Once I was her teacher. It was at the Jyske Academy of Fine Art in Århus, Denmark. Randi Nygaard
Lium was in her last year of study at the academy and at the same time finishing a course in art
history at the University of Århus.
Randi was among those who appointed me to work at the Jyske Academy. In fact, it was
a rather complicated affair to become teacher at the Academy, as one could not simply apply.
Rather, one had to be selected by the whole team of teachers and the board, but happily I was
unfamiliar with this procedure. I had been visited by a group of students in my workshop. The visit
was followed up by an invitation to be guest teacher at the Academy on the very same day that
I was asked whether I was interested in teaching courses in textiles. When I asked the students,
“Are you in the position of deciding that?” their response was “Of course, we are!” No teacher can
be hired in a more happy way.
Randi was the intellectual leading force in the department, and she could keep a new
teacher busy with her knowledge and demanding questions about female forms of expression in
art, such as portrayed in the work by Judy Chicago.
We extended Randi’s year of study by inviting her to join us on an eventful journey to
Poland at the end of the next academic year. We visited Polish textile artists and museums in
Warsaw, Lodz, and Krakow, where we found all the complications, difficulties, and irritations that
a stay behind the Iron Curtain necessarily entailed, to be an exotic experience.
Randi wrote our mutual diary: “After a theatre tour and a subsequent visit to a night club
at the famous Old Hotel Warsaw, a group of young women from Århus and the surrounding area
walked home to their hotel around two o’clock at night. They met a naked man with only a trench coat on, riding a unicycle. The girls’ comments are the best part of the story. One, a part-time
nurse, was worried about the man’s health as he was only wearing a thin coat in the nighttime
frost two weeks before Easter.” Randi pointed that a unicycle was brilliant when one wanted to
expose oneself in such a way.
We have extended Randi’s “year of study” a considerable number of times since then,
sometimes with the teacher / student roles reversed. Now it is like this: we meet once a year or
every other year for some days, and talk together, probably for 12 hours per day.
Art—gender—identity are the important, repeated themes.
Of course, we talk about exhibitions we have seen and articles we have read. We are
informed women and the intellectual side does not let itself be denied, especially not in the case
of the museum director. But that is not what is taken up for discussion after she has left.
However, during the course of conversations about art, gender, and identity we are in a
land where the questions shift focus and where the answers flow, because we are growing older
and we dare to say things that we did not dare to say earlier. Art is the rotation point, and the
passion and the duty. The gender which we are bound to . . . The identity . . . After the director has
left, I continue thinking to myself and talking with a few others.
When I look at Randi Nygaard Lium’s pictures, especially the latest ones, it strikes me how
modest their expression is—a quiet play with materials and a simple form. It is as if they hide
some secrets. She plays with traditional weaving traditions, the immediately breaks with them.
“We want to be big,” some of them seem to say, “And blue . . .” They are tight and disciplined, and
still full of life. At the same time, they are folk art and sophisticated minimalism.