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Laying bare childhood emotions

Box Heart Gallery offers a world-class exhibit of a Norwegian photographer's large-scale portraits

"The Angel and the Last Child on Earth". One-man exhibition 2008" Boxheart Gallery, USA
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Bloomfield is not the kind of place you'd expect to find a blue-chip art exhibition; yet, there we find "The Angel and the Last Child on Earth"
at Box Heart Gallery. The exhibition is every bit the sort one would see at a major art museum: slick, sophisticated, well-polished works that are
absolutely moving in every sense.

"This is the only show we've had in eight years where people have just come in randomly and cried," says gallery owner Nicole Capozzi. "Three people just last week came in, stood here and cried."

Why? Because Norwegian photographer Reinhardt Sobye has found a way to peel back the innocence of childhood and reveal the deepest of emotions,
ones we all have felt in one way or another in our young lives, feelings of loneliness, loss and despair.
This is the artist's first solo show in United States. Except for his work being widely accepted and exhibited in Japan, Sobye's work has
rarely been shown outside of his native Norway where he lives in a remote village called Sand among the fjords in Rogaland.
In the gallery, five large-scale portraits stand out first among the 14 total pieces on display. They are large, and each features a
larger-than-life portrait of a young prepubescent child.
These are digital prints of photographs that Sobye has taken and manipulated, both in the computer and on top of each with charcoal and pastel.
The effect is subtle, like an acid wash. But it adds to the emotions visible on the children's faces. These are not happy pictures.
Sobye's children are unguarded and innocent. It is clear by the artist's treatment that these urchins are living in poverty -- a result,
as he writes, of "economic decisions made by government's misuse of power."
Although these children are anonymous in this context, here he illuminates them with compassion, revealing the undeniable alienation of people
low on the social ladder.
Another portrait nearby has a very specific story. Titled "The Abduction" it features a young teenage Asian girl blindfolded, her head tilted back slightly, as if letting go in submission.
From 1977 to 1983, it is believed that the North Korean government authorized the kidnapping of Japanese citizens for the purpose of espionage. Although only 16 citizens are officially recognized (eight men and eight women), it is believed that there may have been as many as 80 Japanese abducted and forced to help train North Korean spies to pass as Japanese citizens.
Most of the missing were in their 20s. But the youngest, Megumi Yokota was 13 when she disappeared in November 1977 from the Japanese west coast city of Niigata. The North Korean government claims that she committed suicide on March 13, 1994, but her parents do not believe that.
On one of Sobye's trips to Japan for an exhibition, he met them. They gave him the photograph featured in the piece.
"Her parents never gave up hope, and in searching for the truth, they forced the case to become part of 'Big Politics'," he writes. "In Japan, they are revered for they perseverance, strength and love for their daughter."
Thus, he says, Megumi can be seen as a Joan of Arc of our time: "a saint, an angel ... her sufferings elevated ... providing faith and passion to millions."
As with that piece, sometimes Sobye borrows from the past to create his remarkable images. "Hertervig as a Young Boy" for example, features a Norwegian painter Lars Hertervig (1830-1902) in his early teenage years. Looking into the eyes of the portrait, one can see the anguish of a tortured soul, and rightly so. Hertervig was plagued with schizophrenia just two years out of art school and ultimately died in poverty.
Others have paid homage to Hertervig before, such as Norwegian author and dramatist Jon Fosse who addressed Hertervig's tragic life in his 1995 novel "Melancholia I." But in Sobye's piece, the pain and suffering of the subject is so readily available, so palpable, that it is undeniable the mental torture this person would suffer in later life.
Visitors to Boxheart have been privy to Sobye's work before. He has been featured in three of their international exhibitions, some examples of which are in a print bin off to the side of the main gallery. Flipping through them will reveal the artist's deep insight into the human condition.
For example, in works from his series "The Last Defense," Sobye unclothes the reality of war and oppression in all its nakedness; in beautifully composed space that seamlessly combines photographed elements into scenes of surpassing strangeness. Thus, he has a remarkable ability to beckon the viewer into vast, false structures that act as mirrors held up to civilization.

This is an artist of undeniable talent and remarkable intuition, the kind that rivals anyone getting attention on an international scale.

So, be sure to check out his work while you can.

By Kurt Shaw
Sunday, August 3, 2008

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
"The 7th Annual Art Inter/National... here and abroad, 2008" Boxheart Gallery, USA

"Boxheart's 'Art Inter/National' builds a strong reputation

...There is little by way of photography. But of what there is is very good. Perennial favorite Reinhardt Sobye of Norway, whose work has been included in the past three iterations of this exhibition, shows two hand-embellished digital prints -- "Muerta I" and "Muerta II" -- that each feature a wild horse native to the remote region of the country where Sobye lives... Finally, South Korean artist JinMan Jo's piece "Exclamation I" is worth noting for its shear size and weight. Made of wood and steel, this huge and heavy abstract work cost a bundle to ship from Korea, but it's a worthy addition that helps flesh out the international scope of this exhibition that, in its own way, is beginning to rival the "Carnegie International.

Carnegie Museum of Art curators, take note!"

By Kurt Shaw
Sunday, January 17, 2008

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
"The 6th Annual Art Inter/National... here and abroad, 2007" Boxheart Gallery, USA


...Voegtle is not the only previous winner included in the exhibition. Reinhardt Sobye, of Norway, was last year's first-place winner. Two large-scale digital prints -- "Dreamscape I" and "Dreamscape II" -- show how living among Norwegian fjords, which are scarcely populated, increases the feeling of an approaching apocalyptic future. Both combine dramatic landscape photographs with ethereal villages superimposed on them -- in essence, depicting the human footprint in diabolical opposition to the Earth's natural beauty.
Whereas Sobye presents man's advancement at the cost of ecological devastation...
...All in all, this show is a tour de force of international talent and a welcomed addition to a city that already boasts one of the world's most well-respected international art exhibitions, the triennial Carnegie International. ..

