Artist Talk: Úlfur Karlsson - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Artist Talk: Úlfur Karlsson

Artist Talk: Úlfur Karlsson

Hrefna Björg Gylfadóttir
Photos by
Hrefna Björg Gylfadóttir

Since his graduation from Valand School of Fine Arts in Sweden, Icelandic painter Úlfur Karlsson has been busy with exhibitions and film projects including the ongoing exhibition “By Proxy” in Galerie Ernst Hilger in Vienna, and “We Are Not Afraid” in the Reykjavík Art Museum. He is political in his works and says art pieces should be remembered in people’s hearts long after they’ve seen them, like a good film.

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What is your creative process?

Sometimes when I don’t feel like creating anything, I find it very hard to work. I even need to force myself to work in order to keep track sometimes and those periods can be tough. I have a very creative mind though, I dream weird dreams and sometimes I feel like I have thoughts that no one else has. In my opinion being creative means painting the things around you that you see something special in. Sometimes I feel more creative when I have been away from painting for awhile, like now for example, I have been in Germany and Austria for almost a month and haven’t been able to paint. I miss the feeling a lot.

What inspires you?

American culture, sports and politics are what inspire me most. I think Icelanders are a very Americanized nation, and I am a perfect example. I grew up watching ‘The Simpsons’, collected NBA cards and watched all Chicago Bulls games. As I got older I became interested in other things and therefore started following sports less, but Muhamed Ali has kept on as one of my biggest inspirations.

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What is your favorite work by you or by other artists?

At the moment, I would have to say Erró. I have seen his work from a close distance and I can honestly say that he has mastered his amazing style. Ragnar Kjartansson is also a huge inspiration to me, his recent work in New York is probably my favorite artwork by an Icelandic artist. My favorite international artist however, is Jean-Michel Basquiat.

It’s a bit easier for me to pick which one of my own works is my favorite, because there is only one painting I feel fits the entire galaxy of my brain, the main painting of my newest show, “By Proxy,” in Vienna.

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How is being an artist in Iceland?

The art scene in Iceland is very small, which is why most artists try to work outside of Iceland as well. Despite that, we have some of the world’s most famous artists like Ragnar Kjartansson and Ólafur Elíasson as well as great musicians like Björk and Sigur rós. However, there are many people in Iceland that don’t seem to like us artists, and want the funding towards artists to be taken away. I’m not sure how to answer this question but I like being in Iceland, mostly because I prefer cold weather and like going to the swimming pools.

Future Plans?

That’s an easy question, become rich, famous, and respected.

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