Meet The Artist: Henrik Aarrestad Uldalen
Seemingly floating from the void of nowhere to an unknown destination, the central lone figures in Henrik Aarrestad Uldalen’s paintings have a calm composure that seems to translate a similar feeling onto the viewer. Looking at his body of work is much like stepping deep into a meditative dream; fluid and serene.
411posters presents our latest quick Q & A with emerging artist Henrik Aarrestad Uldalen. He first came onto the print-world with his “Cobweb” print release in Feb. 2012 and since then has drawn great interest as he delves into the ‘Void’.
Henrik Aarrestad Uldalen
411posters: Where are you from and what is your art education background?
Henrik Aarrestad Uldalen (Uldalen): I grew up in a small town outside of Oslo, named Asker, in Norway. I came to Norway when I was about five months, adopted from Seoul, South Korea. When it comes to my art education, the papers are pretty much blank. I have no formal art education. I did study to be an art teacher in elementary school.
411posters: How did you get started in painting? What were your first paintings like?
Uldalen: I have always been interested in art, and especially drawing. It wasn’t before I started studying to be an art teacher that I tried oil painting for the first time. I met a couple of guys there (Morten Thyholt and Trygve Åsheim) who was in the same situation as me. We were all very interested in drawing and painting. We started experimenting with different mediums, and when I tried oil painting for the first time, I knew this was it. But to answer your question, my first paintings were pretty much shit. But at the time it was much better than any of my earlier attempts.
411posters: What mediums do you use to create your art?
Uldalen: Oil on panel.
411posters: What/who inspires you to create?
Uldalen: I’ve found out that the main thing to motivate me is having a fresh new project on the easel. Sitting around and waiting for inspiration to hit never works for me. So in a way, all I need to do is to get early up in the morning and start working.
411posters: Take us through the process of your art from concept —> process —> final piece.
Uldalen: It all starts with a vague and abstract idea, often just an idea of color and atmosphere. Humans are in the center of all of my paintings, so the next thing I do is taking photos of the model I want to paint. From there I play around in Photoshop for a while, searching for compositions. I finish off with painting after the rough Photoshop sketches. I often make changes along the way though.
411posters: Who are the characters that are seen in your paintings? Is there a story behind each of them that is personal to you?
Uldalen: Most of the characters in my paintings are good friends. They are the easiest models to call. But I do have some people I don’t know in my art. Contacted merely because of certain qualities that I search for in a model. For me it’s not important to have a personal story with the model. I don’t paint portraits in that sense. One should not need to know half my life story to enjoy my paintings.
411posters: In most of your paintings, your characters seem to be either surrounded by complete white space, or engulfed in total darkness. Is there a message in this, or more of an aesthetic preference?
Uldalen: This series has a lot of different meanings. It’s a series called “Void”, where I want to depict some sort of metaphysic feeling. Being lost in limbo, or in the state of dreaming. But as you are mentioning, the aesthetic is always important to me. So sometimes I just do it because it works, and work out the theme in the process. I work intuitively with my paintings. That’s what I do best. If I were better at expressing myself with words, I would write a book.
411posters: Many of your pieces are untitled. You even have a couple with the same title (drifting). Is there a reason for this?
Uldalen: I have a hard time picking names for the different pieces. I would like a name for each and every piece for both practical reasons, and for the artwork itself. The problem is that many of my paintings are the continuation of a previous painting. So the same thing is often said with different compositions and models, as the theme often is the same through a series of paintings. I also don’t like it when titles lead nothing to the imagination of the viewer.
411posters: What aspect of your work have you found the most challenging thus far?
Uldalen: Every day as a painter I face different problems. I have a few ones that keep coming back though. Like trying to bring something new to a medium that has existed for centuries, technique related issues, and of course financial problems. I’m hoping that will change some day.
411posters: Any misconceptions of your work that bother you?
Uldalen: I do sometimes get some very weird personal takes on my work, which is completely different than what I intended the piece to say. But it doesn’t bother me. Often I don’t even know myself what I want to say with the piece, so the viewers are very much allowed to make up their own mind when it comes to the content of my work.
411posters: In your bio, you mention that despite the realism of your work, photographic accuracy is not what you are seeking to achieve. So what do you seek to achieve in your final product?
Uldalen: What I mean by that is that I‘m in no way trying to make my art resemble a photo, like photorealism/hyperrealism, even though I sometimes use photographic “effects” in my paintings. I work with paint, and that is what I want it to look like.
411posters: Who are some of your art influences?
Uldalen: All from William Bouguereau, John Singer Sargent, Alphonse Mucha and Ilya Repin to living artists like Antonio López García, Gottfried Helnwein, Alex Kanevsky, Jenny Saville, Daniel Sprick, Jeremy Geddes and Odd Nerdrum. The list could go on for several pages, so I choose to stop there.
411posters: List some of your favorite music, movies, and art work.
Uldalen: My music taste range from soft singer/songwriter to death metal. Noteworthy movies for me are most of the production of David Lynch, Roy Andersson, Charlie Kaufman and Hayao Miyazaki. And many other movies that make me think or are esthetically pleasing. I’m also addicted to tv-series, but there I have no filter what so ever.
411posters: Art, like life, is an ongoing progression of evolution and change. Where do you see your art headed in the next year(s)?
Uldalen: That is a very good question. Good as in difficult. Two years ago, I would never guess that I’d be making the pieces I do today. I wish I could travel forward in time and watch my whole production from start to end. I bet I’ll be doing these people suspended in air at least for a while more.
411posters: What words/phrases best describe your art?
Uldalen: For me it’s hard to say. I pick elements from different -ism’s over the years, trying to create something new. I’ve heard things like “magic art”, “surrealism” and such. But I would leave this up to art historians or art critics.