By Kurt Shaw
Sunday, January 21, 2007

Reviews of the exhibition "Dark Forest" in Tokyo 2006:

Yomiuri March 22, 2006 (the worlds largest newspaper) 

Correspondent Akutagawa’s “Let’s go to the exhibition”

Reinhardt Søbye “The Dark Forest”

Text by Kiyoshi Akutagawa 

I have been visiting exhibitions, with a focus on art exhibitions, for three years and three months. I could write only a little in these columns among the exhibitions which I actually visited. This time I review what I really thought when I walked and looked around the exhibition.  

I think I have explored the matter of human beings, not only art itself. Japan is a highly civilized society. Everybody makes good use of complicated equipment and there is a lot of information in everyday life. However, it does not mean that we have become wiser. We dismiss the fact that we live with others, forget caring for others, lose the sense of humility and don’t feel embarrassed to pursue personal interests and comfort. I think it is rare in our history that people have so little interest in others.

If you do not understand what I really wish to tell you, for example, please see Reinhardt Søbye’s exhibition which is being held now. He has exhibited his works at a gallery in Tokyo for the last twelve years and made a major impact. He turns fifty this year and this is his 8th exhibition in Japan.  

Søbye’s works create his characteristic world of realism. He captures realistic portraits of sick people, elderly people, army deserters, displaced people because of war and the like, and as a background paints a harsh environment where human beings live. He has eyes to see quietly and deeply and show up discrimination, destruction, disguise and human’s presumption – all done in the name of civilization.  

In the series of new works, Søbye paints the devastation creeping into poetic landscapes. There is restlessness in the bottom of the space, which lets you foresee that something strange may happen. Children are there unguarded. Where do the lights lead us? The pictures are full of strange lights. It is different from the light shining into the picture. It seems that the picture is a luminant itself. He also portrays more cruel devastation caused by human beings. Søbye focuses on the future of humanity. He cares about others and neighbours. He used to paint in gouache or draw with crayons. Recently he processes various parts of the pictures with a computer, adds images by hand and creates more flexible images.   

Søbye visited Japan once seven years ago and then said, “Japanese people have human sensibility and intelligence.”
Do we still have them?
“Don’t lose hope.” I feel like I hear his low voice.   

"..Norwegian Reinhardt Sobye's digital painting "The Dark Forest" addresses both good and evil in a disturbing image of a pregnant woman..."

By Kurt Shaw
Sunday, July 3, 2005

"...The international entries are where the work really shines -- not only with the work of German fiber artist Petra Voegtle, whose three silk paintings won the Best of Show award, but also with that of the runner up, Reinhardt Sobye of Norway..."

"...Sobye's works also are collages of a sort, digital photographic manipulations that combine very real imagery into almost unbelievable scenes. The most fantastic is "European Poetry," which features a World War II fighter plane going down behind a barn..."

By Kurt Shaw
Sunday, January 15, 2006

The 3rd International KWANGJU BIENNALE 2000

I Forest of Human Beings & Forest of Painting I Human Beings & Gender
I Arts & Human Rights I
I The Past & Present of fine Arts in North Korea I The Facet of Korean
& Japanese Contemporary Art I
Since the Kwangju Biennale 2000 decided to open during May, it's not possible to carry on without
the spirit of the Kwangju DemocraticUprising in the exhibition.
With this spirit, Arts & Human Rights will introduce the Korean mass arts, and deal
with racism, war, pollutionand suppression from Western societies.
In addition to those issues, from the global standpoint, the matter of women, seniors, children andhomosexualism will be discussed in the show. Another key point of this show is the focus on artistic freedom by stressing freedom ofexpression in order to help audiences to understand how art has been manipulated by authority so that viewers can stop this abuse of art in society.
Venue Kwangju City Art Museum Biennale Exhibition Hall Gallery 2
Dates Mar. 29 - Jun. 7, 2000
Ichiro Hariu
Born in Sandai, Japan in 1925, Ichiro Hariu studied literature at Toboku NationalUniv.,
received both a Master's and Doctor's degree inaesthetics from Tokyo National Univ.
He taught at Tama Art College and Wako Univ. and
he is now the president of Japan Art Critic Association, Japan Afro-Asian Latin American Artists Association ,
and director of New Japanese Literature Association .
He is also a professor of aesthetics at Wako Univ. and Okayama Prefecture Univ.
He also participated in the Venice Biennale as Japanese commissioner in 1968
and in Sao -Paulo Biennale in 1977 and 1979.
He has been associated with various international art, cultural and political events
and actively worked as a critic.
He published {Avangard of Art}, {Commune within us}, {Charts of Contemporary Arts}.,
{Collection of Ichiro Hariu's critics}, {Toward to Cultural Revolution},
{History of Post War Japanese Arts} and {The Painter of Agony}.
And, his translation books are {Balzac and French Realism}, {Dada-Kunst und Anti Kunst}, and {Surrealism}.
He also curated some exhibitions, such as (...) , and did some TV programs with NHK.
Curator's Concept
(Excerp from 'Curator's consept', by Mr. Ichiro Hariu, Section for Arts and Human Rights:)
"................Reinhard Sobye from Norway, sent me a letter 7 years ago with photographs of his works asking if there was any gallery that would exhibit his work, although he had never met me.
One of the art galleries in Tokyo which viewed these photographs decided to sponsor his show.
Since then Sobye has held 6 solo exhibitions in this Gallery.
When the Asahi newspaper became aware of the great response to his exhibitions,
they showcased his best work at 3 different museums in 1999.
The number of visitors and catalogues sold at the 3 museums was very significant (50.000 visitors, 3 reprints).
He paints pastel portraits of old men, children, and war and political refugees depicting the plight of such human existence and the abuse of human rights and denouncing the guilty capitalistic societies which eliminate the weak as one type of civil war.

