Konrad Mehus, the Storyteller

by Jorunn Veiteberg

Since the end of the 1960's, Konrad Mehus has been a central figure in Norwegian craft.
"Dinnertime" (1974), composed of the combination of a crystal glass and a fork, is considered an icon for its time. It illustrates a distinct development within post-World War II artistic craft in which artistic intention and content prevailed over practical use and function.
Accordingly, Mehus' jewellery often clearly breaks from the convention and values which predominate the gold smith industry. Therefore, his jewellery has had an important function in the establishment of a new understanding of what jewellery can be. As an artistic piece, jewellery does not need to limit itself strictly to mere decoration or as a symbol of affluence. It can also be a medium of communication.
Within artistic handcraft, this communication often entails material, form or process. This, however, is not the case with Konrad Mehus. With silver as the primary material and jewellery as the medium, Mehus tells his stories with social context and sharp political wit.

Konrad Mehus employs a figurative language rich in metaphor and symbol to tell his stories. This choice has earned him a special place amongst Norwegian artists, despite the fact that in more recent years he has been followed by others who employ this same form of figurative expression. The details of the story unfold through the intimate form of a brooch. One such detail is the use of the moose crossing, a well-known traffic sign for the majority of motorists in Norway. This shows up in many of Mehus' pieces as a central symbol of our time. Filigree brooches with dangling Coca-Cola bottle caps reveal the altered consumer habits and the carbon copy/repetitive power of the international culture industry. In addition, however, he also tells more personal stories. The series "Tkt. no: Two rooms plus kitchen 1956" with a miniature portrayal of contemporary 1950's interiors, provokes recognizable memories for many. At the same time, this series symbolises the reconstruction after the war when housing for everyone was central to the welfare policies of the Workers' Party (Arbeiderpartiet) in Norway.