An Exclusive Interview With HM Queen Sonja Of Norway And Magne Fuhuholmen
TEXTURE – PAUL STOLPER GALLERY
28 SEPTEMBER – 15 OCTOBER 2016
1. When did you first realise you had a passion for art, in particular printmaking?
HM QUEEN SONJA: I cannot remember a time when I have not been passionate about art. I have collected since my teens, one of my first artworks was a print by Picasso. The larger part of my art collection consists of prints. I have always been curious and inquisitive when it comes to art, wanting to know what lies behind…both the thought processes and the technical processes. I have been so lucky as to know many artists and been fortunate enough to visit art studios and print workshops. Some of these artists have invited me to try so I would get a better understanding of the processes. I have experimented with woodcuts and lithography. But intaglio prints and ceramics have been my preferred medium lately.
MF: Printmaking has been an essential part of my development as a visual artist over the last 25 years. I made my first print in 1989, and after a few trials and errors, my first museum show at Henie Onstad Art Centre in 1995 was an exhibition of woodcuts, in formats up to 3m x 1m. Through printmaking I found a method that shaped my artistic language, and although I take a rather panoramic approach to materials and mediums, printmaking is still at the heart of my production.
2. Have you had any formal training in making prints or have you learnt by experimentation?
HM QUEEN SONJA: I have had no formal training but learnt from renowned Norwegian artists like Ørnulf Opdahl and the late Kjell Nupen.
MF: No formal training per se, but working alongside accomplished colleagues like our common mentor Kjell Nupen, gave me the opportunity to learn and love the craft.
3. Edvard Munch was one the world’s most important and influential artists and printmakers of the 20th Century and was of course Norwegian. What does Munch’s legacy mean to you?
HM QUEEN SONJA: Like most Norwegians I learnt about Munch at an early age. His art is fascinating and intriguing on so many levels. When it comes to printmaking he was one of the first to experiment extensively within this medium, not only with woodcuts, but within etchings, aquatints and lithography. His oeuvre is so far-reaching and vast, I believe it is difficult to fathom the extent of his legacy, and influence on modern art in the 20th century.
MF: As Norwegians, Munch’s legacy is embedded in our cultural DNA. His work is among the first you meet while in pre-school, and a continuing source of fascination and inspiration for every Norwegian growing up. Once while in Paris, my printer Yann Samson exclaimed ’this is what I call Munchy business’ after a session with woodcuts, after I had inadvertently – or not – approximated techniques once developed or at least made known by Edvard Munch.
4. What is it about printmaking that has captured your imagination and led to you to being a champion of this art form?
HM QUEEN SONJA: I love the fact that there are innumerous possibilities within printmaking. There are so many ways to experiment and proceed when working on a print. I am fascinated by the tactile qualities of different paper, how different colours respond to one another in different ways and how you can start off with one idea in the morning, and then the end result might be different from what you had imagined. I also love the atmosphere in the print workshop, the way you work as a team.
MF: I never tire of the sense of discovery associated with making prints. In particular I enjoy the fact that once you have made a mark, your printed statement is absolute – you can add, but not subtract, forcing you to react to the things happening in the workshop with no way of doubting your way back to zero.
5. Do you have a particular favourite technique/media when making prints, and why?
HM QUEEN SONJA: I have mostly worked with intaglio techniques; etchings, aquatints and photopolymer. I do not cease to be fascinated by the chemical processes on the copper plate and the incalculable variations it gives to the final work of art on paper.
MF: I use the tools of printmaking as my painting tools, and would probably have to say monotypes are my favourite. It creates a situation where you as an artist are fully immersed also in the technical aspects, so that you are in effect not only artist, but also printer. Although I have tried most of the graphic mediums over the years, I tend to gravitate towards the rawer, more physical techniques, such as drypoint, woodcuts, etc. and always favour using an etching press. For the ‘Texture’ project we used photopolymer plates as a starting point. Her Majesty is a keen photographer and has used photos of her images taken from Norwegian nature as the base for her prints for some years, while for me this was a new element. During the collaboration, we found ways of challenging each other in the process – to produce works that, although surely having recognisable traits of both artists in them, also was something new for both.
6. The purpose of your foundation is to encourage artists to produce graphic work as a distinct art form, which may be different from the artists’ main media such as painting or sculpture. Why have you placed such an emphasis on printmaking?
HM QUEEN SONJA: The craft of printmaking provides so many possible and fantastic variations to artistic expression. There are so many artists working within printmaking that display the highest level of artistry and craftsmanship. The art and artists working with this intriguing medium deserve recognition. The artists who excel in this field deserve international esteem. I do not understand why the art of printmaking should not be valued on the same level as other artistic expressions.
7. There are many talented artists, both established and emerging, who make prints. These artists use traditional as well as innovative printmaking techniques. What impact do you think technology will have on printmaking, such as 3D printing?
MF: New industrial methods are usually frowned upon for a few years, then assimilated, and in the end inherited as devices used solely in artistic practices. It is a particularly interesting time to work right now, with a blending of old and new techniques in the field of printmaking opening the scope of possibilities.
8. You have created a Kjell Nupen Memorial Grant in honour of your friend and fellow artist Kjell Nupen who sadly passed away in 2014. What qualities in an artist would you think Kjell would be looking for in determining who this award would be given to?
HM QUEEN SONJA: Well, Kjell was always engaged with new talents. He worked as a mentor for both Magne and I at different times in his life. He was especially preoccupied with young artists, wanting to give them a push forward. Kjell always frowned upon the notion of artists as creatures of divine inspiration. He believed hard work and determination was the main basis for any good artist. So I believe the qualities he would be looking for would be a talented, engaged, and determined young artist whom a grant like this would really help foster great achievements within printmaking.
9. What other projects are planned by the Foundation to promote the importance of printmaking?
HM QUEEN SONJA: The Foundation will of course continue to present the Queen Sonja Print Award to a worthy winner biannually. We believe the Queen Sonja Print Award is the largest prize within printmaking today. It consists of a week’s stay at the renowned print workshop Atelje Larsen in Helsingborg, Sweden and a cash prize of NOK 400.000 (c. $50.000).
This year’s prize winner Tauba Auerbach (born 1981) graduated from Stanford University with a BA in Visual Art in 2003. She is working across many disciplines. Her work operates in the gap between conceptual art, abstraction and graphic art. What she has achieved as an artist and created within the field of printmaking is absolutely fabulous. Tauba is an artist I recommend everybody to familiarise themselves with, she really excels in the graphic arts.
In addition to that, we are in the process of inviting a select group of artists to join an exclusive international portfolio. We believe it will help raise public awareness of and interest in the graphic arts, enhancing the medium’s historic and contemporary reach and importance. There are many other plans brewing, but we would like to keep them close to our chest for now.
10. The Queen Sonja Print Award was launched in 2012 and takes place every two years. In the four years since launch, have you noticed any developments in printmaking?
MF: Printmaking has definitely returned with great strength to the art scene over the last few years, with new artists throwing themselves into it – sometimes with gloriously little reverence for the historical aspects or uses of the techniques. Printmaking has been such an essential part of many a great historical artist’s production without always getting the position it deserves, but there is a shift also in the way art historians read the role of print in important oeuvres, which have led to a newfound curiosity and energy within the field.
View all artworks in the exhibition here.