Colors speak the language of my soul and never cease to fascinate and inspire me, providing endless possibilities for exploration.
Kristin Holm Dybvig lives on the West Coast of Norway, close to fjords and mountains, on the edge of the North Sea. The colors of this beautiful ever-changing landscape form an endless source of inspiration for her work, in which she converts visual memories into vibrant 'Color Poetry'. The artist prefers to create with dry pastels, working in an intuitive and immediate way, using her hands as tools. This results in works that emanate an ethereal feeling - a certain softness that one rarely encounters in other media. Dybvig’s works are a vibrant exploration of the inherent luminosity and vitality of the colors surrounding her - the dialogues, movements, and flow that affect their character and how to translate them into gestures, shapes, and lines.
INTERVIEW WITH THE ARTIST
Q. Your professional path seems to have meandered over the years, how did you come to pursue a career as an artist?
A. My career has taken me on different paths over the years, it has been varied and it has given me opportunities and challenged me to grow - but it has always been about creation with color. I got my first job as a graphic designer at a small art shop when I was 19 and full of courage to take on the world. I then changed jobs again at the beginning of the summer, as I wanted to go traveling - there were plenty of jobs after all. Finally, I ended up being an Art Director at an advertising agency, where I stayed on for many years before feeling like I needed a change and moved to England to study art and art therapy. Back home after 4 wonderful years, I worked as an art therapist with children and young adults, only taking short breaks to have my daughters. During this time, I managed to do some painting on the side, but then I got ill and had to take a big break. During my slow recovery process, I decided that I finally wanted to pursue my art. That this was a missing element in my life and that, at this point in time, I had a unique chance to go ‘all in’. My daughters were old enough and I was dedicated. I realized that I had to pursue this infatuation that had been central to my life for all these years and which I hadn’t given a serious chance to blossom. In doing so, it was imperative to me to follow my number one passion - to create art with color.
Q. Your works seem to convey both a serene and a dramatic sensibility is this a field of tension you consciously look to evoke?
A. I think it is. The drama and tension make the artwork more interesting and for me it is a creative challenge to bring tranquility and a sense of calmness into this equation. The drama is always there, in these landscapes surrounding me, but my images of lyrical landscapes are not depictions of actual places. They are made from memory and one could call them soul moods, as they express emotions and a state of mind as much as the landscape itself. In my abstract works, you can see the same; there, I just express it as a pure color mood instead of using the landscape to express my vision. I call this ‘color poetry’. I like to paint serenity and calmness into my artworks and to think of myself as a conservator of quiet moments and blissful transience. I want to imply that calmness already exists within the moment captured and that drama is just the other side of the coin. I want the viewer to perceive the drama, the transience and the fragility that are part of life - to show them the abundant beauty as well as the vulnerability. Nature in itself is the source of a certain calm and serenity that I want to capture in my artwork. I find that this aspect is best articulated with drama to serve as a contrast or a backdrop.
I want to visualize the abundant beauty and vulnerability of nature through the veil of time by transforming my memories into vibrant color.
Q. Is your work a direct reflection of your
current living environment – the impressive Norwegian landscape - or are the
vistas you depict rather imagination-based?
A. I am interested in how colors appear and change in accordance with the seasons. I rework memories from walks and journeys into colorful abstractions. I want to convey my personal perception of the old landscapes to the viewer, to invite them into these enchanted places and open their hearts to my vistas. I want to visualize the abundant beauty and vulnerability of nature through the veil of time by transforming my memories into vibrant colors. Concrete memories fade and leave me with a specific mood or color impression. I am drawn to the timelessness I find in nature. When there are no new elements added, the landscapes convey a strong feeling of longevity. This quote by G. C. Tobler about nature says it nicely:
She (nature) brings forth ever new forms: What is there, never was; What was, never will return. All is new and yet forever old.
These landscapes make it easy to feel connected to the past. By conserving those moments and memories in my artwork, I create my own brand of permanence. I bring together the past and the present, whilst creating something that will last in the future.
Q. What made you settle on soft pastels as your medium of choice? And do you use any other tools in your creative process?
