Henrik Uldalen is a young artist whose speciality lies in unusual portraiture and figurative work engaging the viewer with intrigue, mystery and a fundamental dream-state overture. For me, it is always inspiring to see an artist who completely bends the realities of the world and takes note by being completely unaware of the restrictions of physical reality. As a self-taught artist I explored what his thoughts on formal education and the knowledge of art histories influence on a young artist. Read below for the full interview…
Self teaching in the form of the arts seems to be the trend nowadays. What is your view on formal education? Do you feel it hinders general creativity in an artist?
Henrik: For me it has little to do with trends when it comes to my education. I have tried to get in the art academy of Oslo, but didn’t succeed. I’m of course happy for that now, but for a while I was pretty angry about it. I am sure that a formal art education could be a great experience, and I’m positive that it will help you along the way towards being a successful artist. But on the other side, I don’t think you absolutely need it to be an artist.
From my point of view it’s actually the other way around when it comes to creativity. I think academies and formal art educations endorse creativity. I actually think they go way too far in that direction, neglecting the craftsmanship and technical aspects of art.
How do you work? Do you like to work early in the morning or late at night?
Henrik: I’m a morning guy. I need some structure in my life. I’m waking up early for morning coffee and radio in the studio, together with my colleague Morten Thyholt, and then a good 8-12 hours of work.
The subjects in your oil paintings all have their eyes closed. Is this to signify a dream-state overture?
Henrik: That’s right. I do want the viewer to feel that a dreaming (or a metaphysic) state is depicted. In some of the later paintings I want the closed eyes to be a comment on the modern man, chasing status and riches blindly. Living a safe suburban life, ignorant to the rest of the world outside their little bubble.
Your work is being compared a lot to Jeremy Geddes. How do you react to such statements?
Henrik: First of all I love the work of Jeremy Geddes. Even though we work with the same mediums in a comparable universe, I think my paintings are far away from the brilliant work of Geddes. I am flattered by the comparison though.
Inspiration for you comes from academic artists of the late 19th century, where behind ordinary depictions one would glimpse something abstract from a painting. What kind of emotions are you trying to evoke out of someone that looks at your work?
Henrik: I’m mainly inspired by these 19th century artists because of the technic and craftsmanship. I want different things for different paintings. But some of the later paintings I’ve tried to evoke a feeling of dizziness to the viewer.
Were you interested in art history when you started learning to paint? What is it about this particular style and era that attracts you?
Henrik: Not exactly art history, more just drawing and painting, without knowing anything about the different eras. Later I’ve come to know the history behind, and learning how and why the style has changed over the centuries.
I have always been interested in drawing, and later painting. And of course I would look to the masters of the mediums for inspirations. I was always greatly encouraged to draw and paint, and have been considered quite good at it in my childhood, and therefor it has been the natural style for me to work with.
As modern art and its avant-garde gained more power, many skeptics had written off your style as conservative and non-innovative. How were you able to preserve and bring your style to the mainstream once again?
Henrik: I’m happy you think I do bring something new to the table. That is what I strive to do. For me it’s simply by trying to say something about the life I live today and things that I care about. But I don’t think you necessarily have to be so contemporary to make an impact on the viewer. Many avant-garde artists mean that there is only room for one type of art, something I think is wrong. We have to respect that artists wants to do different things with their art. Whether an artist is trying to provoke and change society, or give the society a break from the real life. Many of my favorite artists are painting pieces that could have been made in any era of the art history. They wont provoke a massive uproar in society, but do we want all art to do that?
I find your work unique, especially in the context of space. Is the interplay with space an essential ingredient for your figurative paintings?
Henrik: It very much is in many of my paintings, especially in the “Void” series. I love playing around with space, trying to make interesting compositions. I find it very challenging trying to do something dynamic with very few elements.
When does color come into the work? Do you often know this will be a “warm” painting from the start, for example? Or, is a foundation built, and then you play with the color?
Henrik: I know in advance what color scheme the painting will have. Sometimes I do change things up in the process, but I definitely know the overall temperature of the painting.
Do you have any favorite Asian films or Anime?
Henrik: I love the works of Hayao Miyazaki. In a way it reminds me of Moomintroll, a Finnish cartoon I grew up with. I like that they brings up serious issues as well as being great entertainment for both children and adults. I think it’s important for kids to see something else than bright colors and happy-go-lucky television.
This has been a big year for you; as you started releasing prints for sale. What can we expect so see from you throughout the duration of 2012? Any big surpises?
Henrik: No big surprises. I will continue to release some prints through the year. Not too many though. The next print will be released through Spoke Art, San Francisco.
Want to keep tabs on Henrik’s work and be informed when he drops new prints this year? Follow his cookie crumb trail below: