I am a young artist and a not so young person. I have painted since I was a young man, but until recently have been doing other things. Through all these busy years however, lived a dream that one day I would make the pictures I saw with my mind's eye. But there were many other things I needed to achieve before I could concentrate my energy on myself and my art. I was constantly learning about art... I read about art and artists, sought out exhibitions. I had obligations; and it was easier to write poems than to organize a studio. Now and then I painted, in my spare time and during holidays. I realize however that all of my accumulated experience is with me now as a full time artist.
Art has to me several dimensions. It is in a way private. My most important tool is myself, my intellect, my life experience, my aesthetic sense, my identity as an individual and as an artist. It is also of course my skill to create art. I had to learn to become more self centered. I had to learn to listen when something inside me whispered. From that speaking I still collect my most important ideas. I had to dwell with my feelings in a way which I hadn't done before.
From where did I emerge into the role of an artist? What experiences inform the artist I am today? I was brought up as a farmer's boy in the south west of Norway in the 1950's and 60's. That was a time when children were supposed to help, hands were needed on the farm. Farm production was much characterized by hand craft those days and I was destined by Norwegian law to take over the farm. However, serious allergies to animals meant that was impossible and I left the farm to pursue my education instead; the farm passing to my younger brother. I had some lofty ideas about walking the roads of the world and writing. Instead I became a father and married man. I had to earn a living. I studied to become a teacher. To guide the next generation to be a better one stood out to me as the most important work I could do. From teaching I went on to become a social worker and probation officer for some years before returning to education as a headmaster.
I experienced those years as very meaningful and rich. I addition to my professional work I engaged myself in left wing politics. Our ambitions had no limitations at all; in the 1970's we thought we could really change the world. The old ways were no good. Wars and exploitation should be replaced with some quite different. We really believed this but it did not happen. As a young enthusiast I learnt a lot about the world and myself. I think of these years as an important part of my education. In my life, whatever I have done, I have done it because it felt it was important. There were times when I paid for my passion and outspokenness but I do not regret it. And I have the boldness to say that now that concerns my artwork.
My first paintings, made while I still was a student, were experimental abstract expressions. Nobody seemed to take any notice of them. After some years I decided to paint houses, animals, in short, whatever I came across, and suddenly people around me said "Oh Kjell, you really can paint!" Having got this confirmation, I went back to the abstract style. Abstraction is my perfect expression! I have huge freedom, and what is better than to express concentrated emotions than this abstract language? My best poems are of the same kind; short concentrated extracts often from a larger picture. I will never be able to tell the whole truth, I think, but what I do tell I want to be as truthful as I can make it.
To me my paintings are true expressions of something… they are a result of an investigation of my mind or memory…and they might be as complicated as reality is…
My paintings are usually colourful. The colours are the letters in my painting's language. They are syllables more than they represent reality in the world. I usually try to tell a story, and the image I have in my mind or memory, in my emotional layers. And when I do paint and work with a colour, this colour starts asking for a friend of his and I have to find it, or mix it. This is perhaps humanising the colours but that is how I sometimes feel.
I don't usually put representational elements into my paintings, as their reality (gestalt) is, but they are there anyway, because they are represented by colours, shapes and other elements. You don't see the house, you don't see the field, but I put it in. I might have to look carefully to recollect how I did it.
"I can see corn fields", said my sister-in-law, looking at one of my paintings. The yellow colour she was looking at was just put in there because it was "asked for". This happens often, and is fine with me. People see things through their own experience. This is how my paintings are "finished" by the viewer and it is exciting to hear what people see in them.
I don't always have a representational intent – in the sense of trying to portray an abstract representation of an object or an event, or a particular month, as in the Year series. When I am not trying to tell about May, or November, however – when what I am telling about is a dream, a fantasy, or a kind person I once met, for example, then I want my paintings to convey an emotion. Most of my paintings are trying to recreate the feeling of something rather than the thing itself. Sometimes I am aiming to evoke a particular emotion by recreating something I have experienced. Sometimes one just appears from my work. A radio program or a piece of music I have heard, a book I am reading – any of these things may cause feelings to appear in my paintings without me consciously putting them there.