Magnhild Opdøl recently opened a solo exhibition at Møre og Romsdal kunstsenter. KUNSTforum asked her about the projects and her inspirations.
Can you give a brief summary of your current exhibition?
– An Uneasy Dream has developed over the past year, during which I have worked in studios in Dublin, Paris, Ålvundeid and Lillehammer. Because of this moving around, the process towards the work has become a bigger part of the final exhibition. I have allowed myself to show works that has happened during the making of other works. One example is ‘Black coffee and cherry pies’, these drawings are the residue of the making of ‘I wasn’t dreaming’ which is a series of drawings on vintage postcards.
In the privacy of my studio I find these accidental works more and more fascinating, maybe because I know I need to make the “planned” works for them to be created; they won’t work if I try to make just them.
Other works for this exhibition became realised through aspects of the job of being an artist: A suite of contracts from each decade for the last 30 years from Møre og Romsdal kunstsenter titled Downfall, and a display of object that I have stolen through my travels in relation to the work titled ‘Missing item’, which revels another side of my personality. Equally so the sculpture ‘Achievement is its own reward, pride obscures it’, which consists of stack of books that I have referred to in texts and conversation though my career, but in reality have not read. I’m on display as much as the art works.
The press release states that your works touch upon “nature, nature’s resources, values, representation and power”. Could you elaborate please?
– I think “the world as we know it” no longer exists, and I see a dark future ahead. In my work and process I try to touch on these issues, questioning and poking to see before it gets too dark.
Also, as you have mentioned yourself and which is quite evident in your works, there is a certain David Lynch feel to your works. What is it about his “lynchian” world that is so intriguing – to both you and the rest of us Twin Peaks lovers?
– For me it is a feeling of having been there; it’s like remembering a dream, an unreal reality. There are stories within the story, and a lot of characters and places that seem true, like someone I met when I was a kid. Now the story has been told and changed many times, yet I have good memory of them as they were, so fiction and reality blur into truth.
One of the works you are showing deals with what working as an artist entails, in terms of financial situation and the fact that artists do not benefit from the economical growth in the overall society. Could you tell us more about this work please?
– As I started to work on the show, I had a look at my exhibition contract again and was perplexed by its lack of support. I remembered that my mother, also an artist, had exhibited in the same arts center before, and I asked if she still had the contract, just to see if it had changed. She had actually showed there twice and still had both contracts, one from 1989 and one from 1998. We found it amusing to see how they had become less and less helpful to the artist; one of the first things you spot is that the artist’s fee was actually higher in 1998 than in 2014 when I signed mine.
Then there is a lot of things that is no longer included in the contract, like payment for installing the show or giving an artist talk, accommodation during installation, transport of works both ways etc. But the commission to the gallery has steadily gone up from 20% to 25 % to 30%. The artist is getting less but the art centre is asking for more and taking more. There has been a lot of talk about “has the artist been paid?” and I wanted to contribute to this in a direct way. I printed the contracts on archival paper, had them framed, and priced them the same as my fee, well, minus their 30%.
On a more general note….
How would you describe your work process from idea to work?
– I spend a lot of time looking for images or shapes that I can project my own work on to. Not in a literal way, but when I see a picture, an object or a layout that I like, I start to think about what I can create that will suit that same form. So I probably start in the wrong end, with an idea of what the final work will look like, instead of what it will be about. Researching the concept of the work take a considerable amount of time, collecting images, texts, object, sound etc. to expand my “idea bank”. When some of these ideas or texts or objects find each other, it becomes the start of a new work. Although, on the flip side, I also work on some projects very intuitively, and they evolve as I work on other things, as I’ve mentioned before.
What are your main influences when creating a work of art?
– My main influences are things that are around me; nature, books and people. But as I’ve grown up, I’m more contemplative about everything, and now I find myself wanting to capture a feeling of realness that I seem to have lost. So I guess I’m influenced by reality from an on-lookers point of view. I am also hugely inspired by other artists, often artists that use a lot of time on their work, who create work that use space well and still go into great detail in the making of each piece.
Can you name an artist, artwork or exhibition that has inspired you?
– There are so many who inspire me, such as Urs Fischer, Alisja Kwade, David Altmejd and Marzena Nowak. I’m also inspired by directors like David Lynch, Emir Kusturica and Roy Andersson. The last exhibition I saw that left me in tears was ‘Rear views, stellar nebulae and external propaganda office’ by Taryn Simon, at Jeu de Paume earlier this year, a powerful and beautiful show.
Can you name a writer or book, fiction or theory that has inspired your works?
– On Paris by Ernest Hemingway describes Parisians and society really well, it could almost be written today, and it made visiting Paris more fun.
What is your next project?
– I’ve just started work on my next two exhibitions in Risør Kunstpark and Buen Kulturhus next year. This was supposed to be a travelling exhibition, but I’ve now decided to evolve them in to a part 1 and 2. As they travel they change, like a person moving from one place to the next; it gains and looses different things. It’s a sort of mirroring of my recent life, I don’t always have everything with me, some things are left in one place and new things are accumulated in another.
Why is art important?
– Through art we can ask questions that we would otherwise not be able to, and it allows the viewer time and space to think about them, away from the noise of the outside that seems inescapable.