Trude Viken, Night Eyes: Vestfossen Kunstlaboratorium, Norway | Curated by Fortnight Institute
'All the paintings are clogged with duration: ochre sours, cobalt leaks and greys. They are like those blotchy, colorful ‘aura’ photographs you can buy, but if the aura was made of glue. Layers of oil paint grow over the drawing like moss over a fallen trunk; generations of microbiomes bloom and die in the distance between image and viewer. The paint looks alive, wet and murky and reproductive, as if the painting itself is churning out new expressions.' - Audrey Wollen, excerpt from exhibition catalogue: Trude Viken, Night Eyes
Trude Viken (b. 1969) is a ‘colorist’ without restrictions. Her paintings are saturated with swirls of fleshtones, ashy greys and witchy greens coupled with bright red, orange, yellow, and luminous pinks. The smell of oil paint lingers on and tones, both earthy and unnatural, elicit both eroticism and repulsion. Viken’s work requires an audience for its physicality, a terrain of oil paint. In this way, they are landscapes of weather as unpredictable as mood. A face becomes a hairy green mass with bubble gum pink base, white strokes like the edges of clouds or wings. Her portraits from everyday life develop into fantasies expressing our interior lives and our most palpable feelings. Viken: “When I have bad days, I know that most people also have them. Those days, hours or minutes are part of our life. We keep smiling happily and seem untouched to those around us. In the end we only fool ourselves. The difficulty of showing those tough sides of life makes me curious. This gives me a desire to continue...”
The 259 paintings that comprise the Night Eyes exhibition are taken from the series “Dagboknotater” (Diary Notes), started in 2014. Originally intended as self-portraits that she painted every day, this impulsion evolved into a body of work that turned her process to looking inward. She turned her gaze towards symbol and fervor, creating portraits that seduce the viewer through their psychological penetration. With Viken’s hand, layers of oil paint become whirling eyes, nose, mouth, ecstatic grimaces or smirks, finished when she decides so. Rows of twisted, kneaded faces hung together like a ghoulish family album of passing moods and impulse. The final marks different from the original swaths. Shapes are dissolved as the layers of paint can be repainted many times; almost anything is allowed.
With her powerful combinations of colours she has depicted a huge variety of mental states – a veritable catalogue of facial expressions. While the works are the artist’s studies of self, they are universally relatable.
Her heads start out in the morning and by the evening they're only asking for a moment of the truth. They don't want to go. And they don't want to stay. - Richard Prince
With thanks to Audrey Wollen, Stephanie La Cava, and Richard Prince for their words.