The Nord series of paintings has a deceptively simple story, in that I really wanted to capture the characteristic vibe of the Nordic countries. When you, like I, have spent some time outside the nordics, the nordic people have some other understated ‘otherness’ about them, and I felt compelled to paint it. The European region has a very particular atmosphere. There is joy and melancholy, long hours of sunlight in the summer and utter darkness much of the time in the winter.
The figurative work in the series portray the regular Jane next door, except she would be called Elin, Helene or Marja. We see women who are not all that heavily made up, neither are they coming straight out of the hair dressers, and they are wearing everyday smart casual clothing.
As a Dane, I am the first to admit the nordic image is full of bizarre paradoxes. We are all designers, and either everything is simplistically, ergonomically and democratically designed — or it is left completely untamed. There seems to be no in between with us.
The North Americans consider us a communist utopia, though we have some of the most competitive free economies, and political parties across the entire political spectrum. When that argument is won, then our sense of solidarity and equality is frowned upon as a graveyard for ambition.
The Nordic countries take turns being the happiest people on planet Earth according to some dubious research neither conducted nor funded by us. But nevertheless it is still on dubious criteria. Don’t get me wrong. Life here is good, all things considered. But we’re also nations that consume many happy pills.
Rather amusingly, we’ve become exporters Nordic Noir, i.e crime fiction across literature, television and cinema. On screen, we run around murdering each other in bluish-grey colour graded locations or in pitch darkness. It is amusing, because we continuously register as the least violent nations, as well. The bluish-grey colour grading is surprisingly accurate. The diffuse overcast light is actually how it is much of the time. At least, I consider that a very accurate marker of where we are geographically. Historically, it has been captured really well in paintings by the likes of Vilhelm Hammershøi, Anders Zorn, Carl Larsson, and Peter Severin Krøyer. Now, maybe it is time to add it to contemporary art given it is just as much a part of our age.