The Studio at the Turku Art Museum presents Dark Ink by Danish artist Julie Nord (b. 1970). The exhibition opens to the public on 26 November 2010. Three large (188 x 245 cm) sheets of paper filled with drawings are mounted on the black wall of the Studio. They seem decorative, even fragile at first glance. The works are full of exquisitely drawn details, new images and motifs. The spine-chilling aspect of the works is revealed gradually. This new dimension opens up in the Homecoming Queen’s (2010) dress and in the cloud of smoke hanging over the city in The Smoke from the Chimney (2010). A spectral apparition in the middle of a background that looks like floral wallpaper frightens a little girl and a rabbit in her laps. Even the rabbit’s hair stands on end. Mouths and eyes intrude everywhere. A hand presses a switch. A rabbit takes a leap.
Julie Nord’s drawings take the viewer into a strange world. Surrounded by these works, one feels as if one has jumped into a rabbit hole as did Alice in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865). The place seems beautiful and alluring, but a closer look at Nord’s works makes you wonder. Why is the cat holding a child in its lap and not vice versa? The doll-like little girl has a pair of open scissors in her hand, which she could use to cut up the paper doll next to her. Or has the girl cut herself out from the paper?
Julie Nord’s imagery is very familiar. The drawings are filled with motifs borrowed not only from children’s stories but also from comics, tattoos, horror movies and shadow theatre. Yet there is something unknown and alien in them. Like ink, they transform into something new. Viewers soon find themselves swooning over what is a product of their own imagination, what is told by the images.
Although most of the works by Julie Nord are drawn very carefully, they also contain loosely executed pitch-black ink stains that seem to hide things, trickle down and attract, but also threaten. In The Painter (2009), the artist has no head. All that is left is an ink cloud. Is it alive? Although one can linger in the world of Julie Nord’s art and construct stories of one’s own, the pictures themselves seem like fleetingly glimpsed moments. They are akin to soundless shouting. The sound of a helicopter echoes inside the viewer’s head. Things are indeed not the way they seem to be.
Some of the works in Julie Nord’s Dark Ink exhibition are murals. The exhibition is supported by the Finnish-Danish Cultural Foundation
Thursday, 25 November 2011, starting at 2pm, Julie Nord will give a talk in English about her artistic practice in the Kuvateatteri of the Turku Arts Academy (Linnankatu 54–60), Turku. Admission is free and the meeting is open to the public.
Ten questions to the Studio artist Julie Nord
1. Could you tell how you start planning your art works and how the work proceeds?
It usually starts out with a very loose idea, normally it's not intellectualized at all at this state. It can be a certain relation between two figures, a new way of using the empty white paper in a drawing, or it can be a specific pattern or object I find in a book, and find inspiring. It’s like writ-ing the first line an a novel, without knowing anything about how the book will continue or end. Still this first line is very important for the atmosphere and intensity of rest of the book. I usually start drawing the human figures, and then the picture slowly emerge around them. Since its paper, and I can't undo the drawing, when made with ink, pen or watercolour, it’s a very concentrated process. I use a lot of time just starring, almost meditating, at my drawing, before "attaching" with my pen. It's a constant dialogue between me and the drawing, since the finished work always ends up being very far from the original sketch, meaning that it's also a spontaneous process. I always look at a lot of pictures and photos when I work, to get inspired.
2. With which themes have you worked for this exhibition?
The concept of the expected versus the unexpected. Pictures of innocence, the romantic idea of childhood (seen from an adult perspective) and the darkness of the mind. The invalidation of the line between reality and illusion.
3. Why are these subjects important to you?
I've always been interested in distortions. I think it's important to keep questioning the common constructions of reality, to keep an open mind.
4. Have you worked for a long time with these subjects?
Yes, more or less since 1993, but in different ways and medias.
5. Could you tell about the technique you have used for the art works in this exhibition?
I use drawing Ink, felt-tip pens and Posca pens on paper. The walldrawings are made with Posca pen and wallpaint. For the large scale works and the wall drawings, I start out with a very precise sketch, but I always do some improvising on the way, to make it alive and vibrant.
6. Is this technique typical for your working?
I also work with watercolor, which is quite different from the very precise and sharp black and white drawings. Watercolor is a more emotional, soft and spontaneous expression, and the colour takes away the cool, formal distance of the black and white drawings. On the other hand I have a very special relation to the simplicity of the line, and I think drawings are a very honest and almost transcendent "No-nonsense" media. I like to change between the two techniques and sometimes I mix different media in the same picture. I've also done a very simple animation film, and would like to do some more works including animation. Before, when I was an art student, I've also worked with acrylics on canvas, video and installations.
7. On which aspects have you especially concentrated regarding the preparing of this exhibition?
I wanted it to be a rather cool and graphic exhibition. I also wanted the physical room of the Museum to be drawn in as an active part of the experience of my works, which is why I also make drawings directly on the walls.
I've been choosing works in different scales, from the very large scale to smaller sizes. There is a lot of small details, especially in the large works, and I've been very interested in the variation between the intimate lines and details and a very direct and right in the face expression, inside the same works. You get a very immediate visual experience when you enter the room, after that you can use a lot of time tracking down all the little details and stories inside the works.
8. What does this exhibition at Turku Art Museum mean to you?
It's my first soloshow in Scandinavia, apart from Denmark. I'm curious how my works will bee seen in Finland.
9. Which other art fields are close to you and why?
Movies. I watch a lot of movies. It's about narration and movement, but funny enough I'm almost never able to remember the plot afterwards. I think I see movies as an enormous amount of still-pictures.
In my own work I try to create an atmosphere of "Impending Doom" – of something just about to happen. Often the works are like snapshots from an imaginary story or movie, loaded with unsolved mystery and frozen suspense.
10. Could you tell about your future plans?
I would like to make some more very large works, it's extremely time consuming to make these works, but I like the combination of the big scale and the ultra fine lines. The intimacy of the drawing becomes so massive in that way.