Contemporary abstract art can be interpreted in so many different ways. It’s been great to chat with artist Kenneth Alme about his work. For more insight into how he works and what inspires him, read the interview below. Scroll to the bottom to see images and to follow him on Instagram.
Can you start by telling us a bit about your background and where you’re currently producing work?
I was born in Tønsberg, a city in the south of Norway, and grew up in the town of Stranda in the region of Sunnmøre on the north west coast. I studied at the Art Academy in Oslo and at Städelschule in Frankfurt am Main.
I am currently based in Oslo and Vestfossen, where I have established my studio in a shutdown factory that once made paper. I moved my studio out here some years ago due to too access to large studios and cheaper rent. We are a group of artists based here, so there is a nice community.
Your paintings seem to command attention. They also appear confident in a way that their finished state looks as though it was the state that they would have always ended up in, regardless of the journey of making, from beginning to end. Do you see them in this way?
No, I would argue that it’s almost the opposite. I start out with an idea, a vision, a prolonging of previous work, but the process is quite open. I enjoy repeating lines, patterns and compositions, but not in in a way that make them serial. I also enjoy “errors” to occur in my work. In my work, I often use several different techniques that don’t always enjoy working together, like oil, acrylics, primers and gesso and different printing methods like mono print and silkscreen. I do control the process and I know how they will all interact but there is also some part of the process that is then open, left to chance so to say. As if there is something unresolved.
I have always worked with simple motifs that I repeat, either in my paintings or when drawing. Motifs like couch grass, avocado plants, caves, eyes and these motifs are like drawings with paint and brush, one colour and simple single lines. This repeating of motifs are often the starting point of new work, an extension of the former.
The positioning of your paintings within shows lead us to ask more about them and how they are intended to be viewed. They at times seem to cross the boundary between painting and installation, or hover between. Can you give us some more examples on this and your views on working with installation?
Every space has its own qualities and challenges and I take this into account when planning the shows. The installing part of an exhibition can be just as crucial as the production of the works themselves. I think you are right when saying I view it as an installation since I don’t think the works are ever separated from the space they are shown in.
When I’m in my studio working on upcoming projects I always have the characteristics of the space and architecture in mind. When I showed at Gether Contemporary in 2015 I showed five paintings. In the gallery-space there are sky lights that let daylight in and also divide the space into zones. We installed the paintings high up under the ceiling and close to corners so that the paintings themselves would play on the qualities on the room and the dividing of the space that the sky lights presented. I prefer the paintings hanging close to corners for some reason. I think this might be a way to play on the visual perception of the size of a space, to stretch and shrink the perspective.
I have included simple video works in my last two exhibitions, Einsame Insel at Gether Contemporary in 2017 and Flight Patterns in the Age of Nonsense at QB Gallery in 2018. The video works are short film clips showing a tree falling or a bird landing and taking off and they are played in loop. At Gether they were presented on two flat screens, one lying on the floor and the other installed in a vertical position on a window pillar. At QB one is shown on a MiniIPad mounted on a casted plaster plate leaning on a cardboard box. The other one is projected partly on a casted plaster plate leaning to the wall and on the wall itself. The projection is just next to a painting and the projector is standing on a cardboard box with wheels on it.
The videos work as a prolonging of the paintings since they are in an upright position, the format mimicking that of the paintings. Further, the short video segments put on loop is in reference to the repeated motifs in the paintings themselves.
I didn’t get to see it in person, but heard from friends that your first UK show with Rod Barton in London was very slick. How did you find this experience and where can we expect to see your paintings next?
Well thank you. That project, My Tarp Has Sprung a Leak, was in 2014 and it was my first solo exhibition outside of Norway, so it was an exciting project to get a chance to do, with a new city crowd and a very good gallery space. It was an interesting process that I learned a lot from and it ended up to be a very good experience. For me personally it is a strong and important exhibition.
I have several projects coming up in 2018. Right now, I have a solo at QB Gallery in Oslo and in June I’m doing a residency and exhibition at CCA Andratx. In August I’m part of a group show at Vestfossen Kunstlaboratorium and I’m also doing a project at Loggia in Munich during autumn. My project space Altan will also present a couple of projects during 2018.
Follow Kenneth @kennethalme