Tori Wrånes: Mussel Tears

29 January - 5 March 2022

Shulamit Nazarian is pleased to present Mussel Tears, a solo exhibition featuring Oslo-based Norwegian artist Tori Wrånes. The artist has been featured in numerous group shows at the gallery since 2016, however this is Wrånes’s first solo exhibition in Los Angeles.

As a synesthete, a person with a condition of combining senses such as seeing color and form in sound and language, Wrånes visualizes sound into a sculptural and physical dimension. This experience allows the artist to use sound to dictate the form of painting and sculpture and, in turn, she also visualizes objects through vocal projection.


Mussel Tears premiers sculptures, paintings, sound, and performance together to evoke dream-like narratives, where the familiar becomes fantastical. The exhibition has developed from the artist’s ongoing observation of what she describes as “the quiet outcasts of society,” referring both to elements of nature and personal relationships. The works in the show visualize a sensory experience of the world, evoking the body without fully representing it.

The exhibition title routes the viewer through Kristiansand, Norway, a southern coastal fishing town and the artist’s birthplace. She fondly remembers exploring the waters as a child and expresses profound sadness about environmental degradation and the possible extinction of mussels that proliferated in this area. Known to ecologists as nature’s water filters, these mollusks play a principal role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem. Wrånes pays homage to these quiet heroes by creating droplet-shaped sculptures that mimic the mussels’ oblong shells, which also signify human tears. She incorporates the mollusks into cement, contrasting the formal qualities of the hard exterior shell with the iridescent interior, further likening them to the human body. Wrånes is interested in what we reveal and conceal, carefully considering the experience of a world outside of our bodies and within our minds.

In Wrånes’s fantasy world, reality remains suspended. In the central gallery a large-scale sculpture of human bodies, featuring two mothers with a child, is present. A large flute extends from the mouth of one mother through the body of the other, uniting the two individual beings. On the floor, a young child reaches up longingly to play the flute that is connecting its parents. In the rafters of the gallery, a bean bag envelops a small painting, further highlighting Wrånes’s interest in the body and the precarity of the world she’s envisioned. In a separate room of the gallery, a sculpture of a cat and a dog are untied through a shared tail. Each creature is looking back at one another acknowledging that they are forever connected. Through these sculptural forms, Wrånes addresses the dependence and interconnection of all living beings. She charges her forms with a raw and emotional sensitivity that heightens our awareness and understanding of familiar objects and relationships. 


Rumbling periodically throughout the exhibition is the sound of foghorns recorded from the lighthouse on the shores of Wrånes’s hometown. The blaring sounds are strung together by a melodic vocal whirling sung by the artist. She shares, “When I sing in a non-verbal language, it’s like sculpting. Both the voice and paintings contain emotion because it is an action that comes out of the body.” Voice, for Wrånes, is a material matter that can be shaped and can shape others. Manifesting the artist’s interest in the culmination of sound, performance, and the body is Wrånes’s performance of Echo Face, a site-specific, improvised performance that will be staged during the exhibition. Through prosthetics, make-up, and props, she transforms her physical likeness into a new being and sculpts an operatic melody with her voice. 


Punctuated throughout the walls, are a set of action-based abstract paintings that are composed of the same silicone and pigment that form the prosthetics of her costumes and sculptures. She calls them abstract dreams. These intuitively-created works function as non-verbal, abstract language output from the body that is based on rhythm, volume, and temperament. Lapping thick textures and colors together, these voluminous paintings point to a body, even more so, when she pierces the “skin” or frame of the painting, humanizing it by penetrating it physically with metal rings. 


Wrånes’ unique method of communication, using sound and form to convey primal emotions and truths, bypasses the structural hierarchies of language and rational thought. The result is a wide-ranging, experimental, and ritualistic practice that guides us outside of our known world. The works in Mussel Tears situates the self in relation to other beings, both human and non-human, and illustrates how our understanding of the world is constantly mediated by our own bodies. Throughout her practice, Wrånes sews together our senses, asking us to consider how we might privilege the overlooked in any form.



Tori Wrånes (b. 1978 in Kristiansand, Norway; Lives and works in Oslo, Norway) recent solo shows include Handmade Acoustics at Ujazdowski Castle for Contemporary Art in Warsaw, Poland; Hot Pocket at Museum of Contemporary Art, Oslo; Ældgammel Baby / Ancient Baby, Kunsthal Charlottenborg Denmark; Flute Warriors, with Red Comunitaria Trans, Kuirbog Festival, Bogotá, Colombia; and Drastic Pants, Carl Freedman Gallery London. Select performances include Stone and Singer commissioned by the 19Th Biennale of Sydney; Yes Nix, commissioned by Performa 13, New York; Colombo Art Biennale, Sri Lanka; Dhaka Art Seminars, Bangladesh; CCA Lagos, Nigeria; The Eccentrics, Sculpture Center, New York; and Naam Yai, commissioned for the Thailand Biennale in Krabi. A forthcoming performance commissioned by the Lilith Performance Studio will be presented in April 2022 in Malmo, Sweden.


The artist is in the permanent collections of the Nasjonalgalleriet (The National Museum of Art, Design and Architecture), Oslo, Norway; Gothenburg Art Museum, Gothenburg, Sweden; Astrup Fearnley Museum, Oslo, Norway; Lillehammer Kunstmuseum, Lillehammer, Norway; Sørlandets Kunstmuseum, Kristiansand, Norway; Preus Museum, Horten, Norway; and the Kistefos Museum, Jevnaker, Norway. Her work is also permanently installed at the Ekebergparken Sculpture Park, Oslo, Norway and the REV Ocean Collection, Port of Norway. Wrånes is represented by Shulamit Nazarian and Carl Freedman Gallery.