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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Rune ...ish Art at Western.

There is a piece of art outside the McIntosh Gallery on the University of Western Ontario Campus that catches my eye every time I go by.

I wanted to explain at least to my colleagues why I made them stand outside in the cold while I asked the curator Catherine Shaw about it. She told me that the artist had meant to represent pathways, and ancient peoples, and that, probably, runestones had been part of the inspiration.

So this is the piece outside of the gallery:

That real runestones are the inspiration for this art makes sense. They are most abundant in Sweden, though they can be found elsewhere, and they are typically along the pathways, and at cross roads. They often commemorate someone, though they are not grave markers per se. Many of them have a serpentine pattern in which the runes are written. Here are a couple of examples that are now located in University Park around the University Museum in Uppsala, so that you can see the similarities.

This stone says 'Holmfast had the stone erected in memory of Igulger, his father, and Torbjörn.' It is from the 11th century and was found in 1910 in a corner of present-day Gamla Torget. You can see the serpentine pattern, and the resemblance to the other piece.

This stone is also from the 11th century and says 'Tägn and Gunnar had the stones erected in memory of Väder, their brother.' In Fanbo parish east of Uppsala are three more rune stones erected in memory of members of the same family.

This third stone was also from the 11th century, and is unusual because it commemorates a woman; 'Gillög had the bridge made for her daughter Gillög’s soul, the wife of Ulf. Öpir cut (the runes).'

My information has come from Jack Ammerman's site on the Hartford Seminary Library webpage.

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