Artist of the Month : Ottar Karlsen

Nov 2, 2020

Ottar Karlsen (1982) has been a member of Tegnerforbundet since 2013, and works primarily with drawing, painting and collage, which he often puts in dialogue with installative and performative expressions. A common thread in the works is the interest in nature, natural phenomena and man's relationship with nature, which manifests itself in an alternately abstract and figurative idiom. No matter which form and technique Karlsen chooses, the works are always characterized by a high level of craftsmanship. The drawings have their own visuality, which seems to spring from the meeting between beautiful, perfect surfaces and the works' unexpected, direct interaction with the viewer. Ottar Karlsen lives and works in Oslo. More information about Ottar Karlsen here .

TF: Ottar, can you tell us a little about your artistic practice?

OK: I work project-based with different media, mainly drawing, painting and collage. A common thread in my artistic practice is investigations of the relationship between people and nature, especially how nature and natural phenomena are contextualized through visual works, language and history. Often my works deal with questions about how the individual relates to nature in contrast to and parallel to a collective understanding of nature. In this context, nature can include overall categories such as landscape, climate, weather and place, as well as concrete entities such as trees, plants and stone.

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

OK: Currently I draw in large formats, where the vertical layout and text blocks mirror billboards in the cityscape or advertisements from magazines. When I start a new drawing I have a certain idea of where I want to end up. So in the work with the drawing, as in all art, I have to constantly evaluate the work, negotiate with the paper and the pencil, and adjust course if necessary. During the drawing there is usually a period of both doubt and tension as I am unsure whether the drawing will fall into place or whether it will fall apart.

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

OK: Nature has long been a source of inspiration, and through several projects I have worked with different ways of investigating nature through visual art. The exhibition Nothing is going to remain the same at Hammerfest Art Association thematized the Enlightenment's relationship with nature, while the exhibition Försultunger at Trafo Kunsthall in Asker was based on storms as a visual and metaphorical basis for artistic works. I am currently interested in connections between nature and language. In particular, this applies to a type of language used in advertising, slogans and in self-help literature where a more or less unknown sender encourages the reader to change. Be it to change one's position, way of being or identity. The project I am working on now seeks to examine and possibly unmask this language, preferably in the context of nature, consumption and responsibility.

TF: What are you currently working on?

OK: I am currently working on drawings and collages for an exhibition in Galleri Ask in Horten. The work for the exhibition in Horten will be a further development of the work in the sales department. At the same time, I am writing a script which will eventually be developed into a collage animation.

TF: What does drawing mean for you / your work?

OK: Drawing has long been one of the cornerstones of my artistry, and something I keep returning to. In childhood we always had paper, pencils and colored pencils available, and then as now drawing could be a social activity. Drawing was for a long time a space where I could unleash a lively and free imagination. Imagination gradually turned into an interest in cartoons before an interest in art was awakened.

Then I am interested in other cartoonists. When I look at art, I often get extra excited by artists who do something unexpected, draw in a way I can't or master techniques I'm not confident with. It is often fertile ground for new thoughts and ideas to use in your own artistic practice.

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

OK: The two drawings that are in TF's sales department have taken part in exhibitions at Bryne Art Association and the Arctic Cultural Center in Hammerfest. The text in the drawings, which have the same font and size, gives a feeling of mass production, and is a nod to minimalism and serial work. The piece of text plays on arguments found in advertisements, often for luxury products. The idea of something eternal and unsullied, and the allure of being able to buy into a long tradition. The text is based on a motif of an ice cube and part of a landscape.


See available works by Ottar Karlsen in the online store .