You will find very little art that so keenly illustrates that "human rights" is more precious than the earth itself as does Sobye's art."

Artists & Work:

1. Oh yoon
2. Shin Hak-chul
3. Jung Won-chul
4. Kim Yong-soo
5. Kim In-soon
6. Kim Koo-han
7. Ahn Sung-Keum
8. Kang Yeon-gyun
9. Chiehjen Chen
10. OKABE Masao
11. TOMIYAMA Taeko
12. NISHIMOTO Toshiko
13. YANAGI Yukinori
14. OKADA Itoko
15. MARUKI Iri & MARUKI Toshi
17. Dadang Christanto
18. Fix Harusuno 19. Moelyono
20. Bhupen Khakhar
21. Kang Yo-bae
22. Blenda Fajardo
23. Sleiman Mansule
24. Reinhardt Sobye
25. Zwelethu Mthethwa
26. Ling Fei
27. Santuago Bose
28. Simko Ahmed
29. Krzysztof Wodiczko
30. Anselm Kiefer
31. Nancy Spero/Neon Golub
32. Wang Qingsong
33. Jose Angel Toirac
34. Kwangju Visual Media Academy
35. KUWABARA Shise

An Unvarnished View of the Raw Realities of the Age The Reinhardt Sobye Exhibition

In both style and subject matter Reinhardt Sobye is, it seems to me, far removed from contemporary taste.
The mainstreams of painting today lie in the abstract, the fanciful and the expressionistic. Sobye, on the other hand, sticks firmly to traditional realism, The contemporary art world, moreover, is interested primarily in embodying concepts that nobody ever thought of embodying before, whereas almost all Sobye's work falls within the field of portrait painting, which has has been around for centuries already.

And yet, in spite of this - or perhaps, precisely because of it - Reinhardt Sobye, I feel, is an artist who both represents the present and is likely to survive into the future.
The models for his portraits are either totally - or, from a global viewpoint, almost totally - unknown people. Exactly because of this, though, they affect us, almost, with the sense of familiarity of close acquaintances, as symbols of the varied humanity that we see about us in our daily lives. Among his favorite subjects, moreover, are those who find themselves alienated or tormented within society - the "Solitude," series, for example, treats a the universal theme of old age. On the other hand, with "The Serb Deserter" ('69"), the refuse girl in "Angel from Iraq" ('98) and "The Child Prostitute" ('96), he is already dealing with the great problems of our day; in this respect, he could be called, paradoxically, a more "contemporary" artist than anyone else. Not one of the human beings he has chosen to paint are treated in a theoretical, abstract way. Rather, with the greatest technical brilliance, he records in fine, detail every hair, every wrinkle (the lines of the clothing, on the other hand, are barely hinted at - which in fact actually serves to heighten the effect), What rescues the whole from simple realistic observation, though, is the treatment of the eyes and the mouth, where the
psychological state of each subject is treated with almost terrifying accuracy. How many among us can stare back unperturbed into the eyes of the girl -in "HIV-positive girl from Kiev" ('96), with their look that is neither anger nor resignation, neither fear nor unawareness, but simply an utterly limpid gaze?
One of the unique techniques with which Sobye enhances this effect is a kind of collage whereby he affixes pieces of actual old clothes or sheets to his canvas. In "The dead child" ('93) and - though they are not much represented in the current exhibition - the group of works on the theme of the Nazi concentration camps, this technique achieves a raw sense of reality.
His second unique technique involves fitting a transparent sheet, dribbled here and there with paint, in front of the picture. The effect is to a certain extent to obscure the subject itself, but at the same time serves to make one feel, conversely, that these people are calling to us not to forget them from beyond the mists of time.
Sobye was not, in fact, an artist from the start. Born in Oslo in '56, he studied psychology at Bergen University, but suddenly, shortly before his finals, switched to the study of painting, without a teacher, and eventually, with his "Face, of Christ" ('87), in which he used part of a sweater with a traditional Norwegian pattern as collage, achieved recognition. Since war is a common theme in his paintings, I asked him if he had lost family or friends in the fighting. This is what he replied: "No, I didn't. I myself have no experience of war. I just feel a strong duty to let people know about contemporary questions such as the cruelty of war, -racial discrimination and neglect of others' humanity..."
One feels that the Japanese art world today could do with more of this attitude,As Sobye has also said: "Just as they used to take a canary down into the mines to detect a lack of oxygen, I would like to be an artist who gives the world warning of the crisis it is facing."
Miyahiko Miki (film critic) from AKAHATA, "Red Flag".

(Mainichi Shimbun, June 21, evening edition)
Irrepressible Human Dignity
It is some five years since the work of the Norwegian painter Reinhardt Sobye was first introduced in Japan through the efforts of art critic Ichiro Hariu and caused something of a stir. Since then, a total of six one-man showings have been held in a gallery in Kyobashi, Tokyo. The subjects that Sobye depicts in such consumate detail are chiefly human portraits, most of them faces.

It is this aspect of his work, it seems safe to say, that accounts for the fact that the Japanese art world, which is always looking for spectacular novelty, has greeted his work not with great fanfares but with a quiet surprise.
Of cours human faces and full-length portraits are far from unknown even today; if anything, the new attention being paid nowadays to themes of the body and the flesh have prompted a new look at the human figure as a theme for art. However, what makes Sobye's treatment unique is that he neither uncritically follows the academic approach tied to tradition nor associates himself the with-subjective deformations indulged in by the school of modern artists represented by Francis Bacon.
The painterly skills honed, without a teacher, by the artist himself, who was originally a psychology student, are sufficiently outstanding to have won him prizes in his own country. In his case, however, the scrupulous attention to realistic detail is no more than a foundation on which the expression rests.

