Alvin Jensvold – a visionary of contrasting colours

TEXT: JULIE LINDEN | PHOTOS © ALVIN JENSVOLD

Combining multimedia production, graphics and painting, Alvin Jensvold has made a name for himself as an innovative colour technician and visionary – all in one. His works grace the walls of private homes, galleries and public buildings, and never fail to instil a sense of wonder and playfulness.

Jensvold is a self-described “curious inventor” within the Norwegian art community, and his images are a true testimony to greatness achieved through the merging of methods and traditions. In fact, his preferred method of creating – that of hand-coloured graphics – came into his life somewhat by accident.

“I had explored several genres and worked a lot with graphic prints and silk-screen printing in the early ‘80s, but unfortunately, I suffered an injury caused by exposure to the solvents I was using. That’s when I started looking for new methods and ways to express myself – and it just so happened that I came across digital printing in Japanese art,” says Jensvold.

‘Coincidence is the greatest artist’

It was an instant success – and an instant bond between artist and method. Digital printing based on Japanese methods and traditions allowed for a similar process as that which Jensvold had previously utilised, without the dangers and discomforts often involved in using harsh solvents. In 2007, he acquired his first high-quality digital printing machine and started creating in new ways.

“I was able to use high-pigmentation colours that very much resemble oil paint, and the process was very much the same as with the silk-screen printing I’d previously engaged in. It involves layering prints and achieving a design from the sometimes haphazard way the colours come together,” explains Jensvold, adding that there is value in appreciating the arbitrary sides of art creation. “If there are layers that don’t work, they’re removed or added to. Then again, it’s all about grasping coincidences, the randomness of creation. I often say that coincidence is the greatest artist.”

Inspired by nature and the natural

With time, hand-coloured graphics have become Jensvold’s trademark. His pictures are one-of-a-kind, and only a few versions exist of each motif. Raised in the north of Norway, his designs bear signs of that special Nordic light and a great love for nature. He admits that he doesn’t pick the content of his art – instead, it very much picks him.

“I wouldn’t say I’m a typical northern Norwegian artist, but I definitely work with images of nature and the natural, and that special light you only get up north. The images come to me, I never feel like I choose them. I start out with an idea and work until the picture has come together… But I’d say half of the work is the last ten per cent of the picture. Sometimes it can take months or even years. But it’s all worth it,” he says.

Creation free of control

With a background as a drawing and sketching artist, Jensvold spent countless hours in his training and early career depicting live models, resulting in a high level of manual skill. However, he is careful not to let the acquired ease of manual skill get in the way of innovation and creation.

“The techniques I’ve chosen need me to let go of control. Instead of using my hands to draw, I use layering of colours – which deliberately invokes and preserves some level of improvisation. Now, the reward for working this way is that true magic can come from it – you never really know what you’re going to get,” he says.

Seeking the opposite of harmony

He admits that he has had to “un-train” himself, letting go of some of his formal training as an artist. “I’ve spent 40 years un-learning what I was taught in school. Especially teachings of colour harmonies – my entire portfolio reflects a contrast to what I was taught. Instead of pairing colours that harmonise, I have always sought the opposite! I think art is more interesting when contrasts vibrate and create a spark,” says Jensvold.

He is the owner of Galleri Jensvold, opened in Gratangen in 2008, but has also created works for more than 30 separate exhibitions. Public entities and private individuals, reflecting an impressively broad clientele, have purchased his pictures – and he is proud of his wide reach.

“It is exciting to have inspired people to the point where they wish to collect my works, of course. I am still happy when people buy just one picture. It means the art gets to live on and mean something for someone,” he says, humbly.

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