Henrik Uldalen is a self-taught artist, who caught the attention of gallerist Jean-David Malat via his Instagram account. His impasto portraits depict the tumultuous variety of human emotion. Following the opening of his second solo show Lethe at JD Malat Gallery in Mayfair, we speak to the artist about inspiration, social media and the colour pink.
1. Can you tell us about the concept for Lethe?
The show, in broad terms, is about history versus the collective memory, and how the zeitgeist of our time is polarising the society with the use of fear and glorified notions of the past.
2. What inspires you to start a new series or artwork?
Most of time I don’t need inspiration to start a new series. The need to create and express is always within, and if I don’t get it out of my system I know I won’t be a happy man. Over the years I’ve come to learn this about myself, and how to practically force myself out of the door in order to function as a person.
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3. Are the figures you paint imagined or drawn from personal memories?
The people you see are models that I approach, but all the figures are also me. Every piece I make is a self-portrait projected onto a stranger, expressing my inner most intimate feelings and moods.
4. How do you think social media is impacting the way we view art?
Social media is a blessing and a curse. The way you’re able to reach out to people across the globe with the click of link is mind boggling. Especially growing up in a small town in Norway this impacted my career in a massive way. Unfortunately, I find social media too superficial and narrow to be able to convey any deeper meanings from the artist to the viewer. In the same way that you can’t fully appreciate a beautifully cooked dish described through even the most flowery language, you’re not able to feel a painting as you’re supposed to in a split second over a 13x7cm phone screen.
5. The portraits in Lethe are set against a pink background. What significance does the colour have for you?
The colour pink in this exhibition represents the veil we cover our eyes with when we think back on our past. A comforting lie, telling us that everything will be fine as long as we return to our glory days.
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6. Which artists have most influenced your practice?
I usually look for inspiration in fields of art other than my own. Movies, TV, books, plays and music are my main sources. I need to not understand the technical aspects of the artwork if I’m to appreciate the piece fully. If I see a painting I would immediately look for compositions, colour combinations and brush strokes, but in reality, I should just feel the piece of work.
‘Lethe’ by Henrik Uldalen runs until 11 January 2020 at JD Malat Gallery, 30 Davies St., Mayfair. For more information visit: jdmalat.com