Artist of the Month in the sales department - Karin Valum

Apr 1, 2023

Artist of the Month is an interview series where Tegnerforbundet each month introduces a member who is represented with artwork in our Sales Department. With this initiative, we want to give readers an insight into the members' artistic work and highlight the importance of drawing in their work.


Karin Margaretha Valum's (1952) drawings are beautiful and calm works in balanced shades of gray. The drawings move in the borderland between the abstract and the figurative, where organic forms meet and create connections, both visible and internal. In her drawings, Valum explores what she calls "inner states". The subdued use of color and quiet contemplation in the drawings can seem like an invitation to the viewer to stop and reflect - is there something more behind the surface of the image? These are time-consuming works where the process of creation and leaving traces on the paper is an important part of the result for the artist and the traces become part of the artwork itself.

Valum was educated at the Norwegian School of Crafts and Art Industry and the Academy of Fine Arts in Oslo. She has been acquired by the National Museum, Asker Municipality, Drammen Museum, Nordnorsk Kunstmuseum, Oslo Municipality's art collection and the Norwegian Arts Council.

TF: Karin, can you tell us a bit about your artistic work?

KV: I was educated at the graphic arts and printmaking departments at SHKS and at the National Academy of Fine Arts, the painting class and the space art class. I probably experienced the greatest freedom in working with drawing and in experiments with three-dimensional objects. From 1987 I participated in the spring exhibitions in UKS with reliefs and objects, and in the 1980s with solo exhibitions, where I also showed paintings.  

Later I found a way to express myself in large charcoal drawings on a heavy, thick paper that could withstand rough treatment. It was demanding work, with several layers of fixative and the use of a knife and sandpaper to create tactile gray tones and bring out the whiteness of the paper. Materiality has always been important to me and the drawings were given a relief character that could resemble petrifaction. The drawings were shown many times at Høstutstillingen, Østlandsutstillingen and in solo exhibitions, including Tegnerforbundet. There were public purchases, several were purchased by the National Gallery and some of them were shown in the exhibition "Prism. Drawing from 1990-2012" in the Museum of Contemporary Art. In 2006 I showed a large wall installation of drawings and three-dimensional objects at the Drawing Biennial in the Stenersen Museum.

The work eventually became a strain on my arms and it was painful to breathe in the resulting dust, so I have been exploring other ways to express myself. In monotypes, I experiment with color and relief using stencils and different grids that I find. I am fascinated by grid patterns and can create drawings in grids, both strictly geometric and more intuitively organic. With markers and acrylics I create surreal, expressionistic and abstract images.  

In 2022, I participated in the Østlandsutstillingen with three monotypes and also collaborated with Annette Koefoed on the exhibition "Forbindelser" at Varmbadet in Drøbak. Both solo exhibitions were based on our experience of connections and communication in nature and our grief over the loss of species and biodiversity.

In Galleri Briskeby in Oslo I had an exhibition I called "Ute av verden". The exhibitions consisted of monotypes and different types of drawings.

TF: Why do you draw? Tell us a little about your work process.

KV: Drawing has always been my most natural form of expression. To leave traces in different materials with different resistance and with different tools. Creating with light and shadow, but also color. I constantly have an urge to extract inner images that can be made conscious when I meet them on the paper surface. It feels important without necessarily understanding why. It can be an immediate, uncensored ink drawing, but also meditative works that develop slowly. It's inspiring when the image then develops further in surprising ways. I process and simplify and hope that my personal starting point can become something that can also touch others and perhaps arouse wonder.

TF: Can you name some artists with focus on drawing who inspire you?

KV: I like many of today's talented Norwegian illustrators and find it difficult to single out a few. I studied Theodor Kittelsen's illustrations and Tove Jansson's picture books a lot as a child. As an adult, I was particularly emotionally affected by William Kentridge and his charcoal animations at Documenta 11, in 2002 and Kiki Smith's powerful drawings at the Venice Biennale in 2017. She also had a strong exhibition that I saw in the beautiful Mint Museum in Paris in 2020, with installations of sculptures and drawings both on paper and in colorful large carpets. I like the feminist, physical and spiritual aspects of her work.  

Eva Hesse became an artistic role model when I discovered her as a young art student. Judy Chicago also meant a lot to me at the time, with her feminist projects. Abstract art that expands my consciousness and opens up both an emotional and metaphysical recognition has inspired me all these years and it was great to experience the great works of Hilma af Klint at Louisiana in Copenhagen in 2014.  

Narratives between abstraction, recognizable figuration and color as in Leonard Rickhard's paintings and drawings, the animated films of Hayao Miyazaki, botanical and scientific plans, ornamental and geometric patterns, embroidery and nature itself are also sources of inspiration.  

TF: What themes concern you as an artist?

KV: An early memory is from when I was 3-4 years old and tried to grasp the unfathomable when my dear great-grandfather no longer came home to us and we visited the cemetery where they said he was underground and at the same time in heaven. Existential questions have followed me since "Where do we come from, where do we go?". I have been searching and testing in many directions and ideologies, including Jungian psychology, body-oriented psychology, Christianity, Buddhist-inspired philosophy, political ideology and feminism.

I am interested in ecology and that all organisms live in a larger context and interdependence. In the forest, trees are connected underground and information passes between them via fungi and roots, in an intricate network. In the space around us, particles and signals form invisible connections, networks we rely on for modern communication. Human constructions, cities, wars, ruins and displacements, fossils, bird migration and birdsong are drawings as traces in time and space. I am interested in what disappears and what remains; memories and imprints of what was. The void after the dead and the grief over what is lost, species, people, civilizations and nature. These are themes that I have been working on in recent years.

Looking back, I see that my project has always been deeply driven by a longing for liberation. In an artistic process, based on my personal history, I have taken in the time and context I live in, processed, simplified and tried to find an expression for what I feel and see with my inner eye.  

TF: Tell us a little about your work in the Tegnerforbundet's sales department


The light of the tree

Inspired by botanical plans, among other things, I have created drawings that show sections through nature. In an underlying grid I draw outlines of botanical plants, in the geometric something organic emerges. Geometric shapes are found everywhere in nature and in the drawings I also see them as symbols of transitions between the physical and the metaphysical. I think there is a kind of light, like life energy, inside the plants.


The memorial grove is a place of mourning. The white growth in the image could be the imprint of something disappearing, it could be a memory, it could be a symbol. The image is painted and drawn in ink and can be interpreted in many ways.


See available drawings by Karin Valum in the online shop.