I'm interested in the act of doing art.
The finished artwork isn't my main concern.
Both are equally important.
I work with material and process-based painting with a distinct tactile, yet graphic expression. Often in long series where the pictures relate to each other and the exhibition space. My practice also includes participatory art projects with painting in focus.
The minimalistic expression of my work, only one straightforward contrast - white and light grey, is due to my exclusive use of unmixed fine and coarse construction filler as material. By limiting the number of aesthetic parameters, I can focus on the ones that are most important to me - concept, composition and physical presence. The material’s properties contribute to irregularities and cracks when applied in thick layers. The method renders visible the process of drying, and I emphasise this in a way reminiscent of Japanese Kintsugi, where cracked ceramics is repaired with gold-coloured lacquer to highlight the ageing and history of the object. The cracks become a visual metaphor for time. I´m also inspired by arte povera and informalism artists like Alberto Burri and Antoni Tapies because of their works immediacy and raw materiality.
All my paintings have a frame of untreated oak strips. It has a functional purpose and serves more as a production mould than decoration. But it offers a clear boundary which makes the works versatile and easy to install in different exhibiting environments. And the familiar appearance of a frame allows radical expressions and conceptuality to be more accessible.
Reminding of Richard Serra´s famous list of verbs, I use a limited number of methods to apply filler into the frames, described with simple words as press, spread, roll or cast. The reason is that I want to limit my artistic cognitive choices, and let the properties of the materials and the methods I choose shape the composition. This way, I let go of control to increase the possibility to reveal something unknown. Another way to utilise contingency is to do participatory art projects where the public is invited to interact in the art production. This practice also interests me because it challenges the positions of the artist/producer and the viewer/consumer and introduces a more open and fluent relationship.
The main subject of my work is human existential solitude, and it links to social and political issues. Our self-consciousness only let us perceive the world from an outside point of view. This position creates a profound alienation or a lack, which transforms into desire with a multitude of expressions, that propels all human endeavours from relationships and enterprises to art and politics. Psychoanalysis theorist Jacques Lacan thoroughly described this process, and others as Slavoj Zizek further introduced it to contemporary discourse. In today’s social climate, the subjects alienated vulnerability is even more exploited, resulting in rising economic and social inequality. Although my works are abstract or use simple, archaic figuration, they can be related to phenomena in the outside world. Through titles and conceptual approaches, I wish to highlight and explore issues of power, equality and exclusion. While doing so, I insist on using poetic, aesthetic language to talk about concrete and specific material conditions. I see this as the artist’s unique opportunity and specific social responsibility.
Me talking about my work i relation to group exhibition "Tegning og tekst" at Tegnerforbundet, Oslo
Questions from Marion
For the occasion of the Affordable Art Fair in Stockholm, where I am invited to participate in the Singulart booth, Marion Sailhen asked me these questions to understand my work and to better promote it.
Could you explain your artistic process?
I usually get intuitive ideas for work in an entirely random manner. I then make a small sketch which I put on the wall of my studio. I have a lot of them there. For some time, I think about them and let the ideas grow, merge and change. At some point, I decide to produce one of these small sketches into real work. Creating the work often changes it from the original plan because of the qualities of the material I use. This change is something I usually welcome. I want the matter of the work to add something extra to it.
I start with one colour, white or grey and apply the next one after drying. When it dries, it often cracks up a bit, and I fill the cracks with different coloured filler to enhance them. Finally, I sand the whole work off. It is not until this last operation that I see how the piece looks. This process makes it very interesting to me. It's almost like developing an old black and white photograph. Or maybe like an archaeologist freeing the buried" image" from the topsoil.
Have you always worked with filler?
Not always, but for the last 17 years.
How did you discover this material? What can you express with it that you can't express with paint?
I was unsatisfied with how, when using regular paint, you cover the surface beneath and work with layers. I wanted everything to be equally visual in my paintings, so the different parts of the image fitted into each other like a jigsaw puzzle or intarsia. That way, I felt that the work could be genuinely two-dimensional and also as a physical object. So I started mixing different kinds of mediums in the paint to make it thicker and ended up using filler. After a while, I began to like how the filler cracked up when drying and thus showed an ageing process. It introduced both time and contingency into my work, which I loved — visual elements beyond my control.
