Artists / Olaf Breuning


Olaf Breuning was invited over to Grizedale from his New York city base due to his interest in and creation of niche identities. He visited in 2002 making a post old skool work - the image of a cat made out of twigs and logs and originally titled, 'Cat'. He impressed the younger male artists by being accompanied by two female assistants both of whom seemed willing to get their clothes off for art-making. Olaf later handed his £1,000 cash fee to one of his assistants, saying "You might as well have this," which was even more impressive for the young Nat Mellors.

Coincidentally, Grizedale director Adam Sutherland was in New York during Olaf's UK visit, and met with the artist on his return to the city. Adam was critical of Olaf's piece saying it wasn't what he was expecting, the Grizedale Forest already being full of twiggy animal type sculptures. In response, Olaf phoned Adam each time one of the 'Cat' edition sold - in 2 weeks the edition of 9 C prints had sold out, and uber-curator Harold Sleeman had declared the piece Olaf's best work to date. Olaf felt this endorsed the work, Adam did not. 'Cat' (the photograph) was never shown at Grizedale, but there is a copy in the Saatchi Collection if you need to see it. The sculpture itself still languishes somewhere in the forest.

Olaf was further involved in the project 'Roadshow'; he was the prize for the winner of the 'Battle of the Bands', which turned out to be a death metal group of teenagers called Zenolith. Olaf spent 2 weeks making a video with them. For Olaf it was a component of his film 'Home 1', whilst for the band it became a promotional video for their best song. The creative process chiefly involved pressing underage teenagers with cigarettes and alcohol from 9am, and getting them to think of zany visual things to do. During filming the group increasing came alive, eventually driving the film forward with loads of ideas and enthusiasm - an exemplar education project bar the intoxicating substances provided by the artist.

'Home' was shown in the Coniston Water Festival in 2005, and has also been shown at other major venues around the world. It has not been the financial success Olaf had hoped, failing to sell at its modest price of 30k (edition of 5).

Olaf was always a bit unwilling to 'join in' with Grizedale's 'collective' projects. In common with the more senior artists he considered the company a bit beneath him, however he did continue to deliver projects that could be included in the Grizedale programme. For 'Romantic Detachment' he produced the work, 'Mr Ice Cream, Mr Chocolate Bar, Mr Snowman', sculpted in Ghana by a coffin maker of the Ga tribe. The work was exhibited in New York, Cardiff and Zurich before being sold to a Norwegian collector.

For Olaf's first UK solo show at Chisenhale Gallery he employed 3 chainsaw artists at Grizedale to create a garden from roughly sawn logs. One piece of this work was shown at the Coniston Water Festival in the boat dressing event where it was dismissed by the judges as being "too weird". I don't think the show was a big success in London either.

Olaf was commissioned to make an emotive bronze garden sculpture for Grizedale's new development at Lawson Park Farm, entitled 'I'm Scared of the Nature'.