Artist of the Month in the sales department: Laila Eva Hilsen

Nov 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.


Eva Laila Hilsen (1945) is a drawing artist who has made her mark in Norwegian contemporary art. She is known for her characteristic use of houses as a recurring and central motif in her artistic work. Hilsen explores houses in various forms, upside-down houses, houses in a storm, or crooked houses. The houses that recur in Hilsen's works become more than just buildings; they become metaphors for life lived. As symbols, houses are open to interpretation, but they can represent security, nostalgia, or they can be in a state of turmoil and change. Through her drawings, Hilsen creates a playfulness in her motifs that captures the viewer's attention. At the same time, she demonstrates a remarkable precision in the execution of her works, especially in the use of pen.  

Eva Laila Hilsen trained at Hamar Tegnestudio, 1982-84, and continued her education at the National School of Craft and Art Industry in 1984-85. She later studied at the National Academy of Fine Arts in 1987-88. In addition to her artistic practice, Eva Laila Hilsen shared her knowledge with others as a teacher of graphics and color theory at Ålesund Art School in the period 1991-98. Eva Laila Hilsen lives and works from Fagernes, and this area seems to have influenced her artistic work, as there is a consistent presence of nature and landscape in her works.  

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

ELH: I took a year of printmaking at the National Academy of Fine Arts, Oslo under Professor Zdenka Rusova, one year of drawing at SHKS while drawing for 4 years at Hamar Tegnestudio, after teacher training at Hamar, one year of drawing teacher training at Notodden, as well as a lot of drawing at Bergenholz decorator school. I have been drawing more or less since I was a little girl. Growing up like "all" children, I drew and had the natural drawing development of a child, fortunately I didn't stop in my teens as many do. Then it was landscape drawings, flowers, etc., paper dolls, and later I drew my own clothes that my mother sewed. I like to draw. I believe that drawing is the basis for all artistic "expression". I don't necessarily have to be able to draw a hand, but with drawing I can put "lines" on something I want to work on, or to remember, pick up again and continue with a project. I used to work more "figuratively", now I work more freely and abstractly.

Using and repeating a "house shape", which is included in almost all my work, can be said to characterize my personal expression today. I like to experiment, I can vary my style, but I want to include the house. My artistic directions can probably be influenced by various directions from art history.


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

ELH: I draw because it's the background for most of what I make. It can be something I see by chance that I make sketches of, "sketch notes" for an idea that can eventually develop into an independent work, a further project. I almost always work in series. I have elements I like to repeat, the "house", but over time I put it into other environments, color compositions, drawing techniques, etc. I like to work with ink, to bring out the fine, thin line, but also to fill "objects", surfaces with ink, otherwise I like the white paper to be part of the drawing. The ink is the sensitive medium for me, but I can use elements from my graphic prints and create collages in interaction with the paper and ink.

Charcoal and dry pastel is another medium I like to work with, often in combination with gouache, acrylic, watercolor etc. I like to draw, it gives me peace and my thoughts flow during the process.

TF: Can you name some artists that inspire you.

ELH: Zdenka Rusova, fantastic illustrator and graphic artist, Geneviève Asse, painter and illustrator, saw a great drawing exhibition of hers here in Paris a few years back, which inspired one of the drawings in this series. Nicolas de Staël, his simple lines. Kjell Varvin, his constructions. Inger Johanne Nygren's matches, Danuta Haremska, Venessa Baird, Lotte Konow Lund, Kalle Grude, Sverre Malling, recently seen in Tegnerforbundet, Brynhild Grødeland Winther, a mixture of play and seriousness, and such imagination she has, otherwise there are many more I could definitely mention. I dream a lot at night, and if I had been able to convey my dreams, my work would have a different expression. However, when I mention artists who are far from my expression, I am inspired by them for several reasons: "elegance", skilled "figurative" artist, playful, "tight" expression, constructed, dreamlike. It may be the line, surfaces, lines, different techniques and how they use their drawing medium that inspires.

TF: What was the last piece of art you saw that made an impression on you?

ELH: Beginning of September 2023 at the Fondation Cartier in Paris by Ron Mueck, Australian artist based in the UK, with wonderful installations, sculptures and themes that would be interesting to delve into, sat on site and drew, probably could have done that, but...., and in early October, still in Paris, a great exhibition with Nicolas de Staël at the Musée D'Art Moderne, wonderful painter, but also a skilled draughtsman, simple lines, but enough.

TF: What themes concern you as an artist?  

ELH: I have made several series in drawing, -directive-, shown in Tegnerforbundet 2000, Kunstbanken/Hamar and Nord-Trøndelag County Gallery, where I dealt with genetic manipulation of food, small and large formats in charcoal and pastel, as well as two installations. Otherwise, several series about life. -Life's game - most recently shown at Stiftelsen Galleri Fjordheim in August/September this year. The theme is about people in between, interaction, games of chance, coincidences, etc.  

In September and October this year, I spent two months at the Cité International des Arts, Paris, where I worked with drawing, with the work title, legacy and commitment.

At home in my garden at Fagernes, there is a huge chestnut tree planted by my parents. This is a tree I enjoy very much, but it needs to be nurtured and taken care of. The incredibly beautiful autumn colors, colors that are included in this drawing project, together with my tree and a chance encounter with beautiful chestnut leaves found around Paris, are the starting point for the project and the title.

That I have given the project - legacy and commitment - is a project that involves commitment not only to current, but also to future generations in a larger global perspective.

TF: What does it mean to draw for you in your work?

ELH: In addition to drawing, I work with graphics, painting, and small objects, artist-books. In these media, I often make sketches before I start, and then it's nice to have sketch material to work with. How it develops, and the result that comes out of a sketch, is another matter. But just as often I draw independent works. When I work with drawing, even though there are a lot of dynamics in the process, I experience a good inner peace.

TF: Tell us a bit about your work in Tegnerforbundet's sales department.

ELH: The project Hommage à ... is a series of drawings I made of artists from art history that have excited and inspired me. I have seen works by these artists in museums and galleries in Paris, Venice, Berlin, New York, Stockholm, Copenhagen, as well as in catalogs, books, etc. In this project, I wanted to "try" their forms, techniques and colors, and put them in the context of my houses. Example. Jackson Pollock's way of painting, "splashing" the paint on the canvas. Or Monet's decorative shapes from his paintings, Niki de Saint Phalle's colorful sculptures, here gouache and ink, or Josef Alber's beautiful monochrome colors, here dry pastel. It's been a fun series to create, and in addition I have Yves Klein and his blues, Piet Mondrian, yellow, red, blue, black and white and Geneviève Asse who worked with "a line" in the middle of the drawing.

The "House series", consisting of 8 ink drawings and some collages, is a story about life, where the house is the main focus. These are drawings that I have taken from myself, my own inspiration without influence or inspiration from others. I think it's "fun" to put titles on my works, it becomes a combination of text and drawing, so here are titles like "Treklang, Uvær, Symbiose, Samhold, Konge på haugen, Sterk alene, Dans and Vi står sammen".


See available works by Eva Laila Hilsen in the online shop.