In pursuit of veracity
TEXT: LISA MARIA BERG | PHOTOS © TOR ERIK SAGVOLDEN
It is the honest and unvarnished side of humans that Anna Bülow seeks to uncover in her drawings. With a love for the simplicity of a pencil line, she digs deep into the core of human nature.
It is with the woman at the centre that Anna Bülow tells her stories: her own story, tales of people she meets and often, something else – something deeper, a feeling more than a thought. “I often sit down with something almost unrecognisable inside of me that needs to come out – a sensation, a feeling or a memory that starts to take shape. It’s like my drawings begin as a state inside of me and then end up as shapes on the canvas,” explains Bülow.
The Swedish artist, residing in the rural, lush and secluded outskirts of Oslo, has always had a love for the pen and paper. “I was very young when I realised I loved drawing. For me, there was a sense of freedom connected to making art. It was liberating and empowering to make a choice of sticking to a path which one often is told might not be easiest the follow,” she continues. Today, her path has grown wide and the Swede’s honest and sometimes heartaching art is found on walls all over the world.
The truth in our flaws
Bülow’s palette is natural, earthly and organic. The colouration awakens something universal at the core of us. “The human body is definitely a strong inspiration. Hair, skin and nails. I think there is something in me always returning to the human itself – both its inner life and also its very feel, touch and being. It fascinates me,” says Bülow.
Her humans are refreshingly real compared to those we often see portrayed in photos, art and social media today. The varnished, edited, cropped and altered female body we are being told to live up to every day is heavily contrasted in Bülow’s drawings. Flaws are shouted off the rooftops in celebration of the female who can be more than just one shape and style. “I don’t want to hide the flaws and the imperfections in us, I’d rather bring them into the spotlight. We are all imperfect in our very own fabulous way, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. We all feel sad, insufficient, disappointed and down sometimes; why should we hide that? There’s beauty in our shortcomings – they interest me and intrigue me,” she explains.
The tales of humans
It is almost as if Bülow has a relationship to the pencil. A complicité – a meeting of fellow thinkers. But it is not only her own inner life that brings her art together; the very world around her becomes her inspiration. “I’m fascinated by inter-human relationships, how we communicate, how we interact with each other. How a single look can entail so much. It is a fascinating thing, how human beings are able to say so much without even uttering a word,” Bülow says.
The journey from an observation to a finished drawing is also a journey of change. It is with the simplicity of the pencil that Bülow finds movement and life. “A lot happens from when I first sit down with an idea until I’m sat in front of a finished drawing. A lot takes place in that initial meeting with the paper. Anything can happen. It’s there, with nothing but the pencil, that shapes start to take form. It takes time – hours pass when I’m with this tool, so genius in its simplicity,” Bülow goes on.
The journey of Bülow’s drawings is also a journey of techniques. Starting with the pencil, she often combines it with layers of print before the different elements meet in a digital world. “The voyage from start to finish is almost a meditation, especially the initial phases. There is something in trying to capture a face, an expression or a look that can become almost all consuming. It sometimes verges on therapeutic, but resembles more of a meditative state. One cannot be anywhere else when one is drawing eyes, it’s absolutely impossible,” Bülow explains.
The Bülow canvas is a place for exploration, her very own laboratory of lines, shades and shapes – a desire to seek answers and explore the deep nature of the people one might know so deeply or those one only comes into contact with in passing. “There is a definitely a darkness in my paintings, but I think the darkness comes from a place of truth, a desire to utterly and absolutely tell the truth,” she insists.
More than just a line
That same truthfulness makes Bülow tell stories from her own life. “I take inspiration from the ups and downs I experience myself. I think that’s good, it brings life into my art – it means I own them. Being a feminist, having that ownership means liberation, it means sticking to the path, defending the choice,” Bülow explains.
The feminist presence in Bülow’s paintings is like a shade underneath each brush stroke – an extra layer of importance, stance and depth, a reason to have her on the wall, looking down at you and knowing that she’s on your side. She explains: “In our fast-paced world, a piece of art makes for a lovely constant in a person’s life. Because the painting doesn’t change, you’re allowed to live your life alongside it and rather see how you regard it differently over time as you go through the ever-changing voyage that living really is.”
Anna Bülow will be showing limited edition art prints at:
Formex, Sweden: 20-23 Aug
Oslo Design fair, Norway: 28-30 Aug
Her new exclusive series of art will be part of the line-up for Bohus Norge, released in autumn 2019.
A solo exhibition showing original artwork can be found in Oslo in December 2019.
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