Glowing Auras: Interview with Marit Geraldine Bostad

By Sarah Mills

Through a series of paintings on canvas, Marit Geraldine Bostad investigates the themes that are central to her artistic research, the inner psyche, memories and human interaction. She blends her colours by pouring paint directly onto the canvas using a variety of tools, seldom using the paint brush - to create diverse, versatile effects, resulting in broad expressive strokes whose vibrant color emanates from the surface. As she moves the paint around the canvas, consistent colour blends start to form. These blended gestures become auras that grow and merge with pure colour. Marit Geraldine explores the Nordic Colour tradition in a bold new direction, blending tone to tone pastels with sparks of fluorescent and manifesting her own personal psychic state onto the canvas. She builds up and breaks down the diverse elements of her personal experience and brings them together in a new plastic dimension.

Named one of the “4 must see Artists” at The other Art Fair London in 2017 by Chief Curator of Saatchi Art, Rebecca Wilson, Bostad has exhibited in renowned galleries in Oslo, London, New York and Los Angeles, and recently completed a summer residency at ESKFF MANA Contemporary in New York.

All studio photos: byTXF

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Tell us about your painting process.

I blend my colours by pouring paint directly onto the canvas and using different tools to spread it across the surface, I rarely use a paint brush. This often results in very particular details and broad strokes which are caused by the lightness of my tools. I am always drawn to contrasts, adding layers of paint in disparity with each other to maintain a constant battle on the canvas – searching for the right kind of unbalance; both in gestures, colours and mark making. I am largely influenced by memories, people and situations, whose essence I attempt to preserve on the canvas, translating meaningful experiences into my plastic pictorial expression.

For some time now I have tried to go beyond the conveyance of external emotional reactions to reach deeper into the subconscious, in an attempt to erase the line between the conscious and the unconscious, and allow the canvas to become the tangible manifestation of my inner psyche.

Prior to this I planned my sessions in the studio, I narrowed down what I wanted to focus on, but nowadays my projects focus on complete freedom, the total lack of definition. By allowing myself to embrace the inner world of the subconscious psyche, I hope to reach a new level of interaction, a new source of inspiration, and perhaps a newly refined artistic expression, through continuous exploration of a free expressionistic approach to painting. Instead of using my personal life experiences, I seek inwards, beyond my conscious mind, and use my emotions to guide me, in order to express universal archetypes that transcend the particular conditions of my own life.

This was also the focus of my works executed at my recent residency at ESKFF / Mana Contemporary in NYC where I was so lucky to spend 5 weeks this summer. Saatchi Art blogged about my project.

What is your favourite part about working with fluid paints?

The most inspiring moments are when the paint itself find new ways, takes interesting and unexpected turns across the canvas. At those moments I need to use my intuition, to either follow or reroute. I don´t listen to music when I work, I use silence as a mentor - to enable me to hear my own voice. I am constantly in a dialogue with my material, it is all about give and take.

How did you develop your style as an artist?

I developed my style from an inner urge. I took classes with myself, slowly opening up the door from the inside to the outside. In retrospect, I like to think that I started from the inside and unlearned my way out again.

I was originally an art director, working with visual content in a commercial context, and as such there was always a barrier between me and my material. I was highly influenced by trends and customer’s expectations. I became a robot; always working within limitations. It was from these restrictions that I developed a strong urge to initiate projects for myself. When I got my first big job at a respectable art agency I escaped into painting whenever I had the chance, as a way to unwind and release. My own secret room – where I could freely express myself, away from consumer goods and customer taste.

When ten years later I decided to start as a full-time artist, it changed my life. For the first time, my work was meaningful. Being able to watch people connect to my work also strengthened my own, personal bond with my creations. I experimented constantly, spending thousands of hours in my studio, playing freely with colour, technique, and material. I think I will get old and still feel humble towards my materials. After working as an artist for some years I started to exhibit internationally, and I traveled a lot. I became inspired by so many up and coming artists, I learned that everything is possible as long as you dare to stand out and take some risks.

