Biography



 

Artist Statement

The power of a Great Story has always triggered my imagination. Fascinating narratives and alluring anecdotes come my way through multiple sources—books, films, individual accounts, and life itself. Most of all I enjoy creating stories of my own. My main characters are always people who attract and interest me visually, often leading me to invent a story about them. As a result my curiosity gets piqued, prompting me to try to discover the real story behind my living and breathing leading characters, which is usually the driving force behind my work as a visual artist.

My preferred painting tools are oils and brushes and I work as much from life models as possible, unless practical reason don’t allow it. On both the technical and stylistic level my work is defined as realism. I’m passionate about my art and thoroughly enjoy the slow, precise methods needed to achieve realistic results. Focusing on minute details is an important part of the process that helps me understand my subject matter. Especially when I’m painting a portrait, this attention to detail is a means towards understanding the person sitting for me. My colour choices are typically subdued and subtle, although I often allow one bright hue to stand out. My aim is to invite the viewer to discover deeper emotions beyond the first visual impression.

The ultimate focus of my work is the human character—whether it’s a close-up of one individual in a portrait, or a wider narrative based on contemporary themes such as feminism, religion, and today’s sociopolitical challenges. Whatever the subject matter is, what is important to me is to tell the visual story in such a way that it connects to the viewer emotionally. The world we live in may be the same for all of us, but our experiences, decisions, and feelings are unique to each individual. While my art is understandable at first glance, my ultimate goal is to make the viewer think in ways they never expected to.

 

My early years

Though curiosity strikes at all youthful minds, I would say that mine was more impressed upon introspectively. My idle hours were not spent lazily, but rather whittled away by a consumption of the mind. I was always hungry for knowledge, prone to high-mindedness, and subjecting myself to long stays of reading.

Philosophy was of particular interest to me, offering a means of comprehension to boundaries that as yet I could not delineate. What limit to consciousness? Of experience? What can be achieved within the span of a life? These issues were initiated early and encouraged by a mother who had a zealous appetite for achievement and they are still a preoccupation.

It was my mother’s determination that saw me at three educational houses rather than one. I had passed merit tests in both music and art and was invited to attend classes in both as a supplement to my established curriculum. Though my preference was for painting and art, my mother was resolved that I would attend the music school.

Measuring her conviction as being insuperable, I recognised that a concession was required of me. I balked at the thought of abandoning painting so proposed to her the prospect of taking on both disciplines. To my great surprise my mother agreed to this - agreed, that is, with the proviso that were things to prove too much, art would fall casualty to music. With that understanding and the consent of the schools, I began what proved to be an overwhelming few years.

Through years of study my determination grew stronger; I wanted to be a painter. By contrasting my ability in both art-forms it became increasingly clear that my force of expression was suited more to the canvas than it was to the keyboard. Were I to enter the conservatorium, as a means of continuing my studies, I would want to do so as an artist; of that I then had no doubt. I again had to confront my mother on the issue, but on that second occasion my will prevailed.

The irony of the situation is that when I finally left the conservatorium as a graduate of art, my first engagement of work was as a teacher at the music school; the one that I had attended all those years earlier.

Beginnings

By the year 1981 our family had left Russia and relocated to Norway, establishing ourselves in Oslo. I soon found myself married, and soon after that expectant of a daughter. These entanglements were a welcome and happy complication and filled me with such wealth of happiness that letting my other prospects diminish felt a right and true consequence. Only in time, and with fortuitous circumstance, would I enter back full-fledged into the life of a painter.

The opportunity arose by way of a privileged meeting that had been set up between myself and the Oslo-based painter, Odd Nerdrum. He had requested a viewing of my paintings, and on seeing them, invited me to ´attend´ his studio; a proposal that would commit me for some months. I had little need to deliberate on the matter as I was eager to recommit myself. I accepted the offer and was in attendance the following day.

These were interesting months for me, nigh on two years in fact, sufficient time to reacquaint myself with the rigours and discipline of the art form. As I developed my skills and a desire to create my own body of work, I grew estranged from the environment and dissociated from the day-to-day life of the studio; it became a distraction; if I was to progress as an artist in my own right, I had to develop alone and rid myself of distraction. I set up studio, and commenced.

On painting

People say that my paintings are both simple and complex, and they are right to say so. By the very definition of ´simplicity´ one is attempting to uncomplicate the complicated. When one examines the ´simple´ with scrutiny, complexities always reveal themselves. This is the very law of simplicity. The ambiguity of this natural law is a huge attraction to me, and something I seek out in much of my subject matter; it is the focal point of my work.

I rely very much on physiognomy and human form, rather than the inanimate object. The intricacies of our existence are an unavoidable part of us; we cannot escape them and I cannot help but be fascinated by the unique story told in every human life. For me a face is a boundless resource and a summation of the story of one's life; I am compelled to interpret that story.

I see myself as part of the humanist movement - defined by realism and neoclassicism - yet I am tempted to simplify the association by saying simply that I am human-oriented. Humanity is timeless; we see paintings from past centuries and still recognise in the people much of ourselves. It is as if time is an aberration of culture rather than a partition of ages.

By maintaining the tenors of classicism we attach ourselves directly to that heritage, and extend it laterally in a way that enhances both the new and the old. Being bound by that common thread is a component to my painting that I cannot envisage losing.

Regarding my development as an artist, I subscribe to the thoughts of Picasso: "I am not developing as an artist at all, I just am." As an artist I focus on what I want to paint, with little responsibility beyond that. As long as one paints, one develops.

 

natalie hollandNatalie Holland