Photography / Editorial / Print

Kjell Folkvord is an artist who works from his studio in Wimbledon Art Studios. Originally from Jaeren, Southwest Norway, his “first” career was as a teacher and then headmaster. He now devotes himself full time to his art. His style is abstract, describing himself as a colourist and expressionist, working primarily with acrylic on canvas. We asked Kjell about what drew him to abstract painting?

The experience of freedom. When I worked figuratively the feeling of copying something became too obvious sometimes. It didn't quite meet my expectations. I longed for the feeling of creating something “all by myself”.

Growing up on a farm, with all the freedom it must have given you to explore nature, do you bring that to you work - working without boundaries or confined to a specific style of painting?

The greatest value of growing up on a farm is the relationship with the diversity of life, and I should perhaps add death. Early in your life you meet a lot of beauty, but also face some very serious events, when a cow leaves for the slaughterhouse. I think that a lot of these early impressions are part of me still, and form part of my artistic expression.

Could you describe the Mind Lagoon work in a few words. When you paint, do you visualise the work and let the painting emerge or research, sketch and plan your work methodically?

Mind Lagoon got its title because the painting to me described a place where not so much happens, except the mind can relax and just enjoy. Cool and easy. You are asking me about working procedures. They are varied. I often have a sketch, but the finished painting does not always looks like it in the end, but sometimes. I quite often “play” with the paint, let it emerge by itself. I like to say that I have three assistants in my studio; the time, water and gravity. In my absence from the studio a fresh painting can develop to destruction sometimes, or be improved beyond my deliberate creativity. Larger formats need more planning.

Are there any artists you turn to for inspiration?

Not any artist in particular. But I quite often pick up inspiration from other artist’s work. Not that I feel I copy, but for instance some combinations of colours might talk to me.

You say you would like the viewer to recognise something in your work. Do you work with the view to let the paintings evoke feelings, moods and memories through visualisation - using colours, brush strokes, shapes to express your thoughts?

Whether we like or dislike something it is tied up to experiences in some way. That’s why I’d like the viewers of my art to recognise something, something from their own experiences of course. I make the paintings based on mine. Someone else might tie some other memories to the paintings. Colours, forms and surface texture are important parts of my expression.

What led you to create Hiroshima Day?

I started to work on that painting the 6th of August 2010, the same day 65 years after the first atomic bomb blasted open a new page of the world’s history, a blast that led to about 100, 000 people killed. That event inspired me. How shall we pay respect to the victims of an old event like that, I asked? By missing the joy, creativity and consideration the world lost by their death, I answered and tried to describe some of this in my painting.

Do you listen to music when you paint?

I rarely work without listening to music. BBC Radio 3 is an important source for me, they deliver both music and some background information about the music, composers and so on.

Are there any abstract painters you admire the work of?

Quite a lot. Some for their compositions, some for their colours and some for their artistic attitude. One of the greatest living artist’s I have seen works of lately is Gerhard Richter. A very comprehensive artist!

You have said that the work obligations from the farm in your youth and later years as an educator built up a catalogue of images and dreams in your mind which only in recent years you are beginning to express and share. Are a few of the paintings based on those fantasies and dreams?

Bird’s song. One of the things my childhood days had were lots of  bird sounds. I think those sounds accompanied my day dreaming, the cheap way of travelling for kids. I might do more paintings to celebrate the birds of my childhood. This is the blackbird, the great singer of late nights.

Between Earth & Earth. A few years ago I was surprised by the message of the death of a cousin of mine. In our childhood we spent some time together and my memory of those happy hours went into to this portrait of my cousin.
Fagr eru liðinn. Many years ago I read an Icelandic saga about a man who could save his life only by leaving his farm and going abroad. He rode down to the ship. But when he turned around to have a last look at the farm, he exclaimed, “Pretty is the hill side” (“Fagr eru Liðinn”) and he went home again, and was killed. This is the picture of the hill side that has followed me since.

A beginning. One of my sources of inspiration is the universe. I am interested in the cosmos and try to grasp some of the scientific exploration of that. This painting I made back in 2007 and it was one of the first I made by pouring wet paint onto a canvas. It was an experiment and I covered an older work by making this.
Summer’s Night. Is one of four paintings in the Path of Sverre series. This also is made in that emerging technique, and it came out very well. The bigger the canvases are the more challenging this technique is because all the surface is wet at the same time and there will be a lot of processes going on.

Do you have a favourite quote?

Aristotle: "The aim of art is not to represent the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance".  That's how I feel about my art, there is something streaming out of the picture and there no cows, no house, no mountains, but in a way there are lots of cows, lots of house, lots of mountains.  You have to look for them.  Another is by Henri Matisse: ”Truth and reality in art do not arise until you no longer understand what you are doing”.

To you, what would you describe art as?

Art can be described in a lot of different ways, I think. The first key word to me is communication, language. When I create art it is because I have something to pass on, something that can’t be better spoken in any other language.

What plans do you have for the remainder of this year?

I hope to go to the coast, because the light is different there. I am accustomed to being near a shore, a beach, being that I am from Norway.  It is a very calm and quiet place for painting.  Other than that, working on a exciting new project. Watch this space...

Painting images 
Copyright Kjell Folkvord.  
Kindly used with permission

Interview and Portraits
Nardip Singh

Paintings photographed by
Peter Hepplewhite

As featured in Unfolded Magazine Issue 08


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