Artist of the Month in the sales department - Kjell Varvin

Jun 1, 2023

Artist of the Month is a monthly interview series where Tegnerforbundet introduces a member who is represented 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.


Kjell Varvin (1939) is one of our most prominent and beloved artists. His approach to the medium of drawing is characterized by spontaneity and freedom, where the artist's handprint and creative process are made visible. He has been a member of Tegnerforbundet for over 53 years, where he has helped to expand the concept of what drawing can be. One of his distinctive forms of expression is the sculptures he welds, which he calls three-dimensional drawings. Varvin's unique contribution to the medium of drawing and the continuous exploration of the potential of drawing is a great inspiration. Geometric shapes and their interplay with form, space and abstract expression are recurring themes in Varvin's work. Varvin was educated at the Norwegian School of Crafts and Art Industry in Oslo, École Superieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, Bellas Artes in Seville and O'Porto, and Artes y Oficios in Barcelona. Varvin's artistic practice has resulted in numerous exhibitions both nationally and internationally. He has also carried out several public decorations. His works have been purchased by institutions such as the National Museum, Stavanger Art Museum and Nordnorsk Art Museum.

TF: Kjell, can you tell us a little about your artistic work?

KV: With the pandemic, I have turned to remain indoors and concentrated on drawing. In addition, I had two major exhibitions in succession at F15 during that time. Even though we no longer go out and are no longer afraid of infection, habit made it so that I drew every day until there were about 1400 in 70x100 cm format. But when the weather got hot, I started welding sculptures outside. That will probably be my main occupation over the summer.

TF: How do you use drawing in your work? Tell us a little about your work process.

KV: The process is fairly simple. Prepare the sheet with one or more base colors. Then scribble away until a rhythm and shapes emerge, as if by themselves. A certain order out of chaos. No significant planning. I want to surprise myself, find something new.Free geometry, free jazz. It doesn't matter whether you call it painting, drawing or graphics. I draw on silkscreens and paint on drawings, it's about freedom. Rauschenberg said that "style is immaterial".

TF: What inspires you? Do you work from a theme?

KV: I think inspiration is the same as desire, and desire comes when you're working and see that something works. There's no theme, but if it's to stay within a format, I might consider still life. The elements should show their potential in an intimate interaction. It's all about composition. Sometimes it's very simple, minimalist. Other times pure baroque with a myriad of elements. Formally, I belong to modernism, with Russian avant-garde, de Stijl and Bauhaus. I like joy to arise. Humor is important. 

TF: Can you tell us a little about your artistic work?

KV: I started at SHKS in 1958 and learned a lot about art history and art appreciation from Jon Medbøe the first year. Teacher Torjussen showed me Klee and Kandinsky. I began to fantasize about "maximum drawing", drawing in space. For the next 10 years I traveled around Europe visiting museums, drawing in cathedrals and cafés and selling on the street. In between, I was a student at various academies: Paris, Seville, O'Porto, Barcelona. Those were pure study years. 

In 1970 I was back in Norway and worked at Høvikodden for five years and had close contact with international new art. I mounted exhibitions, restored works from the collection, made wall drawings for Sol LeWitt, made costumes and scenography for the Høvik Ballet and traveled around Europe picking up exhibitions in a van. I was active in Kunstneraksjon 74 and ran my own gallery at Bærum Verk and taught in Asker. Eventually I got a few grants and was able to cut down on my day jobs. Then I got a guaranteed income and commissions and finally built a large studio in 1990. Then welding steel became an opportunity to draw lines in space. This led to more commissions and exhibitions. 


Available works by Kjell Varvin in the online store.