The important thing, rather, is the unparalleled power to reach out to the viewer possessed by what he constructs on that foundation. The subjects he portrays are mostly nameless sufferers under some form of misfortune or injustice, adults and children, together with self-portraits that carry an extra, hidden significance but it would not do on this account to jump to the conclusion that Sobye is a mere champion of minorities.
His preoccupation with such subjects, surely, is due to a conviction that it is precisely in the faces of people, such as these that one can detect in natural, straightforward form the dignity of being a human being unrestricted by civilization and systems. In that sense, one might almost call him an heir to the Gaugin who, on the threshold of the modern age, sought to answer the question "what are we?"

His gaze penetrates deep into his subjects, and he applies crayon, pastel or water colour with painstaking detail to surfaces almost devoid of background in order to summon U ' images of feeling flesh. and blood. He applies delicate shading to the faces, and in so doing gives the impression of reflecting the finest fluctuations of the heart.
The current exhibition, which presents for the first time an overall retrospect of Sobye's art from early days to the present, serves to convey these special qualities of his art to the full. The display also includes works in which similar themes are embodied in richly nuanced landscapes, pictures of concentration camp clothing and the like, together with portraits of the Professor Hariu who first introduced his work in Japan.
The artist was born in 1956.
(Haruo Sanda)

Tokyo Shimbun, June evening edition
Anguished Expressions, the Pricelessness of Life -
A young woman sunk in the depths of despair; an old woman with the left side of her face and body completely paralysed by a severe stroke that has left her speechless into the bargain; a Serb deserter gazing vacantly with wide-open eyes at something he has seen.... Faces, faces, still more faces, in long ranks, some of them shown far larger than life, filling their canvases in a way that overwhelms the viewer. Such is the exhibition "Witness - the Art of Reinhardt Sobye,"
The artist portrays the distortions of society and the misery of human beings, not via actions or incidents, but through faces alone. Most of the 57 works on show are portraits of this nature. Deep wrinkles, almost like trenches dug in the skin, are shown in graphic detail; every single hair, on the beard or the head, is depicted with startling reality. Pieces of real old clothes are sometimes used in collage, but mostly the artist's vivid realism is confined to faces, the other parts of the picture being done with simple, abbreviated brushwork - a contrast that focuses the viewer's attention on the face and in particular on the eloquently gleaming eyes.
Despite the anguished expressions of the faces all around, the exhibition venue is strangely free, from any enveloping atmosphere of oppression.
A piece of acryl set in the frame becomes a part of the work, deliberately scratched to make it opaque, then vigorously daubed with red, green and other Colors. The acrylcovered picture in the frame, suggesting as it does the feeling of looking out from within a telephone box, gives the viewer a feeling of distance, as though it were cut off from himself.
Sobye's work as a whole, in fact, conveys a strong impression of pictures sealed off within acryl. The life of utter desperation of those tormented by society or government, the life of extreme solitude, the life of unlimited wretchedness, are crystallized in the space within the frame, which is transformed into a place which, while transcending the individual experience, is still backed up by a sense of the living flesh. Though one will look in vain for the joy of life, a more solemn, ponderous type of life here exudes an atmosphere of an almost suffocating density.

Sobye is an artist who portrays the souls of the tormented. Still more, though, the essence of his art lies in crystallizing the essential value and purity of life in such a way as to brush aside considerations of abstract "messages." He is a type of artist that one does not find in Japan.

Nihon Keizai Shimbun, June 23, morning edition
Portraits of Suffering and Resignation The Reinhardt Sobye exhibition
Whoever views the work of the contemporary Norwegian painter Reinhardt Sobye must be prepared to feel uncomfortable. Perfectly ordinary portraits though they seem at first sight, they show no trace of idealization. The expressions of their subjects, rather, exude a sense of suffering, loneliness, and resignation; even their seemingly mild gaze harbors a troubling light that transfixes the viewer.
Born in Oslo in 1956, the artist has held annual one-man exhibitions in Japan for the pas t five years. The present exhibition is a retrospective placing on show 57 works painted between 1992 and last year. The gloomy, unsettling images may recall the painter's compatriot Munch, but lack the burning sense of life peculiar to the latter. The gaze that Sobje turns on humanity is dryly dispassionate.

The faces are oddly distorted, the wrinkles especially emphasized. Their gaze is either vacant or over-keen. The works on which the artist has stuck pieces of real old clothes have an odd sense of reality to life, so that one almost suspects them of being malicious. However, this negative impression is counterbalanced by the artist's empathy with his subjects that one glimpses from time to time; what is strange is that even the most disturbing of the portraits has a kind of dignity.
Most of the works, apparently, depict society's underprivileged. The picture of clothing worn by inmates of the concentration camps, and landscapes such as "From the forsaken country I and II' and "The desolate farm" will give a good idea of where the artist's interests lie. Painstakingly, he paints such themes, with their overridingly tragic overtones, with an outstanding realistic skill.
Unrestricted by ideas of art for art's sake, the artist tackles his down-to-earth motifs head-on. It is an approach that Japanese artists, even today, when more than a century has passed since they first began to learn from Western art, have yet to master.

The exhibition continues until the 27th at the Odakyu Art Museum in Tokyo, then travels to the Shimonoseki Art Museum and the Kariya Municipal Art Museum.


Selected reviews for "Witness-The Art of Reinhardt Søbye", 1999

a huge retrospective organized by Asahi Shimbun, Odakyo Art Museum (Tokyo), Shimonoseki City Art Musem, Kariya City Art Museum. All works selected by Mr. Shigeo Chiba, chief curator at the Japan National Museum of Modern Art.
The exhibition was a major success; 50.000 visitors, three reprints of the exhibition catalogue and high remarks in japanese newspapers and artjournals.