My style comes from years of studio practice – but also from learning from others. I was confident in my own expression when I sought a new direction and thus I was open for new inspiration. I never changed my style completely, I just added small glimpses of the new. As such I can still recognise myself in my old paintings, there is a certain core of me in it, even though my style has definitively changed over the years, coloured by my technique, rarely using the paint brush. People ask me how long a painting takes to complete. - The work is done when I feel that humble sensation, “did I create this piece?” That is the ultimate sign of a painting being ready to continue the conversation elsewhere.

What is your studio practice like?

I work in a very disciplined and structured way, and as much as I can, which often leads to more practical matters just being set aside. I usually work with several pieces at the same time as I love the possibility of being spontaneous, getting new impulses. I often go back to a piece inspired by something else, a new colour, a new mark. When I have good periods in the studio, I compare it with being addicted to a drug. It is hard to leave, and as soon as I walk out the door I am longing to be back. But interacting with the world outside will make me a better artist in the end. It makes me focused and love what I do even more. So when the alarm clock rings in the studio because I have to pick up my youngest from school, it always makes me smile. What feels like one hour has in fact been a whole day. It never stops overwhelming me…People ask me whether I feel lonely, being in my studio all by myself. But you don´t have to be surrounded with people to have meaningful conversations. It is a different kind of relationship that gives so much back at the end of the day without a word being said.

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You left a career in Art Direction to pursue painting full time, what was that experience like?

Scary and absolutely fantastic. A moment of truth. I have been drawing and painting since I was a child, both my parents were artists so I had creativity solidly rooted in my life. But when they were struggling to make ends meet they had to take on other jobs as well. When I was at the age of making choices at school, planning my future - their voices echoed in my head. “Go for something safe and solid, get a profession where you won´t worry about income,” I remember wondering why adult life had to be about doing the right things. I studied philosophy, psychology, marketing, but had the same empty feeling inside, year after year, I felt that I had chosen wrong. Eventually, I found a school that had some of my creative interests, so I took a Bachelor in Art Direction.

I spent almost ten years working with visual content and design in film and print and traveled the world earning a high income. My work was most often about pushing consumer products out in the world, and living up to others expectations, making something “pretty” or “cool”. During these ten years, I escaped into painting whenever I had a chance. During the weekends, at nights, on holidays. The real moment of truth came after bringing a child into this world. It gave me a new strength, a clearer connection to myself somehow. I finally quit my job, it had almost made me sick. Today I am grateful that creating something from my own inner source was stronger than my fear of failing. I think that it is this that has made my artistic expression strong and rooted, in something real and true.

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Share a piece of advice you have received that you would like to pass along to our readers.

As an artist, I meet so many people giving me feedback on my artwork. Back in 2016, I had a conversation with an art curator, Rebecca Wilson from Saatchi Art, she made me realise that I had my own unique voice. She told me that she had not seen anything like my style before, which made me very happy to hear, of course. Ever since, I have carried her words with me as motivation, a strength on a rainy day. I have worked hard and steadily, always trying to be in contact with myself and with what I really feel, setting aside expectation, perfectionism, and trends, reminding myself that if I stay true to myself I will somehow make the right decisions. Sometimes that means listening to advice from others, and other times it means holding on to something I believe in; a core essence which is about unlearning, finding your own inner voice – a voice which is well hidden amongst the louder echoes of our society.

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What has been the most exciting moment of your art career?

Ohh, that´s a tough one! I have so many great moments… Can I please make a short list: My first solo-show; almost selling out my whole booth at my first art fair in London; managing to stop my crate at the airport when I was returning from New York after a fair because a very good gallery last minute wanted my works and to represent me! My first group show in New York at Madelyn Jordon Fine Art where I was curated in the same show as Gary Komarin; being one of Rebecca Wilsons 4 must-see artists at TOAF London in 2017; getting a phone call from Tonje Buer, curator at Fineart (Norway’s biggest gallery in Oslo); being picked for 2018 EURO ESKFF residency program at MANA Contemporary in New York; getting to work with so many new galleries internationally during 2018; being invited to KHÅK Kunsthall (one of Norway’s most prestigious art associations where I will be having my biggest solo-show ever in late 2019) In addition to that – I have to mention ALL the moments in my studio (at least 5-6 crucial ones), where I have gained precious insight, all of which are an essential part of where I am today both as a person and as an artist.