Inside Weston Park Museum, a small piece of Scandinavia has come to Sheffield. Marking the first venue on its UK tour, Nordic By Nature: Modern Design and Prints showcases design objects and works on paper from the British Museum’s national collection that hail from Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark, alongside works from Sheffield’s own historic collections.
In recent years the rise of the ‘Scandi’ aesthetic has been widely seen, from functionalist design to fashion to lifestyle and food. Nordic By Nature offers the opportunity to view some of the original objects that inspired such trends. Nonetheless, the exhibition does not shy away from the influence of the Nordic aesthetic on popular culture, as Moomin tableware and a Folio Society edition of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials find themselves keeping company with prints, ceramics and glassware.
Throughout, Nordic by Nature demonstrates the pervasiveness of distinctive cultural symbols and themes across time and media. From Aukusti Tuhka’s 1917 woodcut aurora borealis to Pullman’s Northern Lights and footage of the aurora borealis over a Norwegian fjord, the enduring draw of the bewitching northern lights can be seen. Snow and icy landscapes constantly recur, whether in the 1934 Skaugum (Snow) relief print of Rolf Nesch, where the incised lines of the print recall mounds and drifts of snow, or a book plate for Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen. Timo Sarpaneva’s glass tableware Arkipelago (1978) – a reference to the clusters of islands scattered around the Finnish coast – resembles a group of ice-like sculptural columns. The historical significance of seafaring is alluded to in Jørleif Uthaung’s abstract lithograph The Fisher Fleet (1951) and J H Quistgaard’s hull-like wood ice bucket, inspired by hollowed out wooden Viking ships.