1883 Magazine
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Following on from our recent interview with Ryan Hewett, we decided to speak to Henrik Uldalen, another flourishing artist exhibiting at the Unit London’s celebratory 1-year anniversary U exhibition. Running until 18th October, the exhibition will review six emerging, contemporary artists portraying their interpretation of how the digital world has changed us individually and its impact on our identity.

A self-taught artist who grew up in Norway, Uldalen’s paintings often reflect that of a limbo-like state, with a figure appearing to dream, drowning in their own thoughts. The portraits are consumed in darker palettes, hinting at the idea of loneliness, vulnerability even. It is with each painting that we are brought a surreal image with a realistically painted object so much so, that you fear to touch due to fragility. Overall, his work presents a cold atmosphere and when paired with the exploration of the impact the digital age can have on individuals, it’s rather fitting.

Eager to discover more about Uldalen’s artistic expression and how it is formed, we spoke with the artist to discuss slowing down time, the smoothness of a painting and how influential the English culture can be.

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You’re self-taught, what inspired you to begin painting?

That’s right. I found painting at the age of 19, after giving up on my dream of becoming an artist. I have always been drawing and trying out different mediums, but after high school I found myself in the middle of the scale, not being the worst, far from the best. It was a big blow for me, so I decided to quit. I was well into an art teacher education for elementary school, when some friends and I stumbled upon oil for the first time. It was an epiphany for me. Suddenly I was able to express and execute the things I always wanted to, but couldn’t do. I knew from the first oil painting that this was what I would do for the rest of my life.

Your paintings are often portraits produced in a dream-like manner and reference surrealism with quite muted, darker tones at times. Why do you usually paint the human form with this palette?

My paintings are quite abstract when it comes to concepts. I allow myself to be that, as my technique and style is representational. It’s all about what type of mood and atmosphere I want the painting to express and the muted colours brings my visions closer to the result than if it would be warm and colourful. I guess some of the influence might come from growing up in cold and dark Norway.

You paint the human in a very fragile and vulnerable way. Have you linked this series to the idea that we currently live in the ‘hyper-digitalised age’?

Not directly, but it’s definitely in there. My work in general is coloured by this time and age. One of my main goals with my paintings is to try and slow down the pace, dragging the viewer inside of these pale closed-eyed human shapes, making the observer ponder and reflect upon the existence. Whenever I see people really stop up and enjoy my art, I feel truly grateful, as I know smartphones and the internet are fighting for the attention.

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It feels like there is a lot of texture on the pieces, what technique do you use when creating?

It’s hardly any texture at all, actually. I paint with a technique called “Alla prima”, where I paint wet in wet, from one side to another, finishing the piece along the way. I use the exact amount of paint for it to be opaque, but nothing more. I like the smooth feel of a painting. So in preparation before painting, I even sand down the surface, making it feel almost like marble.

Finally, is there a particular place or culture in London that you have found inspiration from?
It’s difficult to mention any specific places or cultures, as I haven’t visited London as an adult. But the art scene and music scene is where most of my inspiration has come from. I love a vast number of English painters, as well as musicians. Without the influence of English culture and arts my paintings would definitely look very different.

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U is running from 19th September – 18th October at The Unit London,7 Earlham St, London WC2H 9LL

www.henrikaau.com

www.theunitldn.com

Words by Hollyann Prince

@HollyannPrince

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