About the Symposium Norge

Symposium Norge is a temporary non-profit event where selected artists and sculptors from all over the world are invited to make sculptural art of the Norwegian and local stone: Larvikite. The first Symposium Norge was held in 1985, and it was the Japenese sculptor Makoto Fujiwara who initiated the idea of arranging a symposium in the Larvik quarries. With the support of the quarry owners Thor Lundh, Sven Rønne and the auditor Ole Jakob Steen, the Symposium Norge was able to establish itself in the first few years as a globally recognized International  Larvikite Sculpture Symposium.

After 1987 and the relocation of the symposium to the Stålaker quarry, it was above all the friendship and shared vision of Thor Lundh and Makoto Fujiwara to continue the sculptor symposium every second year. Always with the Lundh family's stone industry as a sponsor and supporter of the artists. After the sudden passing of Makoto Fujiwara in 2019 and a longer break for reflection and reorientation, the next International Larvikite Sculpture Symposium took place again in the Stålaker quarry of Lundhs in summer 2022. The second time in collaboration with the Kunstfelt Stålaker as operator and organizer of a newly oriented symposium. The Kunstfelt Stålaker is an artist cooperation between Christine Dingens and Martin Kuhn, which aims to support cultural life on the Stålaker site and to make the Symposium Norge and the resulting sculptures accessible to a broader network.

The Symposium Norge in the future

The aim remains to offer international artists a platform for their artistic work on stone. Stålaker in Larvik is a meeting place. Here meet sculptors from different countries the local population, just as the stone industry connects with sculptures. Out of industry and still reminiscent of its origin, the stone experiences a process of transformation through art.

The sculpture park Stålaker, shows a selection of artistic works from the past symposia and conveys an impression of the geological beauty transformed into an artistic expression through sculpture in front of the open Larvikite quarry plateaus. The Symposium Norge cooperates with other exhibition venues for sculpture, such as for example the coastal town of Stavern and the Larvik municipality, and thus tries to build a bridge between the stone industry, to support an art movement and to reach a wider public. But the focus is on the artist as a guest of the Symposium Norge and the community, to offer free artistic space to work with Larvikite as an inspiring and motivating natural material.

The foundation of the Symposium Norge

Foreword from the Symposium Norge Catalog 2014 by Tom Lotherington

Thor Lundh
Thor Lundh

First it was the sculptor Karl Prantl from Austria who gathered colleagues from far and near in his hometown, Sankt Margarethen, in 1959. Since then, the symposium became an annual event, held in various places in Central Europe, on both sides of the then strict dividing line between East and West. Sculptors came together for a limited time, working together with their respective sculptures in the open air. They camped together, shared experiences, borrowed and learned from each other, shared the wine and bread and exchanged opinions about art, life and the world situation. Language, borders, and worldviews could separate them, but they had one thing in common: They carved in stone. They found together; it became an annual or biennial gathering and an artist community. The stone artists' symposium, where the human spirit meets the harsh reality, and the form is lured out of the boulders with a hammer and chisel.
Karl Prantl's idea became a movement, and in 1985 it came to the Larvik district. It was Makoto Fujiwara who came up with the idea. He came from Japan via Berlin with good experiences from Karl Prantl's symposia. In 1982 he came to Tjølling, initially in search of material for a major decoration work. His encounter with the larvikite in the enormous quarries was doomed. Not least, he was able to see the artistic potential of the otherwise useless big stones. The other called wreckage and scrap, Makoto could see as a potential sculpture park.

Thor Lundh and Makoto Fujiwara, 2017
Thor Lundh and Makoto Fujiwara, 2017

Thor Lundh and his colleague and competitor, Sven Rønne, were infected by the Japanese artist's enthusiasm. An international symposium for sculptors in larvikite´s hometown Larvik, supported and subsidized by the stone industry's actors, it was the idea that became a plan. With the goodwill of Thor Lundh and Sven Rønne the plan became a reality three years after its conception, in the first Symposium 1985. The rest is history.

For almost 30 years, symposia have been held regularly in the quarries in Larvik, in recent years with a permanent presence at the Stålaker quarry, where conditions are conducive to accommodation, dining and hard work. Nearly ninety artists from around the world have participated, many of them several times. Some have remained, and have left traces in the landscape - for example with a polished Larvikite wall in the Tvedalen quarry from the German sculptor Martin Kuhn, a Japanese sculpture park on the sea side established by Makoto Fujiwara or a Larvikite installation that determined the marketplace in Larvik, created by Makoto Fujiwara together with students from the art academy of Hannover.

"Let's believe in a Labrador culture in Norway!" stated Karl Prantl after the first symposium in 1985. If he meant to express hope for a creative Larvikite environment, he was right. Stålaker has become an artist center, in all modesty. Sculptors use the facilities - and the unlimited supply of stones.

Kunstfelt Stålaker

Sculptor Martin Kuhn with PY2 student from Skagerak Int.School Sandefjord
Sculptor Martin Kuhn with PY2 student from Skagerak Int.School Sandefjord

The Kunstfelt Stålaker was established to highlight the art projects, the sculpture park and workshops on Stålaker site, but also to invite other artists and institutions to collaborate. It is located in front of the Larvikite quarry in Tjølling/Larvik and offers a platform for non-profit art projects that mainly combine sculpture, graphics and geology. The KFS has been organizing the Symposium Norge on a voluntary basis since 2019 and would like to continue to pursue the original symposium idea in collaboration with the support of Thor Lundh and the Lundhs stone industry. The Kunstfelt Stålaker was founded by the German artists Christine Dingens and Martin Kuhn in 2017 to support the artistic diversity on Stålaker, to make it visible and to connect the different actions on site with each other.

In addition to the International Larvikite Sculpture Symposium event every two years, other artistic activity has also been established around the Larvikite quarry Stålaker. Since its inception 39 years ago, the Symposium Norge hosted around 95 participants, some of whom have discovered their passion for stone and for Norway. The stone sculptor Martin Kuhn visited the symposium already in 1991 as a student of Makoto Fujiwara from the Hannover Art Academy, Germany and was then later also an active participant of the Symposium Norge in 1996. After some joint sculpture commissions with Makoto Fujiwara and as a supporter of the Symposium, Martin Kuhn changed over time the center of his life to Stålaker. He has continually built up his own workplace in the Stålaker quarry and has established himself as a sculptor in Norway for 33 years.

The long-standing and close contact with Thor Lundh and the stone industry, as well as with the Symposium Norge, has made Martin Kuhn a constant part and contact person for artistic activity at Stålaker. He has been teaching students from the University of South-Eastern Norway as a sculpture lecturer in the Stålaker quarry for 15 years and in addition to his own sculpture projects, he works as an artist team with the graphic designer Christine Dingens. She was also a student at Hannover Art Academy with contact to Makoto Fujiwara and was invited as a guest to the Symposium Norge first time in 1997. After a few years of travelling between Berlin and Norway, she moved to Stålaker in 2007 and established a printmaking workshop and a graphic studio there. As a team of artists for sculpture projects in public spaces in Norway and as members of the Norwegian art associations, both are motivated to expand the network for the Symposium Norge and to mediate between the stone industry, the international guests and sculptors of the Symposium and an art-interested public. An important part of this is the organization and maintenance of the Sculpture Park Stålaker, which, directly in front of the open Stålaker quarry, offers opportunities to inform an audience about geology and industry in connection to Larvikite sculptures.