Yomiuri Shimbun, June 24, evening edition
Human Karma in the Silent Gaze
What, after all, one wonders, is the human face? Does that small area at one end of the body really holds such shocks in store?... Such is the feeling that the faces painted by Reinhardt Sobye inspire as they gaze in silence at us -- or, perhaps, into the void.

The work of this 43 year-old contemporary Norwegian painter was first shown to the Japanese public five years ago, and his paintings have been displayed here on six occasions, quietly deepening the impression they left on each occasion. Now this, the seventh one-man showing, is in a sense a summing-up of what has gone before. Confronted once more with those faces, the viewer is himself plunged into a profound silence; the only thing he can do is, little by little, grope for the words to express the experience.
The pictures are all of aged people, sick people, minorities, army deserters and the likein short, the tormented. Sobye paints their faces, with a thoroughgoing realism, as motifs of defeat in the present age.
In the background behind the faces there doubtless lie, contemporary scenes of war, persecution, cultural decadence. But Sobye does not explain: he simply portrays the vacant eyes, the light smile playing around the lips, the deep cleft between the eyebrows, the worn skin - with a sure, unflinching brush.
As one looks, the faces come to seem like complex landscapes of hills, or desolate plains. They rise up and merge before one's eyes into one vast scene comprising the whole variety of human feelings when confronted with fate - solitude, anxiety, fear, hope....
What we are seeing here is neither the accusations of the socially committed, nor the work of a skilled contemporary realist. We see, rather, an infinite universality transcending matters of technique and style: what one can only call the unfathomable loneliness of his subjects, of humanity itself.
Take, for example, the old woman in Solitude III, observed with an almost clinical lifelikeness. From the depths of her silence, one no longer has anything; there is only emptiness, a void. In the depth of the wrinkles carved on her face, one sees the profundity of the karma governing human beings' life. Yes - in the Buddhist term familiar to us, the faces that Sobye shows us are the shapes of human karma. Rooted in his fundamental critique of the discrimination, deceit and arrogance that pass under the name of civilization, his realism ends by portraying the unreasonability of existence as such, transcending logical ideas of cause and effect.
The development of this century's art has been a process of consuming and discarding one novel style after another. Just what, though, has it succeeded in embodying?
That is the question that Sobye's vision confronts us with in its exploration of the depths of humanity.
The images of the exhibition as a whole constitute, in a sense, a modern Book of Revelation. Yet one emerges with an odd sense of refreshment; a deep emotion that is separate from and larger than any "message" in the pictures gradually arises and fills one's being. A process of "purification," perhaps?

At the age of 23, Sobye gave up the study of pscychology and took to painting, which he studied through personal observation, without a teacher.
The exhibition continues until the 27th at the Odakyu Art Museum in Nishi-Shinjuku, Tokyo.


The said applicant has a long career as a painter and some of his works belong to also some of the national museums of art in Norway. Also in Japan, 6 one-man exhibitions were shown in the last 4 years and his works are highly evaluated and loved by many. He is fully qualified for the said project.
The said applicant is a painter who paints a portrait and natural features (a landscape)in a uniquely realisticway, and that is characteristic of him.

His works are so unprecedented that they have been stimulating a lot the Japanese modern art.
This very person will stay and work not in Scandinavia, but in Asia, in Japan where his works have been already highly evaluated, so that a success of this project is promised. This success will be not only for him but also for Japan because it is Japan that he paints in this Scandinavian unique realism.Such a trial helps a lot for a progress of cultural and personal exchange between Japan and Scandinavia, and should be considered very important.
Date November 21st 1997 Signature:
Shigeo Chiba (chief curator of The Japan National Museum of Modern Art)


About the exhibition "NORWEGIAN MARTYRS", Tokyo 1997

Fear in a Mental Asylum

by Shigeo Sasaki

What would you do if you were suddenly bound and forcefully placed in a mental asylum on the pretext of
requiring medical treatment because of your repeated critical behavior toward society in accordance with
your own faith and ideology. Every day is spent in loneliness in an isolated room, endlessly numbed by
medication, and a captive without opportunity for any explanation or defense. Is it only me who sees such
day dreams hiding in Søbye's work?
Søbye's work always provoke surprise and excitement in me. Some painters surprise us with their ability to
realistically depict the objective in detail. They paint minute still-lifes, scenery, and portraits.
However, realism paintings have the weakness of leaving only a transitory impression. The first strong surprise
is gradually weakend when the painting is repeatedly observed and viewers became more familiar with it.
This may be characteristic of paintings executed in a highly technical manner. Among Søbye's work,
"Nocturne" exhibited last time and of "Witness- Selfportrait", exhibited this time show a similar trend.
Some painters intentionally poison their work to solve this problem. Typically an old man's figure
and an ugly look are the means.
Recently, when I talked with a curator, the conversation extended to Søbye. The question arose as to "What
makes viewers purchase the paintings created by an unknown painter in Scandinavia at their first meeting
with his work when one cannot say it is an enjoyable work?" We concluded that viewers may be absorbed
by the nature of the paint which does not shine because his technique includes the use of pastels not oil paints.
Not to use oil paint is surely one of Søbye's unique features, but the uniqueness of his painting is
not limited to this one feature.
The impressions evident in his work exhibited this time came from the metier, the techniques which make the
work more solemn created by coloring the acrylic frame and the assimilation of bright yellow or green
colors, and even rough collage into the work without a difference in feeling. Further, Søbye's paintings
make realism coolly relative and he restructures to introduce viewers to exciting impressions. Impression
after surprise is just the main attractiveness of Søbye's paintings. Søbye never loudly advocates, but
always moderates and is peacefully quiet.

