With one leg in what has been, and one in the future, Erik Formoe creates artwork with precision like the old masters, while implementing new technologies and expressions that are relevant to their contemporary. Gallery manager Mikael Eskilsson meets the merited Norwegian artist for his present exhibition at Lohme Art Gallery for an exciting talk about his artistic journey.
The first thing that strikes me when I see your paintings is that all images look as if they are full of underlying stories. What is your relation to your motives?
I'm interested in people, we see incredibly many people every day, everyone who passes us on the street or that we see in the store. We see them, and they have a story to tell, but we know nothing about them. I call my motives 'Silent storytellers'. They are like the man in the street who makes you wonder, "who is the person behind?" Then every person becomes a mystery. Not because they wants to be, but because the viewer makes them into it.
Is it only through the motive that these riddles are told, or do they affect more in the painting?
The motive is the entrance to the mystery. Then there are clues in the symbolism. I am very careful in my composition, when I choose colors and how much of it each. Everything is part of, and influencing the story.
We see them, and they have a story to tell, but we know nothing about them. I call my motives 'Silent storytellers'
You call your style Retro contemporary art, what do you mean by that?
I'm classically educated. I spent 4 years at art school where I learned all the traditional techniques, not only painting but also such as sculpture. Then I went 4 years to the arts academy where we only worked with painting. I bring with me everything I learned there, and I'm using it, but then I add things that were not available before, like airbrush.
While you are classically educated you are very far ahead in your digital presence, is it natural for you to learn new media?
I have always wanted to reach out with my art, and I have always been curious and willing to work in new ways. I bought my first computer in the 80's, an Atari, and not long after I had my first own website. The local newspaper did a full-page article about me, just for having a website, because it was so unusual then.
Has it been important for you as an artist to keep up with the changing times and find new ways to reach out?
It has given me many opportunities. When my gallery in Oslo participated in the art fair Scope Miami, Eileen Kaminsky (famous private collector from New York) saw my paintings. Once she had seen them live, she felt comfortable buying other works from me, and for a while she bought several pieces she saw on Facebook. Had I not been to the fair, then she would not have seen my paintings at all, and if I didn’t publish what I paint on Facebook, she would not have bought any more. So that's a combination of the traditional and the new that really works.
Is it enough to keep up with technology development, or are there other reasons why you have succeeded as an artist for several decades?
I think it's important to go your own way. You should never start painting in a certain way to reach out, you have to paint in your own way, and then try to reach out. The most important thing will always be the pictures you create. But I really like the opportunities created by new technologies and media. Previously, you were dependent on knowing the right people to get scholarships or exhibitions, but now everyone can get seen via Facebook and Instagram.
Learn more about the artist and see available artworks here