A. This medium fits my work mode and my personality well. It challenges me to be selective and deliberate in how I build up my compositions and to make sure that color is the central focus of each artwork. I’m a tactile person and enjoy the feeling of the dusty pigments in my hands and the slow process of building an artwork in soft pastels suits my temper. I use my hands and fingers to smudge, mix and shape the colors. I use erasers, sandpaper, brushes, and pastel pencils to add effects. The process of creating depth and sculpting the colors, adding and subtracting lasts until the piece has become my personal interpretation of the land or the memory, like a moment captured.
Soft pastels have an exceptional degree of
intensity, the vibrancy and purity of the colors and the way they carry their
inherent luminosity are fantastic and as close to my perception as I have found
in any medium. This, combined with a beautiful silky matte surface, make it an
interesting and inspiring medium to work with, which leaves the viewer with a
beautiful artwork that I’m proud of and enjoy.
Q. Have you always felt a strong connection to nature or is this something that developed over time?
A. Nature represents a place of relaxation, inspiration, challenge, and beauty to me. This relationship grew into something very intimate and personal during my childhood, as it was a unifying ingredient within my family. We went for walks, did gardening, and took care of the land together - these were important elements that my parents enriched our childhood with and this is how nature became an integral part of our life. For me and my siblings, it still is. This relationship with nature has grown into a strong and personal connection that provides food for my curious mind and forms an endless source of inspiration to me as an artist.
Q. There seems to be an almost poetic element to your compositions is poetry a source of inspiration or is it rather about the creation of color harmonies?
Painting with color on white paper is like writing a poem or composing a piece of music - I’m composing color poetry.
My lifelong passion for color unfolds itself in my artwork. I like to weave the colors into poetic color-moods using a lyrical palette. For as long as I can remember I have had color memories. I perceive much of my surroundings through color and experience nature often as abstract imagery. Beautiful colors, vibrant or soothing, surprising, and fun, all of them, wherever they appear, continue to fascinate and inspire me. The moods I’m after and want to depict in my artwork are often connected to my past, to personal experiences or impressions.
Memories fade, but, for me, the colors remain. I still have colorful memories from my very early childhood. It’s as if my senses always were, and still are, open and perceptive to polychromatic impressions, impressions that stay with me as colorful moods. When I create with color, memories come back to life, brought back through the associations that colors evoke. They pop up as vivid short videos and take me back in time. I find that these memories have passed the test of time - they represent an essence or a tiny time capsule. Capturing these memory moods in my work feels important and freeing. Incarnating them on paper is a way to see them with new eyes, with a new sense of perception, and from a very different place in my life. However, it remains important for me to rework the piece and make it an artwork in its own right. It has to work on the paper, but it has to add something to the here and now as well. It has to become a well-composed poem that stands on its own, completely independent of its origin.
Q. Which other creatives do you admire?
A. There are so many! Both from the past and the present - some contemporaries because of their achievements and work with color, some important historical figures for their contributions to the art world. Basically, there is always something to admire; I could mention Helen Frankenthaler and Georgia O’Keeffe - they both have inspired me with their art and lives, and they are formidable role models. There are many lesser-known artists I could have mentioned, who are as important to me. I wish the big and important art institutions would afford female painters as much space and attention as their male counterparts. Then there would be many new names to know and many more exciting artists to explore.
I would also like to mention my fascination with Asian art. The work and ideas of Chinese artists such as Canal Cheong Jageroos and Yang Din are so inspiring to me. The aesthetics of Japanese minimalism are also close to my heart, as is the book “One Hundred Famous Views of Edo”, which has strongly influenced my work.
Q. Could you describe your work in three words?
A. This is a tricky question since I love to use many words. I think my work is distinctly feminine with a dash of naiveté. I like to think of myself as a colorist, who picks up where the fauvists left off. My connection to color is my force, it is my starting point as well as my safe place. I would like to say that I create Color Poetry and Lyrical Landscapes, but that’s more than three words, so I think I go for; Ethereal Colour Moods - as that also captures the unique quality of soft pastels.