The title of the exhibition this time is "Norwegian Martyrs", but the portraits have no borders. Søbye's brushes
deeply approach the origins of sadness, differentiation, oppression of thought, and abuse of the
refugees of minor races, and finally turns to universality causing movement in the bottom of the hearts
of viewers and firmly attracting them to his work. Thus, while evoking sympathy, his work is strongly
straightforward in attacking the disguises of peace in our daily life.

May, 1997 (Director of the Contemporary Art Document Center)


"AMNESIA", Tokyo 1997

Do you have the courage to come face to face with these children and dolls?
03 - 22 March
Toho Garo gallery ( Kyobashi, Tokyo)
The Artist and His Works
The exhibition consisted of 13 paintings, 10 of which were purchased already during the exhibition's opening day.
The Norwegian painter Reinhard Sobye made his debut in Japan 4 years ago. This is his 4th solo exhibition and his works have captured the interest of Japanese collectors. There has always been a thirst for this expression of fine art. People of our times have become mentally twisted through social pressures and have lost direction. Through the portraits of these people, he expresses strong accusations against our modern times.
In this exhibit, he focused on children and dolls wherein reside "angels" who were trodden on and sacrificed for Man's ego and insanity. These are sad, abandoned dolls covered in our Society's blood. However, Sobye does not merely paint a picture of atrocity. One can hear a prayer for salvation behind the tableau. With the prayer echoing in our mind, we cannot help but be moved in some way.
Sobye was born in 1956 in Oslo. He studied psychology at the University, but quit just before the graduate examination and started painting.

It is incredible but it is said that he is totally selftaught in painting.
Suggested price of paintings at the gallery : mostly at and above NOK 60.000.-
Dead Doll in Belgium" 1996:Crayon, gouache on paper 103.5 x 85.2 cm
"Nocturne" 1996:Crayon, gouache on paper 11 1.5 x 88,5 cm
(Translated from the Japanese art magazine NIKKEI ART June 1997)

ASAHI SHIMBUN (Evening edition)
Date: 18 July 1996
"Hiroyuki Saito. Posthumous Exhibition"
" Reinhardt Sobye Exhibition"
Works depicting the absurdity of suffering in war.
From the series, "Soldiers in the Shadow of Death" H.Saito
Picture: Serbian Deserter. R. Sobye
Todav in Summer, 51 years after World War 2, we are reminded that War is still not that far away from us bv 2 art exhibitions currently on display which make us conscious of the fact War is part of Human Nature. 1) Hiroyuki Saito's Posthumous Exhibition --- - --------- not translated ------ -
2) Reinhardt Sobyee Exhhibition.
Reinhardt Sobye. Norwegian painter born in 1956. This is his 3rd exhibition in Japan and is entitled "Civil War". The basic techniques used are gouache and crayon, with some pictures including collaged material and coloured glass laid over the surface. Over 10 pictures are on displav where the themes are mostly portrait and country landscapes. In short, they are incredibly powerful paintings. A feature of this artist's work is the way he concentrates in fine detail on a particular point in the picture. He is able to express hope or anxiety in an old woman's face by emphasising subtle differentiations of wrinkles around the eyes and lips. The feel of war permeates the portraits and landscapes. Particularlv the eyes haunt the viewer, whether they are looking straight at you or away, or looking inwards to their own souls. The eyes of the "Serbian Deserter" are empty and glazed. We are made aware of the abstract state of the deserter's mind, as if he has seen things he should never have witnessed and in turn, making us aware of his deadly serious situation, without a word having been spoken.

The pictures are not a propaganda campaign of anti-war. They are beyond such self evident slogans, but they are a statement of "War is necessary in order to live" as is written in the catalogue. The painting represents, no more and no less, the absurdity of "Civil War". Viewers are reminded that War is never far away or they may even recognise the nature of War in themselves. Yes, Art still wields so much power even today.
(Editorial Staff, Sanzo Tanaka)

Date: 17 July 1996
Degraded Society Lying Behind Sorrow
Reinhardt Sobye Exhibition Picture: "Serbia Deserter"
This young painter is finding that he is suddenly drawing a lot of attention in his homeland of Norway. Even though he has never been to Japan, this is his 3rd exhibition here in Tokyo. The works on display are more detailed than previously. The bulk of these are portraits that express the artist's philosophy on innocent humans in tragic situations of which they have no control. Where he has drawn, close attention has been paid to shadowing on the face creating a fascinating effect combined with the free but well-controlled background, giving an overall strong impact on the viewer. Sobye has used collaged pieces of material for the subject's clothes making a good combination with the gouached or pastelled face. An added technique is the mounting of a clear acrylic plate over the painting that enhances the feeling of depth and distance.
However, what makes the power of the painter's work so real is the sheer existence of the picture's theme and his interpretation of the same. This exhibition entitled "Civil War" not only focuses on real war from the massacres and burning villages in Bosnia, but on the many kinds of internal struggles of War that are spawned by our society.

To be more specific, this means poverty resulting from economic decisions by governments, misuse of power and the ensuing violence, alienation of humans lower down the social ladder such as the sick and the handicapped.The painter's viewpoint on the above as shown in the sorrowful eyes is abundantly clear to us.
"Serbian Deserter" described as "The World's Loneliest Man" shows a wintry forest behind the sad face which seems to have profound depth but at the same time empty, as if only filled with air.
The same transparency is repeated in the farmhouse which is about to be reached by exploding fire. The aesthetic technique used in the painting shows the true dimension and gravity of the exhibition's theme and this has to be a positive development of realism. The painter has depicted an actual scene but at the same time it is so much more than just a realistic picture. It is important for the artist to show his ostentation of Society from whence this grief has arisen.
Sobye has chosen not to express himself in loud blatant terms but quietly and in a thought-provoking manner. This is where the power and strength in his work lies.
(Taiji Yamaguchi)
Toho Gallery until 27th. Tokiwa Bldg. 2-5-6 Kyobashi, Chuoku, Tokyo

Date: 21 July 1996
Exhibition Guide
Reinhardt Sobye "Civil War"
Norwegian painter, Reinhardt Sobye's 3rd exhibition has now opened.

