FLOATING IN HENRIK ULDALEN'S WORLD
After the successful Paintguide exhibition organised by Unit London, I had the pleasure to sat down with the emerging exciting artist Henrik Uldalen, for a candid and insightful talk about his fast growing career as a contemporary artist in the 21st century.
Lisèle Teyssier for Unit London: Hi Henrik, could you tell us more about your debuts in the art world?
Henrik Uldalen: I’m a painter from Asker, a small city outside of Oslo, Norway. I have no formal education or training. I’ve always been into art and especially I’ve been drawing since a young age. But I didn’t start focusing on art as a career until I was about 19, after discovering oil painting while I was studying to be a teacher. I’ve always been wanting to do something within art, but I didn’t find my way or my medium until then — so that was when I decided to actually do something about it and be an artist.
UL: Could you take us through how you paint a piece?
HU: I start out most pieces differently, and especially these days. I’ve been wanting to paint more freely and have more fun while painting. Usually, I would work quite analogical from one side to the other, finishing everything while I ogle along. I do paint ”alla prima” though, which means in one take without layers.
UL: We can notice figurative painting in your work — Why did you choose this subject?
HU: Representational art has always been my mail preference from a young age. But now it’s slowly dissolving, literally. I enjoy the abstracted parts of what I’m working on at the moment, and it’s for me a lot more difficult. But it’s always going to be representational art in the base of it all. I paint models from photos I take myself.
UL: Where do you work? It might takes time for painting to dry, do you work on several piece at once?
HU: I work from home at the moment, even though the Unit London has offered me to stay in their gallery and use it as a studio. I just can’t be bothered with the London traffic most of the days, and prefer to be close to my home. I do prefer having a studio though. It’s nice getting out of the house. My painting dry quite fast. Almost over night. I would usually find myself painting for months back in the days. Now I try to capture and express something current all the time, and that might not stay for more than a couple of days, and so I try to finish things in the time frames of my moods and atmospheres. I feel it’s more true to the work I make, and to myself.
UL: Where do you find inspiration for your paintings?
HU: I don’t. It’s already inside of me, and I need to get it out to avoid being completely miserable. It’s like injecting antivenin to avoid a crisis if I would get an actual snake bite. Preventive work in a way.
UL: What is your proudest achievement?
HU: Recently I’ve come to realize that I don’t need much of the things and achievements that I before craved. Now I just want to make work that means something to me, and gives me satisfaction. Before I was driven by ambition and jealousy, and it didn’t give me anything for most of my life. I’m quite proud of myself to see past it and focus on myself and to a certain degree free myself from the market, galleries and expectations.
UL: What is your favorite artists and the one you look at for inspiration?
HU: I usually get the most out of tv series, music, movies and books. Anything that’s not strictly visual. Whenever something is in the form that I’m working in I tend to focus on the small and sometimes insignificant things with the work, instead of just feeling the piece. So when I see/hear/read something I don’t know anything about I’m more likely to get something out of it. To mention some names, it would have to be the directors David Lynch and Charlie Kaufman. In music, anything from Chopin to Mastodon.
UL: Instagram is an amazing marketing tool nowadays and with 253K on @Henrikaau you’re definitely aware of the affordance of the app. How powerful your following is and what are the advantage of using social media?
HU: I think Instagram has had the single biggest influence on my art. I personally see many ups and downs with Instagram. To say the negative parts first, obviously it’s very easy to fall into the trap of hunting for likes and followers you can easily compromise your art to something the crowd likes but doesn’t mean anything to you. I also think that art should be on walls for people to see in real life, not on a tiny phone screen.
On the other hand, Instagram and social media has brought art out to the people, and the democratization of art is something I absolutely can stand behind. It has given more of the power and voice back to the people who if not would be put under the thumb of the elite, art historians, academics, curators and galleries without much chance to make their mark in the art world. Now everyone stands on the same ground. The single most important thing for me is that Instagram has made it possible for me to loosen my ties with galleries and the economic leash by being able to sell small work directly to followers, allowing me to do exactly what I want to be doing. So now I only work with galleries that trust me and allows me to do what I want to do, even though it might not be the most sellable or popular work. It liberates me and in return I make the best work I’ve ever done(in my opinion). I think art void of the economic burden is the best art.
UL: We’ve had the pleasure to host the first physical exhibition of @Paintguide, an Instagram feed which has been meticulously curated over the past year to promote the work of emerging international artists. To follow the exhibition and the success of the account, a Paintguide book is coming. Can you tell us more about Paintguide?
HU: Paintguide has been a great experience for me. I’ve been thrilled to be working with so many of my favorite contemporary visual artists. I’ve come to love sharing and showing artists that I think deserve the spotlight, artists that not only inhabits an incredible technical skill, but are willing to push the medium of representational fine art further. It all started with a humble little personal account where I wanted to share my own favorite artists. At some point, it got a bit tiresome and I gave up on it. Out of the blue, I reached out to some of the artists I follow on Instagram if they would like to take the page over for a week, and it was a smashing success from the get go. Now, we’ve had over 70 artists taking on the page for a week, sharing their favorite art and inspirations, and I learn something new every week. It’s become a great source of information and insight behind the work of some of the most amazing artists of today in my opinion. The book is a bonus.
UL: The art world is considerably evolving in our digital age — what do you think about it?
HU: Honestly, I can’t tell. I’m too absorbed in one part of the art world, and can’t focus on all parts of the whole term. It’ a lot of movements as always in all of the genres, but I only focus on the representational art movement and the ones crossing over to more expressionist and abstracted art. It’s lots happening there though. There’s a lot of people coming back to craftsmanship and aesthetics, which has mostly been neglected since the beginning of modernism and post modernism.
UL: What would you like to achieve in the future?
HU: No plans and no ambitions. I will continue to show work in galleries as long as they want me, and I will continue Paintguide and curate Paintguide shows as long as it’s any interest for it.
UL: Now living in London from what I’ve heard what are the best places you like to go to?
HU: I’ve hardly been leaving my apartment since I’ve moved here, I’ve been quite busy. But I can’t wait for it to get a bit warmer and enjoy the city and the parks. I’m in love in London, and find each street corner lovely.
If you are interested in acquiring a piece by Henrik Uldalen or have more information, send an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!
In addition to this interview and to have more insights on Henrik Uldalen's work, you can watch some of his live painting videos on his youtube channel.
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Interview conducted for Unit London