Introduction to the book
The Terracotta Woman
Marian Heyerdahl
ISBN 978-82-7547-306-4

Text by Art Director Punkt Ø, Norway
Dag Aak Sveinar

When one approaches The Terracotta Woman one realises that this work of art consists of a large group of sculptures, arranged in a rectangle in a large, darkened room. The beholder’s gaze is automatically drawn to the few areas of the room that have been illuminated: some of the statues, the space between them and a few eye-catching details. There is a marked sense of drama and theatricality in the room.

When one moves among the statues, it is clear that they represent humans in a scale of 1:1, placed on low, square pedestals. Most of them are oriented in the same direction. They have been sculpted in clay, and fired to become terra-cotta and crafted according to ancient traditions. In their form they allude directly to the terra-cotta warriors from Xian, China. 

Seen from behind, the sculptures are almost identical to the armor-clad terra-cotta warriors. Their hair is similar, gathered in a tail on the top of the figure’s head. The warriors stand erect, with their feet sturdily planted on the ground, their backs straight and eyes fixed straight ahead, ready to march forward at a moment’s notice.

For the time being, however, they have been stationed in this hall. Isn’t this strange, an army of soldiers, ready to march away, but what and where is their goal? Are they going through the countryside, or will they march into the city? Will they spread out into battle formations, and after the combat march on? The beholder senses that these warriors have been awaiting marching orders for thousands of years. When will they be given the command to be discharged? And by whom?

As one moves around the room, one is abruptly confronted with another aspect of the statues. Seen frontally, it is clear that the sculptures portray women and children that have been injured and maimed. The beholder is confronted with a series of complex questions relating to the casualties of war, but also of domestic violence.

Warriors, victims, civilian casualties of war: it is in this confrontation we find the core of Marian Heyerdahl’s project. The material and form refers to an ancient tradition, which underlines the sad truth that history repeats itself.