Introduced to Japan 2 years ago with the unique theme of "Hell" which made a profound impact on us with his introspection and expressionistic works that hardly exist anymore in the social trends of today's Japan.
This time he has chosen "Civil War" as the theme, depicting a part of modern day Europe where discord has arisen as a result of nationalism amongst different groups in the same country. In the midst of War, Society has forgotten about human suffering, especially that of the women and the children.
However, Sobye pursues the "human aspect" without relent and his sincere feeling and viewpoint are mirrored in his world.
Exhibition at Toho Gallery until 27th. (Tokiwa Bldg. 2-5-6 Kyobashi, Tokyo).

21 July i996. Exhibit Revue
Indictment Against Society. Unique technique.
Serbian Deserter
Norwegian painter Reinhardt Sobye, born in 1956, is not an international name in the art world. He has previously held an exhibition in London but is virtually unknown outside of his homeland. Art critic Ichiro Hariu received an inquiry from the artist 3 years ago on whether he could hold an exhibition in Japan. Mr. Hariu was greatly impressed and conferred with a gallery owner who was also deeply fascinated by Sobye's penetrating realism. His first exhibition was thereby realised at the gallery the following year and the current exhibition is the third. Japan imports art works as soon as an artist gains a reputation in USA or Europe so Sobye is a rare exception of this norm. Art Critic and gallery owner Hariu was planning to have Sobye guest at his own atelier but was unable due to a busy schedule. They have had to picture for themselves what Sobye looks like from his "Self Portrait as a Jew" as he has not even sent a photograph of himself for the exhibition catalogue.
This is indeed a rarity in today's PR-conscious society.
The first exhibition's theme was "Hell", the second "Requiem" and the current showing is "Civil War". This theme not only depicts the stark reality of the Bosnian conflict, but also the social discrimination caused by increasing economical hardship caused by War or social injustice. Subjects are old people and war deserters. The
"Serbian Deserter" has a plate hanging on his chest where it is written, "The loneliest man in the world". Sobye's technique is unique. Painting in gouache, crayon and pastel on paper.
Impressive realism in the drawing of wrinkles and skinflecks on the faces of the old people. Pieces of material are used as a type of collage after which the painting has been covered with plexi-glass. Both sides of the plexi-glass are coloured causing the reflection and refraction of light to give a delicate effect.

The accusation against society virtually floods over the canvas where the artist expresses his grief for the state of human existence today. Paintings of this calibre are indeed a rarity in this day and age.
(Toshio Matsumura).
Toho Gallery, until 27th. Tokiwa Bldg. 2-5-6 Kyobashi, Tokyo

(A selection reviews for " The Civil War", Tokyo 1996)

Date: 24 July 1996
Reinhardt Sobye. New Works of Art
Destiny of Mankind in Detailed Realism
Picture: Serbian Deserter
New works of art have arrived from the Norwegian painter Reinhardt Sobye who made his debut 2 years ago.

Sobye is a prolific artist and 40 of his awe-inspiring works produced during the last three years are now on display. With each exhibition, the number of visitors has increased which is an interesting phenomenon.
From the beginning Sobye's art has made a strong impact. Themes such as life and death, old age, sickness, poverty and misery are presented in their stark unadulterated form. His art shocks the viewer when they are confronted with these dark themes.
Realistic detail and collages are neither new nor exceptional but Sobye's fastidiously fine-drawn details together with collaged faces and clothes give the pictures a physical rawness. He has dug deep into the mental landscape that is committed to solitude, anxiety, fear and hope. With "Anxiety" and "Hope " , each wrinkle is etched into the old woman's face as if they are deep ravines and at the same time are spores of the imagination leading from the innermost reaches of the human mind.
With modern art history, we have turned our glance away- from realism as early as the turn of this century , but when we encounter the depth and searching as seen through Sobye's eyes, it makes me wonder if we were really oblivious to realism the whole time.I imagine the reason for Sobye painting devastation of the landscape as being a fundamental criticism of civilisation. However, his works are much more than hopeful accusations of socialists. On the contrary, they are filled with premonitions of the tragic end of the world.
He sees many facets of discrimination and false structure that hold up our civilisation. Sobye's eyes penetrate instantly to the rotten core of mankind. In other words, his seething insight has produced revelations about this Age.
Sobye unclothes reality such as war and oppression in all its nakedness; in beautifully composed space. He beckons the viewer into the vast space through a coloured acrylic plate in front of the picture. This is a fascinating quality of his art.
At 40 years of age, he is considered late in attaining recognition in his own country, but still none, neither planners or art critics know anything about the man himself. Only the paintings with their solid black frames arrive each year telling us about the Destiny of Mankind.
Until 27. Toho Gallery, Kyobashi 2-5-6. (Kawa).

....Cosmopolitan cities were full of jumbled noises this year. On a gloomy day in the rainy season, I visited Toho Gallery this year, too, to se Norwegian painter Reinhardt Sobye's work dedicated to a "requiem as a noise" (poet Takashi Tujii). I wrote "this year, too, because I met with his work for the first time at the same gallery last year, which electrified me and gave me a clue to thinking about "face".
........ His realistic paintings, which probably could not be produced without the circumstanse of this greatly noisy and complicated world, have represented an existential world. ....

