“The material is always the beginning, then the idea of it sticks with me, like a word from a poem, a certain line or an image”
AT: Where are you from and how/why did you start engaging with art?
OS: Oslo, Norway. When I left my architecture studies. It was not out of an interest of art, but out of a need to have time for myself, to have a space where I could think and not be disturbed. This space, and the idea of it, is probably still more important to me than the actual work.
AT: When did it become serious?
OS: Gradually through the art academy, when I began to understand how it was possible to think through an artistic practice. And obviously when galleries got involved. But all this on a superficial level. Only recently did I realise it is the only possibility, the only work possible for me.
AT: Are there any person who has been significant in your breakthrough as an artist?
OS: Antoine Levi, my gallerist. We’ve been working together since the inauguration of the gallery in 2013. I arrived there one week before the opening, with a big bag of tools and no works, no plan. We hadn’t met before, and the space was not ready. While Antoine painted the freshly plastered walls and tried to get rid of the traces of renovation, I brought back in the buckets of the beautiful French green filler and discarded laminate floors, back into the space, back onto the wall. I am still surprised and humbled by the confidence he showed me then, and still do.
AT: What is your first approach to the work? How would you describe your practice?
OS: The material is always the beginning, then the idea of it ticks with me, like a word from a poem, a certain line or an image. My work is to chew on it, cultivate it and let it work on me to try to understand it.
“Gusts, Draughts”, 2016 | Installation View, Antoine Levi, Paris | Courtesy of the artist and Antoine Levi, Paris.
AT: What do you aim to reach with your work?
OS: If any, it is to try to find the exact point where I am able to work.
AT: What are your favourite tools and materials for working?
OS: Artist materials have always made me uneasy because they carry the idea of the artwork. To make an artwork seems impossible and somewhat ridiculous to me. My connection to painting is through the wall, through the physicality of it, but also through its imaginative potential, the idea of a spatial situation. Plaster has a particular interest to me, the rendering of the wall, the stucco. It is what you can see and touch, but always with the awareness that it is hiding something, the real stuff that is doing the work of the building. Plastering a wall you are always working against the sculptural capacity of the material. It is the whole point of the job, to make the uneven even, to abstract the physicality of the coarse brick. Unless you watch it, the plaster will fill up the corners and turn into a moulding, it begins to affect the actual space. Somehow it is the precise moment where architecture moves from construction to representation through painting, from a spatial experience to a pictorial one. Plaster is at the same time the most abstract, flat, white surface and the most plastic. This ambiguity of the material keeps my interest and has done so for probably ten years or so. When I am close to a wall, there is no difference to a painting, it is a painting, and a painting it is impossible to doubt. I always wished that painting on canvas would be more like painting a wall, that it was a corner there to paint into, a wall socket to paint around.
AT: What do you feel while you work? Do you usually think about the final outcome beforehand?
OS: Liberation, perhaps, to not think. I can think before, after, but not during painting. If I think of the final outcome I feel like an entertainer, the work becomes impossible. I cannot think of the painting as a painting. If I do, when I paint, I know I have to leave it.
AT: How do you understand that a work is finished?
OS: When I cannot think of anything more to do. It does not mean the actual work is good, but the work is done. It’s like painting a wall. When it’s done its done. There is no point going back again fixing it with the brush if the colour is wrong, but you can do the whole wall again later after you have lived with it for a while.
“Manai (October/April)”, pigment, plaster, clay, marble and rabbit skin glue on linen, 160×125 cm, 2020 | Courtesy of the artist and Galleri Opdahl, Stavanger, NO.
“Mantova I (October/April)”, pigment, plaster, clay, marble and rabbit skin glue on linen, 160×120 cm, 2020 | courtesy of the artist and Galleri Opdahl, Stavanger, NO.
AT: Where does the inspiration for the work come from?
OS: From the material itself, through the possibility it gives me to understand things first hand, through the hand. The act of painting itself holds an incomprehensible fascination to me. And books. There are always certain books accompanying the work, and places, spatial experiences. Right now I’m reading the material descriptions of Cennini. It is very strange to be able to read these descriptions fram the renaissance, and at the same time be able to touch and work with the same materials, to mimic the movements – to stir the same plaster and dissolve the same rabbit skin glue. It gives me an almost uncanny proximity to history. The material reality is the same, somehow nothing has changed.
AT: Are there any artists who influenced your works? Why?
OS: Frank Stella was essential for my transition to painting, to understand what painting could be. To understand the architecture of the support, the physicality of the paint, how a painting can be a physical object and not a picture. The hand at work.
AT: How important is the role of social media for you?
OS: It disturbs my work, makes me feel uneasy and exposed. To see and to be seen is equally disturbing to the work. To work, I have to cover all windows, at least metaphorically.
“Plasterboard Flats V & VI”, print on fabric, aluminum stretcher, 250×90 cm each, 2015 | Installation view Astrup Fearnly Museum, Oslo | Courtesy of the artist and Antoine Levi, Paris.
“Vinduskutt (Majvest IV)”, acrylic marker on wind barrier, 220×170 cm, 2016 | Courtesy of the artist and Galleri Opdahl, Stavanger, NO.
AT: As an artist, what is your point of view about the contemporary art system?
OS: Too fast, too expansive. Especially the position art fairs has gained bothers me, the commercial necessity of them and how it shifts the focus away from the programming of the galleries, the physical space, the stability of the work that matters.
AT: What do you find to be the most challenging or daunting thing about pursuing art? What is the most rewarding part of working as an artist?
OS: The doubt. When I think of what I am really doing. The act of and need to paint is impossible to understand intellectually. The most rewarding? The works ability to establish a place, something reminiscent of a home.
AT: What do you do besides art?
OS: Spend time with my family and draw houses.
AT: What are your goals and expectations for the future?
OS: In the situation we are in now, stability, the possibility of work.
Studio view basement, 2020 | Courtesy of the artist.
“The idea of having a space where I could think and work clearly, undisturbed, the possibility of such a space, was what initially attracted me to art, and it is what still keeps me there. It is probably also the only real motive of my work". Olve Sande (1984) is a Norwegian painter currently living and working in Oslo, Norway.