Your pieces seem universal in the sense that they pull from all cultural traditions with intention or instinctively. This egalitarian approach to human art allows everyone to find something within your work that speaks to them intimately. How do you think your imagination is so well attached to this globalizing creative impulse?
I look a lot. I’m glued to my phone for hours a day. Before that, it was on the computer and before that, it was picture books. I still look a lot in picture books. Keeping the eyes awake and making up ‘taste-opinions’ about absolutely everything. Architecture, animals, food, flowers, whatever. Then when I work, I try to think as little as possible and just play. Make as few conscious decisions as possible and let the materials I have in front of me lead. Just go with the feeling without projecting. It’s a safe way to stay away from the literal, and there’ll just be ghosts of whatever info I’ve acquired coming through the work. I do my best not to be directly inspired by anything unless I work on a project that demands it.
It can be argued that the mask exists as an art object, as an investured pseudo personae, as a hiding space, as a symbolic representation, or even as a simple cultural adornment. With this multimodality of meaning in mind, is the mask as everything here stated, and more, or might it in your view, possess one quintessential overarching quality?
The main power is transformative. Most of all it’s simply just fundamentally human, isn’t it?
Social media and the digital avatars we create of our ideal selves are the masks of contemporaneity. In order to protect our vulnerabilities, literal masks as moving video filters have seemed to fulfill our needs to hide behind something distracting or beautiful. What are your views on this aspect of digitized social representation vis-à-vis your role as a creator of different, but not so dissimilar, objects?
The communicative aspect is equal to none. I love taking pictures with my work and sharing these images on Internet highways, but the most important part of it for me is the work in the real. The making of it and the mask in the flesh.
In the formation of these material entities that possibly resonate with a higher creative or imaginative significance, we tend to read traits into what we see in them. Where do you think this abstract reading of meanings into faces come from, and why do you think masks are believed to hold an epi-natural mystique?
We are just wired like this, right. Look for the familiar, look for what is close to your idea of reality, for what you need. People see with the information that they have. It’s nice when people see radically different things in the same mask. I just see the process, as it’s the greatest pleasure in my life.
Your parents were artists, and artists are renown for being particularly idiosyncratic, can you share how unique your upbringing was and what special qualities it bestowed upon you that you cherish until today?
I suppose it was like most artist’s kid’s upbringing. You learn to run as part of the pack, or something like that maybe. You work hard at finding your own thing and there are such strong things that have found their place in your environment already. I came to myself late, I needed some distance. My environment was inspiring when I was a kid. My parents played a lot of music, there was always new materials to try out and have fun with. My parents had friends from all over the world that would come visit, quite unusual in a small town in Norway in the ’80s. We drove around Europe and looked at art, it bored me to death back then of course, but things stuck and it’s a part of my make-up now. They definitely taught me to see and keep training my eye. And now as a grown up, to be able to talk shop and have mutual respect and understanding as colleagues are wonderful.
Your appreciation of handcraft is quite clear, this being judged by the intricacy of your style and the influences you have shared across different interviews. Do you gravitate towards the Rococo and filigreed flourishes of renaissance and royal estates because of the heritage, or does this complex and moving style evoke something universally valuable to you?
For me, it has to do with amounts of information, to keep my attention, to stay awake, keep the eyes going. I get bored easily, in general. I like the over-information. OTT. I try to do these minimalist exercises in the work, but it doesn’t take long of holding back until a bomb goes off and I chuck everything at it. I’ve found it’s less of a hassle to just let myself go from the start.
Your pieces are being appreciated in museum settings as art objects and fashion adornments. In your view of human impressions generally, what makes a piece great?
It can be anything. But time always gets me. If someone has spent a long time working on their piece. Time is my absolute favorite material.
You have much natural talent and a wonderful eye for combining colors, textures and unique material. You said once that you would love to collaborate with the palace Versailles. If you were given an unlimited budget and could design the costumes for an opera to be shown there, what would it be about, and from which locations would you source your most prized materials?
Cool question that I feel deserves some thinking. But first thought that comes to mind would probably be something like Edward Grieg’s Peer Gynt with Norwegian folk tale aesthetics dipped in gold and the Japanese Butoh troupe Sankai Juku dancing. I like materials who has been around the block and I like taking apart old clothes that have done their work. Most old clothes from any part of the world that has more than 100 years on their back would do. And if they have been mended and been sewn on and taken care of through the years, even better!
All images with courtesy of Magnhild Kennedy