Can you tell us a bit about you?
I am from the country-side outside of Bergen, on the west side of Norway. When I was little, I spent too much time outside, and I knew the land around where I lived better than anything.
I have been drawing and painting all my life. My first experience with art was at high school in Bergen, when I saw the Munch collections and started to visit museums with my class. I took my first art classes after high school in Oslo, first at Vika Art School, and then at Nydalen Art School in Oslo. The past two years I have been part of the Turps Studio Painters program in London.
How did you find your voice as an artist?
I found it in my work process. Little by little it became clearer to me what good, strong work was, and what it was not. It took and takes a lot of strength to maintain focus and a steady practice. For me it is a sort of mantra to push when there is some resistance, and, I guess it takes the pieces to new places. To build a strong working practice has been essential for me in allowing my work to progress.
As a former literature student you want to tell stories with your artworks – how do you do this? And what do you want to tell the viewer?
I always loved to hear and tell a story. Stories are everywhere around us, and the minute we let one be told, it affects us. This is something that never stops in anybody’s life, it goes on forever and those meetings with someone, telling you a story, are, to me, forever fascinating.
For many years I worked in bookstores , and I have met a lot of people in my life who have a huge passion for literature. This affects my work. The first time I understood what a meeting of elements in a painting is, I connected that to stories. When reading a bad text you know it just makes you want to put it aside, it’s sometimes the same when looking at a painting.
I guess my work is about engaging with the human condition. I also think any writer should explore this. The last book I read was ‘The Argonauts’ by Maggie Nelson, it’s a fantastic read, and a one that can be read over and over again. Like stories, a painting can be explored on many levels. It’s the philosophy part, the family part, the formal textual part and the way language is used to name a few… So, in a painting, I can have an idea on a single level or on several at the same time. There are no limits when it comes to painting and I love that. One example is a story by Siri Hustvedt called ‘Yonder’, this term and text has influenced one of my series of work.
You are experimenting with techniques and materials in your work – which technique and material challenges you the most and which one do you enjoy the most?
I have a great time working with the canvas flat on the floor, applying watery paint from both sides. The possibility of mark making that fascinates me, and how different kinds of media leave different traces. There might be many failed attempts before a painting finally comes together. There are many materials one never uses for anything. I guess right now, I am enjoying wood as a material, and want to continue making marks by dying the canvas and using waxes.
Can you tell us something about your series ‘domestic offprints’?
The way I made the textile off prints in these works has stayed with me for a long time. I still work with them now. The question as to why I work like this is a mystery even to me, but I can try to explain the reasons. I use the word domestic to refer to all the stuff we have in our houses. Any cloth, decoration, textile and pattern holds a significance to us. It can be seen as a metaphor for family, to be part of a pattern, societal expectations, small life, big life, politics, and also shows social status etc. It is also a signifier of taste, and aesthetic values. It’s loaded with personal meaning , as in the backdrop of American artist Cathrine Opies self-portraits. As a painter at Turps I was made aware of the story The Yellow Wallpaper by Perkins Gilman. I guess this series is influenced by the psychosocial part of what a pattern in a house might mean to us. The division of ornaments outside buildings and patterns indoors is also of great interest to me.
Do you have a vision of what your artistic future might look like? Which artists do you admire?
Painters like Michael Armitage, Maria Lassnig and Jutta Koether inspire me. Most of all I am inspired by the great painters I met at Turps in London. A show I saw last year in Oslo was also great, ‘pastel drawings’ by Venessa Baird – they are amazing.
I am hugely influenced by my surroundings, and as I just moved studio, I hope to work well there. It’s in Skien outside Oslo, and I will share the space with other artists. I hope to do a couple of shows every year, and am looking forward to working in my new studio. I am also interested in working on group shows, and hope I get the chance to do collaborations and work on team projects over the coming years.
My time at Turps in London was so enriching, and I think I still have things to consider and develop from my time there.
The artist on Singulart: https://www.singulart.com/en/artist/maj-gret-gaup%C3%A5s-161