Grete Refsum is a professional visual artist, focusing on existential questions, religion and spirituality. Her aim is to contribute to an updated understanding of Christian thinking that is relevant within contemporary culture. During 30 years, she has systematically explored central Christian themes. Her point of departure lies within the Western traditions of The Roman Catholic Church and The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Norway, both of which she knows through lifelong liturgical practice. Refsum works in series and has visualized Christian ideas and symbols in materialized form, like: the cross/crucifix, sacraments, prayer/meditation, liturgy and texts. Her artistic concepts are informed by current theological research, and her subsequent formal interpretations intend to invite dialogues: ecumenical, inter-religious, including secular. Based on a combination of sculpture and work with stained glass windows, Refsum has developed techniques of binding metal thread in combination with found materials like stone and glass. Since 2010, she has parallel to her studio work, initiated several interactive, public works based on thrown away textiles, within ecclesial spaces.
Refsum has held numerous artist’s talks, lectures and workshops, contributed in art projects, particularly in ecclesial spaces that comprise: liturgical use of art through art interventions and installations, performances, shows of various kinds, permanent embellishments and catechesis, see CV above.
Besides religious projects, Refsum has approached themes related to the Second World War. Firstly, the project titled Tante Vivi exhibited in 2013, which deals with her personal story and involved research on her grandaunt and nanny who fought the Nazi occupants in Norway and subsequently was imprisoned in Ravensbrück for 18 months. In this work, secular and religious aspects dissolve and meet. This human drama may be read both in humanist and religious contexts.
Secondly, Refsum has contributed with a modelled work and as Zeitzeuge/contemporary witness in the Gedenkstätte in der JVA Wolfenbüttel (Germany), Neugestaltung.
Currently, Refsum continues her studio work, expanding her explorations of how the Christian tradition can be understood and communicated today. Her upcoming social, interactive project is one of inter-religiosity in Oslo city. As a student of theology she now defines herself a catechetical artist. In 2018 she was elected member of the board in We are the Church in Norway.
- 2012 Bergmann, Sigurd. Grete Refsum: The Golden Rule; From Within and Without. ArtWay, 12 June.
- 2011 Fredriksen, Biljana. Artistic Process as Pedagogical Text. 25.09.2011.
- 2010 Caroline Levisse has published the article L’art “ecclésial” de Grete Refsum in the French web journal Narthex.
Academic background and work: 1976, Nutritionist Candidate, University of Oslo; 1977, Hovedfag/MSc Environmental Manager, University of Agriculture; 1978, Examen Philosophicum, University of Oslo; 1985, Diploma (Painting/Stained Glass) and 1992, Hovedfag/MA (Colour/Form), both at National College of Art and Design in Oslo; 2000, Dr. ing./Ph.D. Oslo School of Architecture and Design. Refsum has during the last years held a part time (50 %) position in Oslo National Academy of the Arts (Kunsthøgskolen i Oslo, KHiO) as Senior Adviser of research and development. She has been editor of the Annual Review 2004 and the prize-winning Annual Review 2008. During the last years, she has been working on the preparations of the forthcoming 200 anniversary of the art and design departments of KHiO.
Academically, Dr. Refsum has contributed to the development of research in art and design through her practice-based research and art/design development work. She has taken part in the international discourse on these issues through numerous conferences and publications, and been peer reviewer in several research conferences.
In the fall 2015, she resigned from her academic position, taking early retirement through AFP.
Since the fall 2017, she is a par time student of theology at The Norwegian School of Theology in Christianity, Religion and Ethics.