By conjuring 18th-century poetic expressions, Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson nicknamed Oslo – ‘Tigerstaden, a Tiger City’ through his literary work, Sidste Sang. The city, however, is anything but dangerous! It is, in fact, an eco-conscious harbour of Nobel Peace Prize, awe-inspiring museums, Viking seafaring tales, wide-forested hills and eclectic designs on the crag of trends. As inside the city, Oslo, nuzzled by naturalistic parks, instinctively welds urban lifestyle with easy access to nature. Abiding by the Norweigan way of life, I too had made Park visitation a routine during my stay. Although spending half a day at Frognerparken was a rare experience that will stay with me for life.
It was on one of those lovely summer days when I set out to walk my way, in and around, the Royal Palace neighbourhood. Preceding the kingdom’s architectural grandeur, I walked into Oslo’s 110 acres of art paradise, where I heeded world-renowned artwork under fresh air and sunshine. After all, Frognerparken or Vigeland Park is the world’s largest sculptural park, put together by a single artist. Frognerparken’s essence is the comprehensive layout of human sculptures teeming up with splendid fauna and fountains. Besieged by epic sweeps of green, sunscape flora, this remarkable park is so astonishingly familiar that you ‘simply’ can’t take your eyes off it.
This Open-Air Museum, by all means, is a testament to Norwegian life, out of a storybook. One great thing about visiting Norway, in summer, is that the sun seldom sets, creating a more profound experience with the objects in vision. More so at Frognersparken, where unique shadow arts sway to the themes of its creator’s imagination. To get to this park, I got off the bus near Nobel Gate 32 and walked onward Kafe Vigeland to what I expected to be an overcrowded playground of tourists. However, the vast-plot smoothly juxtaposes numbers under its largeness.
A staircase spilt across, two concrete sets of steps, greets you at the entrance of the Frogner’s Park. I walked alongside a few Asian tourists, European couples and locals who had come to the park to walk their furry friends. Until, I descended, downstairs, to a large, black, beautiful, iron block enclosed by two small side gates. The block illustrates six women looking in opposite directions. Peep through the crafted apertures of this feminine design, and you will be amazed by the magnanimity of what the park holds on the other side. Magnanimous is an understatement if you ask me!
I coasted beyond the side gate to walk right into a state of calmness. Without question, the praise goes to none other than the legendary Norweigan sculptor, Gustav Vigeland, who chiselled out hundreds of miraculous sentiments into stones and metals.
A journey that commenced in 1884 when Vigeland apprenticed at a wood-carvers before attending art schools across Scandinavia. He drew his ultimate inspiration from Auguste Rodin in Paris, an influence widespread in his profoundly philistine and heartfelt sculptural techniques. In the 1900s Vigeland met with the idea of designing Frogner Park, an exceptional opportunity that kept him engaged for the rest of his career.
During this time, he carved over 200-unique-pieces including an entrance, a bridge, a circular staircase, the Monolith, a few fountains and a mosaic labyrinth with a stone forest. A course that conclusively unfolds under a cloud-painted sky depicting adult-antiquated-dispositions from naturalistic portraitures. The final masterpiece, however, is The Monolith, established right in the centre of the park. This 57 feet tall, single column of solid granite is surround-sculpted with 121 figures, each apportioning various life stages, such as birth, infancy, adolescence, adulthood, old age and death.
The Monolith is carved out of a single granite block, weighs hundreds of tonnes, is besieged by many symbolic murals and is deemed ascending towards heaven. It took Vigeland over fourteen years that with, the assistance of three other sculptors to finish this treasure. I was left wonderstruck by the detailing and impetuosity of each statue. The Monolith and the Wheel of Life, in particular, as they instinctively drew me into their fold. The Wheel of Life is an out of the ordinary sundial, stationed at the apex of 2700 feet axis.
This wheel portrays four human figures locked with a child in a circle denoting eternity and rippled unison. The theme characterises the continuity of life and advances to preponderate in the whole park. Each of the other 200+ sculptures embellishing the grounds is also a sensational display of humanistic predilections, deeply embedded in our eugenics. In about 20-years between 1924 to 1943, Vigeland exerted these sentiments to carve some of the world’s best sculptures. About 60 of these are outlandish bronze reliefs imitating endoskeletons, children and the circle of life.
From the eccentric “Man Attacked by Babies,” to the amusing “Monolith,” each sculpture unrolls fathomless emotions depicting suggestive subjects. Angry Boy, invaded man by Genii spirits, a child in each arm, sky gazing, dancing lady, the sundial, lifted girl, clamouring babies, the swinging child, the ring and the dancing couple are a fab surprise!
It was an emotional tryst with sculptures inspired by the impassioned-advances of the human body. Over a passing phase of two decades, Vigeland transformed a 17th-century baroque garden into a fairly-large public park with spectacular fountains, strategically-set to face the Norwegian Parliament.
Sketching four critical life stagings, each of these fountains is ringed, by twenty trees. The last tree with a skeleton typifies death and afterlife. Not to be missed, are the Frogner Baths, the 17th-century Manor, Frogner Pond, Pavilion and the Stadium. It took me a couple of hours to comprehend and admire each of the sculptures, fountains and other sculptural embellishments. While Gustav Vigeland was working on Frogner’s Park, he also designed the Nobel Peace Prize Medal that throws light on his exceptional craftsmanship.
In the fullness of time, Frognersparken is a majestic applaud to Gustav Vigeland and to honour his efforts, the Oslo government has preserved the place as it is, with less or no alterations. On 13th Feb 2009, Frognersparken was marked, as Norway’s 1st Preserved Heritage Site. Along with neurobiological sculpting of the limbic system, garden landscapes of this impressive park also hold in the most-comprehensive Norweigan rose collection that contains up to 14,000 plants from 150 species. I concluded my garden trip by procuring a glass of orange juice from the small food and beverage store beside the exit gate and by relishing every drop of it, brooding over how a visit to Frognersparken turned out to be my favourite park experiences ever.