Color in motion

From the edges of her emotions to sassy lemon curd pies, learn more about how Move strengthens Astri’s creative process, and what she thinks we all should learn from art.

Tell us a little about Astri, where you are from, where you live, and create your art.

Well, my whole name is Astri Styrkestad Haukaas, I am 36 years old and Norwegian, I lived in Holmlia in Oslo until 12 and then we moved to a farm in Ål in Hallingdal. But now I live and work in Nørrebro in Copenhagen, after moving here in 2010

Your art takes the viewer away, what are the references behind your creativity and creations? What sparks an idea behind a painting?

Aah, thank you for saying that. I love that.

My subject matter is nature, filtered by subjective memory; nature, human nature, and humans in nature. I think a lot about how nature can be the catalyst of big bodily experiences and it fascinates me to the core. I love thinking about how humans make deep, personal relations with nature - places, mountains, and lakes. It fascinates me how we need to connect with it and distance ourselves from it. Like we differentiate nature in a very curious way; this is natural, and this is not. We are humans, that is nature. I mean, I am nature and you are nature. And the stone I have in my pocket is also a piece of nature.

I love thinking, after the passing of my mother in 2009, that she is a part of our nature. She exists in my memories and the nature around me. It is comforting and grounding. And specific places in nature she stands very clear to me. This emotional trigger and comfort hold a lot of inspiration for me, I think.

I work a lot with the contrast that is in stone and water, and I think the author Rebecca Solin says it so so so beautiful here:

”The Canyon is nothing if not a stunning example of the power of the weak that is water over the strong that is stone. The side canyons demonstrated this most overtly, those tall narrow canyons through polished walls of stone with a deceptively gentle stream at the bottom.”

But also, what stones symbolize in different cultures fascinates me. Same with water. Humans have always looked to nature to understand our own human nature. I find it continually interesting, and more thoughts pop up every time I read about it, think and talk about it, and work with it. The poetry written and words from amazing writers help me understand my work on the matter; the poet's Tor Ulven and Olav H. Hauge, and the author Rebecca Solnit are three of the people I enjoy reading.

I think all my paintings are extensions of each other and the words I’ve put in series, words that accompany the paintings, that do not explain them, yet they are somehow a continuing investigation of humans in nature and nature in humans. Or a continuing story. All series of the works I show are related to the ones before. Kin. A red thread that might be visible, and maybe not.

When did you start painting and how has your art and signature evolved from then to now?

I’ve studied art and creative leadership. I’ve been painting ever since I was a kid - like we all do. I just kept going, and now that’s what I work with. I have had breaks from it, long and short and I often do other things simultaneously, but I always come back to it. Even when I'm not painting, it is still going on in my head.

I've always worked with nature as a focal point. Before more figurative and later more expressive and non-figurative. Cause and effect are and have always been important parts of my work. The process itself and the way the materials I use react to each other. What happens on the canvas with the different types of paint and the colors has my full attention and is maybe the only time I can truly focus. The first stage is very free in a way. No rules or plans. I use a very watery base and very watery acrylic to start with, and then add spray paint, acrylic ink, oil paint, or other types of acrylic paint. The water lets the materials react freely and allows the pigment to move so I can step back and watch it happen. This creates the base from which I continue to work more consciously.

One thing takes the other – it's a series of actions where one move is triggered by the previous and so on. It takes my experience, my focus, and my emotions to be able to create a painting. It is in my body, the things I need to create. And of course, the canvas and paint.

Are there any locations, countries, or cultures that inspire your creativity?

My family's farm and mountain farm are from a mountain village we call an “støl” in Norway, in Skarvheimen in Hallingdal. It holds so many memories and the surrounding nature means something very important to me. I draw so much of my inspiration from it, the color palette and what happens emotionally when I'm there or when I'm longing to be there, you know, the memory of the feeling of being there.

What does color mean to you?

The color pallet is very important and often drawn from a picture of something that caught my eye while hiking or just walking around. That's usually where I start. And then I let it evolve from there.

What kind of atmosphere do you feel and hope you are creating and channeling through your wall pieces?

I hope my paintings are open and let the person who stops to look bring their own experiences, memories, or stories into it. The titles and statements/texts can hopefully work as a musical accompaniment and not a riddle for you to solve.

The feeling of arriving at something or somewhere and being ready to let the painting continue without me, that's what's important for me and when I know it is done. It continues without me when someone stops and looks at it. Take it in. That is all I can ask for and all I hope for.

Tell us about a memory where you had a great impression of experiencing art.

Hmm, I think I want to mention one of the first ones I can remember. When I was a kid, we had a children's book illustrated by Bodil Cappelen and the paintings/illustrations in that book were so colorful and, in a way, grotesque. I can't remember what the book was called but I remember being very fascinated with the paintings and intrigued by the emotions they managed to communicate to me somehow.

I also love every time art, everything from music, and literature to poetry or fine art, moves me to tears, haha, I´m very easily moved and love to feel the outer corners of my emotions.

We’re excited to hear more about how a good, creative, and inspiring day at the studio is for you Astri.

I go to the studio every day. Like anyone that goes to work. I go there around 9 and go home around 5. Some days a bit earlier. I think when I was younger, I was more into the idea that I work when inspiration comes and, in that sense, had no structure in my workday. But I have found out that inspiration comes in all aspects of my life and is somehow constant and fleeting at the same time. So, shifting the perspective from waiting for inspiration to that I’m always in a state to be inspired has done a lot for my working process and structure. Like anyone with a job, I need to show up to make something of it. I collect inspiration or impressions in different ways; it gets saved in my memory as a feeling that has no words or in my note app or my camera roll on my phone, as when I am inspired, I write the words or store these through pictures. So much of my practice happens outside of my studio but in the studio, I translate these impressions onto canvas which is my preferred medium to work on.

I also go to the studio and allow myself to not “produce” anything. Because just being there, reading, thinking, playing around, answering emails, etc is also a part of the job. A good day at the studio is when I have been present and in flow, in the hours I was there. And if I couldn’t, it's fine, I will come back tomorrow. I also usually work in bulk. This means I often have periods where I paint a lot without intellectualizing it or trying to make sense of it, I just work in flow looking at what happens on the canvas. And then periods where I don't paint that much but read words by others, think about and look at my work and talk to others about their work, go to exhibitions, and go for long walks. Even my time in nature at my family's mountain farm gets me to come to the studio in a form of a memory or a photo or a thought. Also, a good day at the studio contains a good lunch break and good coffee.

How does Move accompany and support you and your work in your workday the best?

I LOVE the way it encourages me to move my body while sitting. To work on paintings, especially the bigger canvases, is heavy on the back and the neck so it has made a big difference.

You have upholstered your Move in yellow, what does the color mean to you?

Yellow means fresh, uplifting, tart taste like a lemon curd pie, and intense. Love it all. I can see now that I'm writing these words it's like my friends around a dinner table, haha. I could use the same words on many of them. Lemony sass, uplifting, intense energy – LOVE.

Last, but not least, why is art important now and tomorrow?

OOOOOH my, this is something we can talk about for years on end. But if I were to say one single thing about that I think that when art is at its best it somehow expands you. Art should be expanding. If you ask me. But how that looks and in what way is very individual. But yes, I could go on about this. It is very vast and very important so please, everyone, go see art, art made by different types of people, and talk about it after. We can learn, as well as learn to ask so many important questions from art.


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