Symposium Norge is a temporary 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, auditor Ole Jakob Steen and the Norwegian sculptor Knut Wold, the Symposium Norge was able to establish itself as a globally recognized International Larvikite Sculpture Symposium in the first few years.
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. Together with Ole Jakob Steen and his extensive network consisting of national art enthusiasts, a lively international exchange of cultures developed. The sculptor Knut Wold, as project leader and organizer, had an equally motivating and supportive effect on the successful development of the Symposium Norge.
But after Ole Jakob Steen past away in 2009 and Knut Wold's decision to leave the Symposium Norge in 2011, Thor Lundh and Makoto Fujiwara continued the symposia on their own initiative. 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. For the first time in collaboration with the Kunstfelt Stålaker, an artist cooperation, which also aims to support cultural life on the Stålaker place and to make the Symposium Norge 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, the community, to offer of free space and the stone as an inspiring and motivating natural material.
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 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 Lundh and Rønne, and with a lot of practical and logistical help from the young sculptor Knut Wold, the plan became a reality three years after its conception, in the first Symposium 1985. The rest is history.
For almost 36 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, a Japanese sculpture park on the sea side and a larvikite installation that determined the marketplace in Larvik.
"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 stone - sporadically all year round. Makoto Fujiwara arranged sessions he called "Knock" symphonies - midwinter in freezing cold, when it sounds especially crisp and nice in chisels and beats, and the sound becomes a separate dimension to the art, in the tension between the moment and the lasting.
Makoto Fujiwara (1938 - 2019)
Makoto Fujiwara came to Norway in 1982 and immediately fell in love with the blue larvikite and its stone industry. Together with the quarry owner Thor Lundh and many friends and supporters, he established the International Larvikite Sculpture Symposium Norge and, as a Japanese who taught as a sculptor professor in Germany, he was in addition able to organize his working place in the middle of the stone industry in Norway. After his retirement 2003, Makoto Fujiwara worked on his larvikite sculptures in Stålaker until he passed away in 2019. The Symposium House was his Norwegian domicile, where he received guests and, above all, worked closely with former students and artist friends from Japan and Germany. As a professor of stone carving, he never left the path of teaching, sought exchange with like-minded people and drew his inspiration from stone in order to share it and to transform it into his art work. His Japanese roots reminded him of the Norwegian nature with the dense, deep pine stands, rocky coasts, geological diversity and the harmony with nature. Here Makoto found the dialogue with the stone.