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Art Review: Paradise Lost By Christian Houge

Magnificent views of Norway

Photographer Christian Houge bears witness to extremes of our world, from unforgiving winters at our planet’s north to dystopias we humans create.

Photography: Magnificent Landscapes From Norway


Paradise, glimpsed

Houge’s camera documents ethereal and artistic wonders where humans entwine with nature. In the eternal winter of the Arctic north, the Seed Bank (aka the “Doomsday Vault”) built into frozen rock, awaits apocalypse. People float in a twilight of alienation. Above, winds twist black in the smoke of burning coal, a fierce expression of an all-too-familiar force.

Who knew that Arctic research stations in the barren north, laid in stark antennae and domes, look straight outta Tatooine? Now we do.

By a marvelous use of the camera, Houge captured these landscapes at night, letting the moonlight illuminate the scene over slow exposure. It reveals a still further remoteness to these scenes, in space and time, and even the quality of the light. To turn from these frozen frames to the snow-dappled scene outdoors is to connect those far-flung scenes to our own. It adds a narrative dimension to the slush and slow cars around us.



Upstairs, he records journeys into an abandoned coal mining town and, memorably, a den of wolves.

Houge’s wolves extend along an upper wall, like stills from a film or pages from a family album. In portrait, at alarmingly close cropping in moonlit black and white, lupine faces emote a terrible intensity. It becomes easier to see why older relations sometimes decorate their homes with these evocative emblems.

These photographs could be kitsch, if they were posed or stitched in needlework: the wolves at bay, with hard stares or coy glances. These real beasts put to shame the Kardashian antics that pose as “reality.” This work is powerfully raw, fangs bared and gripping—one vicious portrait shows two entwined at the jaw, teeth exposed and clenching. Playful, perhaps, in the pack, but they elicit a visceral reaction in the viewer.

With the exhibit of “Geography: Documents and Works by RongRong & inri” at the adjacent +3 gallery, there is compelling reason to head to Caochangdi. Nearby you can walk inside a Rubik’s cube’s daydream at deSarthe Beijing or view fresh perspectives at Pékin Fine Art just down the street. Round out the art adventure with dinner at Fodder Factory reassured that escape from this snowy north is just a cab ride away.



What: Paradise Lost: Solo Exhibition By Christian Houge

Where: Three Shadows Photography Art Centre​, 155 Caochangdi

When: Until Sunday, Dec. 6, 2015, 10:00am-5:00pm

Price: Free

Adam Robbins is a former Managing Editor for City Weekend Beijing. After leaving small town Maine for an education at Harvard and UT Austin, he moved on to Minnesota to help win marriage equality. Before traveling on to Shenzhen, he spent three years helping the Beijing LBGT Center, Beijing Gender, and other LGBT institutions survive this period of scrutiny and restriction.


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