• Idun Baltzersen: She Explores the Boundaries Between Craft and Art

    Written by Marie Brunnberg

    Edited by Marge Grossfeld.

    The Norwegian artist Idun Baltzersen carves her drawings into plywood, which she then prints on textile sheets. The idea came to her during her master studies in art at Konstfack (University College of Art, Crafts and Design), when she found a corner with old building materials in the workshop.

    Her motifs are independent teenage girls who turn their backs to the viewer. Idun Baltzersen is especially inspired by high school movies and the cult around them.
    I meet Baltzersen at Konstakademin (The Royal Academy of Fine Arts) in Stockholm, where she shows me her ongoing exhibition “Övergångsriter” (Transition rites).

    She comes straight from her atelier when I meet her in one of the exhibition halls. She tells me that she has been sketching all day for the forthcoming exhibition “Dialogue in drawing”, at Uppsala Art Museum beginning May 27th.
    – It will be an installation of quick drawings, I have just started so I can’t say more.
    She is happy about working in a smaller format this time. Her eyes get so tired of all the detail work when she works in large sizes and her hands hurt a lot.
    – I think it was hard when I created my big work on the wall there.
    She points to her grandiose textile collage that requires the entire wall surface in the gallery. I ask how she technically made that work.
    – I carve each drawing individually in factory-format plywood boards. Then I print these on textiles, one by one. All the prints I sew together into an enormous sheet of fabric.
    This is done with an obvious finish and I ask her how important the aesthetics are to her. She explains that she likes spontaneity but in controlled forms. She knows what feeling she seeks from the start.

    She says she likes portraying young independent women, but I think I see a guy in the collage in front of me.
    Who is that? I ask and point at him.
    – Oh, that's my man, she says. He is also an artist.
    Did you two meet each other at Konstfack?
    – No, actually online, she replies. Tinder.

    All her works are not black and white. When we walk through the exhibition room, she shows me some older work with colors, they are not as dramatic as the other ones. I see horse girls and I ask if she used to ride when she was a teenager. She explains that her sister did and that she has been watching her many times.

    To what degree do you plan your artwork?
    IB: I plan the individual parts quite carefully, but when I put together all the different figures, it can be very spontaneous.

    Have you been practicing woodcutting for a long time?
    IB: No, not actually, I was sketching before. A few years ago when I wanted to work in a larger format I discovered that when I went up in size, it became very difficult with the paper because it broke down. Then I found a plywood board, and it felt more natural to carve in it than to draw on it. The idea came very naturally to me - I already had the technical skills, with a Bachelor degree in Printmaking from Bergen, in Norway.

    How do you decide the titles of your work?
    IB: I try to find something that describes my thoughts about the work, but I'm not good at titles actually. I find one that I like and then I do ten versions of it. I am often inspired by individual words from poetry or Norwegian pop music. I like a pop singer called Kaja Gunnufsen very much.

    You are fascinated by young women, heroines and martyrs. Have you read many such books?
    IB: Yes, these stories are everywhere. Everyone has to go through the teen years, there is something that affects everyone and there is so much fun around it too. I like to watch high school movies, I think the stories are exciting. In my art I make my own addition to that cult; I make the teenage girls more monumental and authoritarian.

    What High School movie do you like the most?
    IB: I especially like one called “Heaters” (1988).

    How much of you is in your art?
    IB: A lot. I relate to all of this even though I'm outside the teenage years now. It was a defining period for me as a human being and there are flashbacks in my own life that I experience as exciting.
    My own craftsmanship is also a very central part of my work. I want to do everything myself. That’s really important to me.

    Why is that?
    IB: It's all about presence. That everything is handmade and that there are different materials that do not necessarily come from a traditional art store, but rather from construction stores and IKEA, which I then process in different ways.

    You participated in the Market Art Fair 2017. Did you sell anything?
    IB: I did. I exhibited four works, of which three were sold to three private collectors. I sold the pieces that were a bit smaller. Not my biggest one.

    Can you survive on your art?
    IB: Yes, I get scholarships – mostly Norwegian ones. There are many scholarships available in Norway.
    I received a Swedish scholarship from Konstakademin including this exhibition and a studio for one year. But now it's about to end. Fortunately, I have found a new studio.

