Mona Eckhoff Sørmo (1969, Trondheim) is a versatile artist. Sørmo works with painting, drawing, photography, installation and site-specific art. To Tegnerforbundet's audience, she is best known for her series of watercolors "Underveis" - where skiers, alone, in pairs or as a group, move towards an unknown goal in a snow-covered landscape. Thematically, Sørmo is drawn to human existence and cycles in nature. She has just had a large exhibition at the Holmenkollen ski museum with her project Ski i sjela . The artist also works as an art advisor in Nittedal municipality, she runs a gallery and she has several teaching assignments. Sørmo is educated at the Art Academy in Bergen, Madrid and Prague.
TF: Mona, can you tell us a little about your artistic practice?
MES: You're welcome, - in addition to my art education from the Academy in Bergen, Madrid and Prague (1996-2000), I am a trained photographer and have a bachelor's degree in puppetry. My last education was completed just before the corona virus started, it was Cultural Entrepreneurship at the Norwegian Academy of Music. Highly recommended! I therefore have several artistic platforms, and alternate between the fields of painting, photography, drawing and installation. Materiality has a central place in my artistry, structure and materiality play a significant role in interaction with the physical work process. I move from extremes in the range between drawing/watercolour, and to the rough potential of different materials. The watercolors and drawings are on carefully selected paper for what will be created. I am very fond of hand-pressed watercolor paper, but also gravure paper. It matters a lot how the paper attracts water, color or the pencil. The paintings are often on plates where I use materials such as sand, coal, cement, asphalt and marble dust. The sizes vary from the minimal to large monumental works that are often put together conceptually in relation to the room.
TF: Why do you draw? What does drawing mean to you?
MES: Drawing has something very special about its immediate approach. The head, hand and line are both vulnerable and strong. For as long as I can remember I have drawn, and some of my best memories from when I was little were concentrating on a drawing. Later, on holidays or just in everyday life in cafes and the like, I always used to draw and write some notes. A little diary-like. Unpretentious. Drawing makes you remember the moment better than just through a photograph. It expands the experience of time. Actually, I always draw in my head, and turn what I see into a watercolor or drawing, whether it's a landscape or a face. Sometimes when we're driving in a landscape I want to stop suddenly and just stay there and draw it. Dreaming of a studio like a glass house where I can sit in the middle of it, observe and transform a mood or expression on the sheet. I have also worked a lot on how the paper can be processed, e.g. to draw with the stitches from a sewing machine, knife or saw. Collage of all drawings that didn't come to fruition is also something I use in work processes, to move the process forward. Move on. I am always looking further, and focus on being open to what the material and the process share.
The drawing has disappeared for periods, but always reappears. Back to basics!
TF: What does a day look like in your studio? Tell us a little about your work process.
MES: Working on a drawing requires both deep concentration and looseness at the same time. The watercolors I have been working on for the past four years require an almost Zen-like presence. One small mistake, and everything is ruined. The paper and tools are also essential. The pictures are made on 640 gram hand-pressed watercolor paper from Arches. An expensive affair. But worth it! The brushes used are everything from the thinnest whiskers to 30 cm wide brushes. The figures and the landscape are created in the process, and I have to feel how they feel when they walk, and whether they walk alone or together. One work leads to another, and it is both exciting and sometimes nerve-wracking if I hit a target.
TF: What themes concern you as an artist?
MES: I am fascinated and drawn towards the existential in life, and collect observations of nature and human cycles. I love the idea that everything is connected and that the answers to everything we wonder about are right in front of our noses, if only we look for them and are present. I photograph a lot of everything I see, both in everyday life and in new places. It is not entirely true that it is only nature that inspires, because the cityscape or airport stripes can give me a complete glimpse into the vision of the lighting, or for example a wall with traces of all the days and time that have passed. All in all, -what time does to everything, marks, scratches, it can stand like a finished work of art in front of me,- just through all that mankind and time has done to a wall or object. But also cracks in a mountain that were made during the Ice Age. Yes, - it probably has a lot to do with the rice.
TF: Can you name some artists who inspire you?
MES: I grew up with art around me, which was made by, among others, my mother's brother Anders Eckhoff and my aunt Wenche Kvalstad Eckhoff. Works they made hung around my childhood home and I loved studying the drawings, sketches and prints they made. Later I got a book called Norske tegnere, - and I was filled with inspiration and admiration for all their works. In adulthood, Sigmar Polke and Marlene Dumas are two I admire. Tapies has also fascinated me. I studied for a period in Madrid and got to experience his work live in a large format. That's where the scratch comes in again, which always hits me so hard - and he was really good at that.
TF: What are you currently working on?
MES: At the moment I have just finished an exhibition and launched a book which has been a 4 year long process. A new book will come out in the spring. "Tanker som flyr". A poetry project. Projects can arise in so many ways and "Ski i sjela" started with the series "Underveis", which again in reality started with a love story - about two people who met each other on the mountain. Their life motto reads "Best over tusen meter". And if everything goes a bit tired in the relationship, they just go to the mountains and go on a ski trip. A watercolor piece of this couple set in motion a whole series of works. I had been through a serious back fracture at the time, and I experienced it as liberating to get hold of myself and the drawing again.
The watercolors eventually reached a larger audience and Lisbeth Sjøholt Hansen called a few years ago and asked if we should make a book together. It became the book Ski in the soul, where we have collected stories from all over the country. What everyone has in common is that the trip was different than expected and left a mark in their lives. The oldest person who has contributed is 91 years old, the northernmost point is Longyearbyen. HM Queen Sonja has also contributed to the book.
The meeting with audience reactions has been particularly moving in the process of the project. And it has become clear that skiing is about more than just skiing. We go to the mountains and to the forest, far, short, freeze, carry heavy, go alone or in a group. Encounters with untouched nature, the forest and magnificent expanses are part of our common identity building, and can in many ways be experienced as a form of pilgrimage, -an existential, meditative act that goes deeper into us than just that we go skiing, but more about to and being along the way in life, towards a common goal. All the pictures have the name Underveis.
TF: Tell us a little about your work in Tegnerforbundet's sales department!
MES: The pictures I have in Tegnerforbundet is from the series Underveis, and is included in the book Ski i sjela. All have different sizes, and vary from just a few centimeters to over 1.5 meters in size.
See available works by Mona Eckhoff Sørmø in the online store .