Storytelling in Watercolour

in conversation with Oda Iselin Sønderland

Fugletitter, 2019, a quarelle on paper

Fugletitter, 2019, aquarelle on paper

Barnet, 2019, aquarelle on paper 2019

Barnet, 2019, aquarelle on paper 2019

“My work is about my experience as a human being, touching on themes like sexuality, nature, loneliness, love and identity.”

How did you first get interested in art and begin making works?

For me, drawing has always been a big part of playing as a child. Today it has kept that childish and playful side with me. The grownup world is sort of available but not comprehensible when you’re young, so my drawings could vary from imitations of characters from Cartoon Network series to sexy women with big boobs and fishnet stockings on MTV. It was more after recognising the history of art and the art in the world, that I started to be interested in art itself. My work has changed a lot since then, as I’ve become more aware of the taste and what I wish to communicate. It has however been very important to keep that playful aspect of it.

What attracted you to painting and in particular watercolour?


I wouldn’t paint for a long time, then I suddenly decided to experiment with watercolours again. Now all I want to do is paint, I’m obsessed with it. Watercolours both challenge me and give me a sense of control, I know how to use it but at times it can be unpredictable. As it is translucent when mixed with water, I can layer colour on colour to build up the vibrancy. I admire people who paint well and can do things that I yet can’t, they inspire me to develop my painting. That’s what makes it so fun, the feeling of progress. I want my work to be visually mesmerising.

How does a new work begin? Can you tell us about the process?


Mostly, the subject for a new painting comes spontaneously and sudden. It can be a place or a situation from everyday life mixed with emotional memories and symbolic imagery. The past echoes in the present. As the idea is spontaneous, I don’t always know the exact meaning of it. Actually, I often discover most of the symbolic connections between elements in the painting during or after the process. I can add an element that doesn’t have a direct coherence with the idea, but a feeling can tell me that it is precise. Later on, the reason comes to me and I have learned to trust that intuition. I have a feeling that if I know it too early in the process, it might kill the dreamful and mysterious part of it. I don’t want it to be given, but there are also has to be some truth to it.

Love Story,2019, watercolour on cotton paper

Love Story,2019, watercolour on cotton paper

EvigSøvn, 2019, a quarelle on paper

EvigSøvn, 2019, aquarelle on paper

“If there is a message in my work, it could be: «don’t be afraid of sincerity»”

What ideas are you currently exploring?

The themes that I work with can wary a lot, but they usually have their root in something personal. I have for a while been very interested in identity and idols, the longing to be something better. Currently, I’m interested in how we feel when we first enter the sexual world, build relations and experience intimacy.

Do you have any ritual or habit that feeds your creativity?

I don’t really have any habit or ritual, but I try to be aware of my surroundings.

What can really help if I feel stuck is to watch a good film or look at paintings?

Some ideas can come with potential at first, then leave me. Others can give a sudden spark, a feeling of something precise. Often that develops into a subject for a painting, with each element adding itself in through the process. I put my trust in the unconscious, expecting that it will deliver me some idea for a subject at some point. At times it can be quiet for weeks, which can make me panic as I feel quite dependent on it.


What is the message that you would like to give with your work?

I don’t have an intentional message with my work, in the sense of trying to convince someone of my opinions. My work is about my experience as a human being, touching on themes like sexuality, nature, loneliness, love and identity. Although my work can be humorous at times, I don’t ever want it to be entirely ironic. So if there is a message in my work, it could be: «don’t be afraid of sincerity».

+ODA ISELIN SØNDERLAND’S ARTWORKS

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