    Do you see any trends in the art world today?
    IB: I notice that there are many more craftsmen - that's a huge difference. When I studied graphics it was a part of the department of artisan crafts with textiles and ceramics. Then you noticed that there was a little lower status compared to those who were doing “free art”. Now, it has really changed. There are a lot of ceramics that you can see in exhibitions today.

    How many artists have studios here at Konstakademin?
    IB: Not many. I share one with Anna-Karin Rasmusson and then Helene Billgren has a studio here too. But otherwise I do not meet so many other artists.

    It's Friday afternoon and we do not see any people at all. I don’t have the conscience to use her time any longer. I say that I love to see her atelier before I go and nice as she is she invites me up.
    In the corridor we pass a skylift. She says she will get her own skylift driver's license as soon as possible. She wants to be able to put up her large work herself whenever she wants to.

    You don’t like being depended on others?
    IB: Nope.

  • Layered

    Written by Chelsea Porter

    Layered + Michel Bussien

    Swedish interior brand Layered has launched their collaboration with artist Michel Bussien ; presenting the new collection in an installation exhibit. The furniture bears elements representing the artistic expression and blending of interior art and design.

    Here at Odalisque we couldn’t wait to get some Q&A time with the designer and founder herself Malin Glemme to discuss Layered, the new collection and collaboration with Michael Bussien.

    Where did Layered begin?
    I started Layered two years ago with the idea of offering high quality rugs in outstanding designs for moderate prices. The Furniture Collection is created with the same vision: to offer modern and elegant pieces at reasonable prices. Layered is creating collections for modern and elegant homes all over the world.

    How would you personally describe the new collection?
    The vision was to create elegant and contemporary design in combination with edgy and unexpected details. The collection is in rich velvet and you will find sofas, poufs, chairs and a day bed among the ten pieces. Colors range from dark, rich graphite gray and midnight blue to powder pink and emerald green. Details come in dark wood and brass.

    What inspires you?
    I find inspiration within different art forms- fashion, photography and architecture. For this collection, I was mostly inspired by the beautiful velvet fabric. Once I felt the soft and rich surface, the design and creation process started. And I love daydreaming on Pinterest, it’s a great source for all types of different inspiration!

    Where were you first introduced to Michael’s work?
    I first saw Michael’s work in Lamp Flag Store - his selection of ceiling light objects in sheep stomach and iron. I was so intrigued by these unique forms, it caught my eye right away.

    What do you hope people will gain from this experience?
    I hope to challenge people’s perceptions of their capability to explore other creative fields such as fashion, art, interior and photography. You don’t have to be in a box, you can explore other paths and still return back to your major craft. The work is nearly a meeting between worlds, surrealistically similar to the piece itself- with no direct story.

  • photography by ANNICA ZION

    HE EXPLORES THE HE(ART) OF (SUB)CULTURE

    Written by Chava Krivchenia by Stephanie Cetina

    Edit: Marge Grossfeld

    He brings nightlife into the art space through performance and installations, but conversely, does experimental art projects inside his nightlife arena.

    Esben Weile Kjær, known as a DJ, party organizer and activist, creates and fulfills our constant need for reminders about how we are all connected - without demeaning or underplaying our individual differences and site specificity.

    Through arts events and his refusal to limit his expression to one medium or approach, Esben, with his sister Anna Weile Kjær and other collaborators, explores the importance of subcultures or community.

    – I want to examine how strong a cultural identity can be, he says.

    He and his sister are now working on a show, which you can experience April 27th in Copenhagen at Future Suburban Contemporary.

    Odalisque was able to ask Esben Weile Kjær some questions about his life and artwork.

