Portraiture has evolved alongside civilization, from painting onto stone in ancient Egypt through depicting royal families and religious figures to photography-like portraits. Today, many artists are pushing the age-old genre in new directions. Here are portraits of four contemporary Norwegian portrait painters who put a modern twist on the age-old genre.
Let’s begin our portraiture by describing the enfant terrible of contemporary art in Norway, Unni Askeland.
Unni Askeland has been shocking the politically correct Norwegian establishment both with her works and her sometimes bohemian lifestyle. She was born in Bergen (1962) and studied at the Art School in Kabelvåg, the Academy of Western Norway, Bergen and graduated from the National Academy of Fine Art in Oslo in 1992.
At the Academy’s Graduate Exhibition Askeland showed Waiting for Picasso, a painting depicting herself in the company of artists such as Edvard Munch, Frida Kahlo, Lena Cronquist and Francesco Clemente. Her visits to New York studios of Brice Marden and Francesco Clemente have been crucial for the development of her so-called Neo-Expressionist movement.
When she was meddling with Edvard Munch’s famous “soul paintings” from the 1890s, in 2004, it caused something of a scandal in the Norwegian milieu. Later she depicted icons of the 20th century like Marilyn Monroe, Mae West and Courtny Love with an obvious reference to the pop art of Andy Warhol.
In 2008, when a series of images inspired by the famous movie Casablanca was aquierd by the National Museum of Art in Oslo, it stirred a new debate, not only about the artist, but also about the museum.
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Kristoffer Evang was born in Oslo and was a student of portrait painter Eirik Lütken.
“For me, the eyes are very important. I want to bring out a kindness and vulnerability in the eyes,” says the artist. Evang’s picturesque expression can be defined as contemporary realism and is inspired by American “contemporary realism” although he has a deep knowledge of traditional figurative painting. Through the portrait, which traditionally represents high culture, Evang connects the past with the present. However, what distinguishes these from each other? What happens when you show street art within the gallery’s protective walls? Does street art despise authorities? Does that character change or does street art become a part of the institution the former opposed?
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Helene Knoop is born in Drøbak in 1979 and is one of Norway’s foremost contemporary figurative painters.
She lives and works in Oslo and calls herself a “Litch-painter” and says good Kitch involves pathos, poetry, drama ans sincerety – all communicated through the mastery of craft. From 2000 to 2003 she studied with the world-renowned Norwegian figurative painter Odd Nerdrum.
In recent years, she has continued to refine her skill, and she has developed her focus on the human figure by studying ancient sculpture in Italy. Knoop always paints from a live model, and she paints the Nordic landscape in plein air.
She is one of the founders of www.worldwidekitsch.com, and she organized the Kitsch Biennale in Munich 2008, and in Venice 2010.
Knoop has had several successful solo exhibitions, including shows in London, Stockholm, and New York. Knoop’s paintings are represented in collections in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, England, Italy, Nicaragua, and the U.S.A.
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Marius Martinussen (born 1978) graduated with a master’s degree from the Academy of Fine Arts in Trondheim. He is a painter and graphic artist, and is known for his colorful style with references to pop art, expressionism and modernist abstraction. He often works with the dynamic culture and color spectrum of popular culture.
Martinussen has a large number of separate and group exhibitions behind him both in Norway and abroad. Previously purchased by among others Statoil Hydro, the Norwegian Bank, the Norwegian Shipowners’ Association and the Norwegian Cultural Council.
Portraits of Four Contemporary Norwegian Portrait Painters
We hope you liked our mini portraits of four Norwegian portrait painters.
Feature image (on top): Urban, by Unni Askeland
Portraits of Four Contemporary Norwegian Portrait Painters, compiled by Tor Kjolberg