical sadness is dominating (hammer-sharks defined by tons).

The styles are different. The paintings can be associated only by being placed one after another, by the reoccurring materials, and by their size, repeated in any chapter/canvas.

The aesthetics is clearly post-modern. It’s reminding of David Salle and a certain freedom of style practiced by several artists in the 80s'.

The works can be shown separately. The title of each of them will always recall the idea of a more complex entity, of which, the single work is only a chapter.

Paesaggio per valigia

Il mio paesaggio per valigia è il mio nuovo paesaggio e la mia valigia. Ed il paesaggio ha viaggiato piegato nella valigia dal posto rappresentato su di esso a qui.

E' un paesaggio migrato vissuto da un migrante, un atto politico. Il mio atto politico.

Mi torna in mente ciò che Picasso disse ai soldati nazisti quando videro il Guernica: -”Vi piace? Sapete, questo non l'ho fatto io, l'avete fatto voi”. Qualcosa del genere. Naturalmente il riferimento è esagerato ed esasperato in tutti i sensi, ma credo in qualche modo calzante.