Photo © Kjell Folkvord
Photo © Kjell Folkvord
Photo © Kjell Folkvord
Photo © Kjell Folkvord

Abstract interpretations

TEXT: MARTE EIDE | PHOTOS © KJELL FOLKVORD AND AGA KING

“What you see in a painting is your own personal interpretation of it,” claims Norwegian artist Kjell Folkvord, who uses art to express emotions and life events. His inspiration sources vary from Beethoven to astronomy, and the complexity of his paintings is often reflected in the bold use of colours, a final result that sometimes surprises even the artist himself.

Folkvord describes himself as a ‘young artist and a not so young person’, because his lifelong dream of being an artist finally became reality 15 years ago. Becoming a father at a young age meant that an unsure artistic path with unstable finances was not an option for him back then. Instead, he worked in education, first as a teacher and later on as headmaster, before taking an early retirement. “I seized the opportunity and started painting full time. It was a dream come true. I have a lot to express and communicate to others, and I believe art is the best way for me to do that,” he says.

Creative painting process

The artist has called London his home for the past eight years and thrives on being a part of the creative hub Wimbledon Art Studios, alongside over 200 other artists. “We have open studio days twice a year, which is always exciting. London has an incredible number of artists and I enjoy being a part of it,” Folkvord says. The 34th Open Studios Art Show will take place from 15 to 18 November, offering visitors a unique art fair to enjoy, as well as the option to purchase art from the artists in their work space. “I would also love to have a solo exhibition in Norway one day,” says Folkvord.

An abstract expressionist, Folkvord chooses to express himself and his feelings through using water-based acrylic paint. “I love the artistic freedom and the variety it offers. My painting process often starts with a sketch and a specific idea, but might turn out to be something entirely different.” Folkvord mostly works in the studio in the morning with his three assistants: time, water and gravity, who continue working when he goes home. “Sometimes I spread colours on the canvas only to return to my studio the next day to find it completely different to how I had left it. This is exciting and, at times, also challenging.”

The element of strong colour is a recurring theme in the artist’s work. “Strong colours are part of my identity, reflecting my personality and becoming letters in my artistic language,” he says, referring to his on-going The Alphabet painting series. “Abstract art is my way of communicating. In the same way we cannot always explain our emotions, or how a musical piece can be both beautiful and melancholic at the same time, abstract paintings are open for interpretation and can have different meanings for different people,” the artist explains. Although audiences might recognise familiarities in the paintings, that is not an important factor for Folkvord. “I am interested in the individual approach. One can say that the spectator finishes the painting by starting their own interaction with the work. Whatever you see in a painting is valid, because we all look at art through our own experiences and point of view,” he explains, challenging his audience to be their own art expert: “Nobody else can tell you what you like or do not like about a piece of art.”

Beethoven and Hawking

Folkvord is easily inspired by the world around him and his musical influences range from Bob Dylan to jazz and classical music. “Music is the most abstract form of art we have. It is often a source of inspiration to me,” the artist explains. This is evident in his nine-piece series, an homage to Beethoven’s nine symphonies. “I have a quote from him hung up on the wall, ‘Art demands of us that we shall never stand still’, and he is very important to me.” Folkvord spent 14 months repeatedly playing each of the symphonies while creating the paintings. “There is something about his music that speaks to me deeply, it is so powerful. It inspires me every time I listen to it.” Another source of inspiration is astronomy. The death of Steven Hawkins on 14 March this year impacted Folkvord to name his newly finished painting in his honour, Hawking Radiation, inspired by Hawkins theory on black holes.

When asked what advice he would give to aspiring artists, Folkvord has no doubt: “Do not try to copy others, that seat is taken. Be yourself!”

Web: kjell-folkvord.net

Facebook: Kjell Folkvord Artist

Twitter: @kjellfolkvord

Instagram: @kjellfolkvordart


See and purchase Kjell Folkvord’s artwork in his studio nr. 265 at Wimbledon Art Studios by appointment

Directions to Wimbledon Art Studios
Tel: +44 7540 111210