As you are not properly using paint, do you define yourself as a painter or more as a sculptor/craftsman?
I am very much a painter. I'm interested in the fundamental problem of painting, which is the relation between depth and surface, which means the illusionary pictorial depth and the physical matter of the work. More profoundly, this equals the relationship between language and matter, how immaterial linguistic information always has to be manifested in the physical world to communicate. And also how that physical representation of the linguistic "idea" inevitably taints it and transforms it. There is less and more information in any language expression than the sender of the message intended. Be it a spoken word, a printed or painted image, or whatever media that is used.
But as I also put a lot of emphasis on the physical matter - my works are as much objects as images; this also relates to sculpture and craft, I guess.
Your work is mostly grey and white, do these colours (or lack of colours) represent something for you?
Not really. The point is that it is two different colours so that you can differentiate two surfaces from each other. It could have been other colours, but it is the natural colour of the two different kinds of filler I use, smooth and coarse. That said, I kind of like the sharpness of the whites, and I also like that the works are a bit low in contrast. Together with the dry, greyish brown of the oak wood, it gives a crisp, sober look. A bit Scandinavian, I think.
Is there some kind of hazard in your work, something provoked by the material/process itself more than by the hand of the artist?
Definitely. As I mentioned, I need there to be a contingency in my work. That there is something added that is beyond any cognitive or calculated process. But I also want the ideas behind the work to be somehow intuitive and incomprehensible to me. There has to be some risk involved that I don't entirely know what I'm doing. So there is something I can learn from doing them. It's a continuous investigation.
What do you like the most in your creative process?
I like that I don’t know how they will turn out when I start doing them and that it is a relatively fast process. I’m a bit impatient and couldn’t spend months on the same work. There has to be progress. I only use a few visual means in my work, so I enjoy how the different paintings can function together and bring new meanings when I combine them in exhibitions. Of course, making exhibitions and showing my work to the public is an essential motivation.
Would you define different periods in your work? If yes, which ones?
I graduated from school at the same time as I got children, and I did a lot of work dealing with family life for some years. I based these works on photographs. They were about documenting and the meaning of photos on a personal level. So this could be perceived as a first ”period”, I guess. By the time of my divorce, my images also disintegrated, and I started to do abstract striped works. I wanted to leave photos as a base for my work but still keep a sort of matrix or underlying system. You could call it a second period even if I didn’t produce so much during this time. Six years ago, I started to do work from scratch with no model or system, only a vague formal idea, investigating the visual possibilities in the properties of the filler. To focus even more on this, I stopped using pigments to colour the filler and began working only with grey and white. So this constitutes my third and current period, you might say.
You say you "primarily explore the theme of human alienation" could you tell me more about it?
I believe that because we as humans are self-conscious, we are always a bit detached from the reality of our situation. We observe and reflect more than engage. So we unconsciously and primordial feel alienated from both ourselves and our surroundings. This alienation creates a desire to transcend the boundaries of our subjectivity and "step out" of ourselves. That desire is the driving force behind almost all human endeavours.
Even though it may not be evident in any particular work, I think my understanding of this is the fundamental reason I do art in the first place. I investigate different angles of this dilemma, and perception is at the heart of it, and as painting to me primarily deals with that, I use it as a tool for this.
Where does your inspiration come from? Is there any topic/art movement/experience that inspires you?
As I’m as a person is interested in political issues and philosophical/psychological theories, I also find my biggest inspiration, or motivation, in this. In art, I think Informalism and artists like Antoni Tapies are very important to me right now. Also, movements like Arte Povera. When I started as an artist, I was very inspired by conceptual artists like Bruce Naumann, Sophie Calle and Sol Le Witt, among others.
Is there an artwork (painting/photograph/sculpture) that inspires(d) you the most?
I recently saw a video installation by Richard Mosse called Incoming in Copenhagen that was very powerful. I think I consume art, meaning it has to be fresh. I need to see art concerning the present. But as older encounters, I also had intense experiences with Henri Matisse Rosary Chapel in Vence and Picassos Guernica in Madrid.
If you could meet an artist from the past, who would it be?
I have not ever considered that. I don't think there is anyone in particular. I'm more interested in art than the artists, I believe.
If you have to describe your work in 3 words, which ones would it be?
Minimal, material and graphic.