Grete Refsum (1953) is a professional visual artist, working on existential topics of religion, psychology and war.
During 30 years, Refsum explored central Christian themes. Her point of departure lies within Western traditions, namely The Roman Catholic Church and The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Norway. She often 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 theological research, and her subsequent formal interpretations intend to invite dialogues: ecumenical, inter-religious, including secular.
Based on a combination of sculpture, drawing and work with stained glass windows, Refsum has developed her personal techniques of binding metal thread in combination with found materials, like stone, wood, rubbish 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.
Besides religious projects, Refsum has approached themes related to the Second World War.
The first project titled Tante Vivi, prisoner no. 24127 Ravensbrück (exhibited in 2013), deals with her paternal mother’s sister that was her nanny. The project involved research on her grandaunt who protested against the Nazi occupants in Norway, and hid Jewish refugees in her apartment in Oslo (1942). In 1943 she was imprisoned (Grini) and thereafter transported to Ravensbrück, where she barely survived 18 months imprisonment.
The second project was made (2017) for the Gedenkstätte in der JVA Wolfenbüttel (Germany), Neugestaltung. It is a modeled relief, made as a paraphrase after a photograph of her late husband’s father Wilfred Jensenius, depicting the cell with himself and two comrades. Refsum also participated as Zeitzeuge/contemporary witness to the new memorial archives.
The third war related project is ongoing, a work of micro history, in which she tells her personal story related to the Second World War, based on the fact that she was named after a Czech Holocaust victim, who hopefully will have her Stolperstein set in Prague in 2022.
Since the fall 2017, Refsum has been a par time student at MF – Norwegian School of Theology, Religion and Society. In the latest course on church architecture through history (RL2615), she wrote about Vestre Aker kirke.
Artistically, she currently does a series of mourning projects after the loss of her husband in 2017, planning a show in Gedenkstätte in der JVA Wolfenbüttel in 2021.
- 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.
Education and academic work: see CV.