    CK: Can you tell me about your background?
    EWK: I am originally from Aarhus but I moved into a squat in Copenhagen when I was sixteen. I was doing activism and went to punk concerts and had a lot of fun.
    My DJing began in my hometown with one of my best friends. We played at some parties where the organizers were letting us in from the back door because we were way too young. It was really cute – our parents picking us up after the gig.
    I remember how fascinated I was by the energies at the club. I think that maybe it was the same that I found in the punk scene - like how music can transform the space totally and be a strategy to let bodies act differently and more autonomously.
    Of course, I was too young to get into the clubs and that’s why I started doing my own parties. My friends and I got some help from some older friends and we did some of the first queer raves in Aarhus.
    I don’t know how queer they actually were but we felt it was super queer at the time and maybe that is enough when you are 15 years old and you don't know anything about sexuality and gender and the only thing you want is to instantly run away from categories and norms.
    All this was a big inspiration and is now a big theme in my art practice. The movements of youth culture and the aesthetics of different sub cultures, and how pop culture all relate to each other. Subcultures can mutate really fast - through capitalism - and be something else.


    CK: Please talk about the difference between your subcultural educational experiences and more mainstream arts education background.
    EWK: When I moved to Copenhagen I thought that I would never go to high school. But eventually I attended one anyway, called Det Frie Gymnasium (Free High School). The school looked like a squat and it was a democracy - all of the students had as much to say as the teachers. Study there changed my mind of being a part of an educational institution. I felt comfortable and happy staying there. 

    Right after high school I started at the Rhythmic Music Conservatory and meanwhile, as I studied there, my practice changed into something that was more comfortable in an arts space rather than a concert hall. So, I started exploring culture studies, performance theory and music theory through the ideas of sound. I have a BA from there, but now I am at an art academy which fits me better.

    CK: What groups and communities has inspired your work?
    EWK: I'm inspired by movements and subcultures and how they are communicating. I have been djing in 9 years now and have been playing in the most of the world. Visiting all the different clubs has been a kind of research that I use to produce art. Of course I also look at other artists. I'm a big fan of Mark Leckey, Evian Christ and Juliana Huxtable to name some artists who also have a DJ background and use it in their art.
    I can also name The New York based collective that were active in the 90's called Group Material. I am excited about how they used the art spaces as a social space. At the moment I really like the Spanish artist Antoni Miralda. I'm really interested in how he works with participation in he’s work. But this is only a few I like, the list could be forever.

    CK: What is your planning method for your projects?
    EWK: A lot of my research is from art theory and discussion with my sister who is an art historian. She has just finished a thesis about rave culture, and how its’ aesthetics have been implemented in the art world and have affected pop culture. I am reading a lot, going out, and am studying issues close by.
    For example in my performance How 2 Neo-tribe that was shown first time at Tranen Contemporary Art Center, I wanted the purpose to be questioning the identification of the attendants. I created flags working as ID tags for individuals at the show, each being a label of subcultures around the world. These flags were going around the exhibition space on people walking around and were a part of the performance. The labeled subcultures interacted and moved around depending upon who was choosing and adopting the identification on the label. There wasn’t a set plan or choreography. Humans are already naturally really choreographed without planning. That’s a method I often use. To add some elements or rules on a social situation that already exist.

    CK: Do you prefer collaboration or working individually?
    EWK: My practices are really social. I prefer to work together with other people. I’m interested in the collective. A big part of my practice is to do interventions of other institutions. You can maybe call it brand hacking. I try to fade into the structure of the place and use the way that they advertise (can be on social media for example) as a place for art. I did one last year called Institute for Success. It was a performative intervention where I acted as a curator and invited different performance artists to show pieces. Now we have turned this “Institution” into an art collective of seven artists and we will do a new intervention called Institut for Success 2.0 at the National Gallery of Denmark the second of June.

    The person I have been working with most, and still do, is my sister. We have been writing and organizing anthologies. Some months ago in fact, we had a show in Basel called Radical Togetherness. We also run an exhibition space together called Adult in Copenhagen together with our dear friend Mikkeline Sofie Larsson.

    CK: You also like to photograph the people around you?
    EWK: I do love taking pictures of my friends. Now I am starting to get asked by friends and art connections to photograph them. I really don’t see myself as a photographer, but I really like portraying specific people. I don’t really know why or what will come of it eventually, it’s a personal project for now. I see my portraits as a family scrapbook in a way, with nice memories.

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