... Visiting his show, I was overwhelmingly excited with the first apperance of such painter as Sobye, rare to the Japanese art scene, from a country that produced Munch. He has succeeded in capturing man's agony on canvas, whose expressive quality was close to that of Munch........... Self-portrait" should be nothing but the portrait of the contemporary society destroyed by the disease of civilization.
...... Human feelings or expression must be as such."
Fra et femten siders essay i: Series 27th Installment: ABORTED VISIONS
Thoughts on "I can neither see nor read the Face."
By Mamoru Yonekura
Aug/Sept Issue No 1-48.Geijutsu Shinbunsha

...However , his works were unexpectedly so favorably received that the show period was prolonged. All the exhibits were sold out. Sobye has shown through these exhibits a indescribably' vehemnt deploration against today's established society and etichs; War, terrorism, drugs, the butchering of poor children from the Third World for the sale of their internal organs on the Western donor market, etc. He emphasizes that artists should play the role of a canary in the mine pit to tell of such evils to contemporary people. Eventually, the unexpectedly large number of visitors indicated that many Japanese people have sympathized with the catharsis felt from his art..,......... Galleryowner Yosinori Nakaoka says, "Where could we find art describing an origin of human expressions, other than these works," and continued, "Customers who bought Sobye's works included those who were not satisfied at all with current popular paintings, and those who wanted to gaze at the innerpart of their minds through Sobye's art.
Review from August Issue'1995. Nikkei Art.

Reinhardt Sobye Exhibition: Requiem
Under the Eschatological Phenomena
By Toshihiko Washio

Next, how were gallery shows (in Japan 1995)? Prevailing airs have still been recessional. Symptoms for a change for the better could not be seen. Among the very limited number of original exhibitions were the following 2 individual shows that deserved to be seen, timely to this eschatological age. They stood out like a light house in the darkness-"Reinhardt Sobye's Exhibition: 'requiem" at Toho Gallery (June 5-24), and "Hiroshi Kariya Exhibition" at Mizuma Art Gallery (June 8-July 22).
............I hear his wish to live, in these works embodying on canvas the uneasyness or fear spread on his native Norway,-or in the whole of Europe, or on the Earth. He is probably the very Artist who is like a canary confined in the absurd cage of today's world. His individual realistic expression, coming from deep inside, naturally takes shape; it does not take shape through superficial drawing of form. Such a prominent quality will not lose its own brilliancy in the future as long as the "canary" is not suffocated by the lack of oxygen in our society .

Art Critical File: 6th Installment
Review from September Issue 1995. Art Journal.

"Inner images coming up from each face, including that of Self-portrait, ate
in viewer's hearts. For example, My Eyes Are Still In The World touched me very much."
Anonymous criticism. Bijutsu no Mado August 1995

Resume of selected reviews: "Requiem", Tokyo 1995:

"Excerpt from a dialogue between the artcritics Teizo Taki and Mamuro Yonekura."
Sobye being compared with Holbein, Gericault (his madmen) and they ponder if "realisme" could be defined by the reflections of societys structures in the Sobye portraits of contemporary human beings, and further....... why such art are not created in Japan.
"C'est la Vie": series 19th Installment, from Aug/sept Issue 1995, Bijutsu no Mado

Without the title 'Head of Christ , it cannot be changed that the work would
be persuasive as a masterpiece. At any rate, this is a rare work in presenting
this much reality of Christ's face.

I even thought of the possibility that the piece would leave behind its name
on art history."

Review from Summer Issue, 1994 Quarterly Poetry Magazine "Fune"

"Sobye is internationally not well known, and of course introduced to Japan for the first time.

But looking at his sixteen works, these are very suggestive, full of demanding power reconsiderations about the situation of todays painting.
The artist shows his excellent depicting power......."

(M) Sankei Shimbun, Feb 22. 1994

"Exhibited 16 works inn all, but all works were sold out within the first week, in spite of such severe subjects, and the title "Inferno".
What means this fact indeed? Doesn't it show us the proper function of eminent painting?
Even in this financial depression age, no, because of this very depression age, people's true desire is neither goods of famous brands nor works adequate for interior, but plastic expression made by "nonverbal language" flowed out from human souls living always sincerely. His works proved it splendidly.

It's a pity, but this exhibition is until today. I am writing now, hoping this newspaper arrive to you as soon as possible and you go to the gallery immediately. I am writing with such heated and bouncing soul, after a long absence, and it is the very power of his art.I hope for this artist's next exhibition in Japan."
Teshihiko Wasio, Komei Newspaper Feb. 26. 1994

"It is calm, but intence message from Norwegian artist Sobye born in 1956,
who has beginned to paint as if received a revelation since 1982.
This is inner scream, wail.
Properly galleries should discover such artists.

This is probably one of the best exhibitions in (Japan) 1994."
Editorial note "Art Top" 1994. No 140

"The painter is confirming now the positions of human beings
in front of God. Looking at Sobye's exhibition and seeing all of his works has been sold out in this depression age,- I was glad to find artistic eyes in this country.

Sobye's realism paintings are rather clear and very objective, and not only technic or composition, but express the anxieties of lonely weaklings and to tell their inner feeling subjectively.
It may be the proper power of realism."

Mamoru Yonekura. "Art Top" 1994. No. 140

"We are told that he is "self-educated", without any formal art education.
However, the exceptional insight that we detect in his art and the ability to
penetrate into the depth of existential aspects of humanity and into the
civilisation, tell us that his talent is an innate one and a gift of God."

From : Geijutsu Shincho , a major artjournal in Japan. April 1994.

"A young Norwegian artist whose works are exhibited for the first time in Japan proves it. His work impels us to gaze at the human predicament and the humanity. It has been some time since we could experience such a strong impression from portraits last time...

... Despite the tranquility and the simple expressions, one gets the impression that Sobye's portraits illuminate and bring forth the long history of humanity; the long passage of time (since the eternal past, or) since the original Sin of Adam and Eve.
One cannot but be deeply moved by his work.
In Sobyes art, we see the deep insight into the human predicament which is depicted with warmth and compassion."

Haruo Santa, Mainichi Shimbun,
one of the major newspapers in Japan, Feb. 21, 1994.