Elin Engelsen

Born 1962 in Bergen, Norway

Self-taught artist

Has had various exhibitions since 2000


What does the concept of painting mean today? To Elin Engelsen the painting is a place where the metaphysics of life – or the conditions that make human beings become unique creatures - is given a concrete form. A key word in the work of Elin Engelsen is to keep an open mind. A strong conviction of the redeeming powers of imagination and the mental freedom and open minded approach to life that this provides carries her paintings. On a formal level she leaves lots of open space on the surface for the viewer can let his imagination fill out the empty space. Lately her preferred motive has been children and young people who seem to be above ordinary earthly conditions like time and gravity in her descriptions. They are floating unconcerned through a dreamy easy world absorbed in their own mental reality.


The pictures are telling that reality is what you make it because the thought can set you free. At the same time Elin Engelsen seems to have the point that this unlimited mental freedom especially exists in the child and young person before it enters the order, obligations and responsibility of the adult life where unlimited freedom is no longer quite so simple to achieve. The dreamy touch of the pictures can therefore be interpreted as a longing for a phase and state in life where everything was open and life was still unused as well. A phase of life that is gone forever. This is investing the seductively beautiful and bright pictures with a touch of sorrow. The pictures immediately seduce and invite the eye but at the same time there is a noticeable distance the visions you are witnessing. Elin Engelsen is dealing with the basic human terms such as freedom, joy, sorrow, time and death in her paintings. That is placing her artistically close to other contemporary existential painters like Poul Anker Bech, Michael Kvium and her countryman Odd Nerdrum, She highly rates and takes inspiration from these three painters. They have quite often been classified as unique cases that have been difficult to fit into the general understanding of contemporary art. When you no longer can ignore that they are pare of very obvious existential, telling and figurative currents in contemporary art then it is an expression of “the paradigm of multiplicity” becoming real which I have been describing in my book “Black pictures”.


Besides the painters mentioned above Elin Engelsen is engaged on photography as a way of expressing herself. She is enthusiastic over the work of Richard Avedon and Sally Mann among others. The last is known for photos of her own children who she is describing almost provokingly free end their own autonomic world. Elin Engelsen is also using photos as models for her paintings in order to capture the exact moods and expressions in her motives. At the same time she is keen on keeping the statements of the pictures open. So she is compensating for the accuracy of the photography by letting go of control and letting the paint work independently in a beautiful and sensual play on the surface.