Artist Elling Reitan: Norwegian Touch
Art Republik goes on a color binge with Elling Reitan, whose work will be showcased at the upcoming Art Concept Miami 2016.
Elling Reitan is one of Norway’s most renowned and popular contemporary multi-artists. His oeuvre includes paintings, watercolors, coal drawings, lithographs, color etchings, glassware and more. Often nicknamed ‘the artist with the beautiful colors’, his works involve a collage of bold colors, motifs and images culminating into one compelling composition.
Born in Trondheim in 1949, Reitan first made his debut in a juried exhibition in Trondhjem’s Kunstforening at the age of 30. He became a pupil of Norwegian figurative painter Odd Nerdrum and artist Bjørn Sverrbo, and developed under the mentorship of Jens Johannessen. Much of Johannessen’s style, especially the use of captivating motifs, can be observed in Reitan’s artworks. In fact, Reitan uses a butterfly motif in many of his works to pay homage to his mentor. The motif can be seen in the spreading of wings from the woman’s body in his paintings, which he also describes as a “picture in the picture”.
Besides his mentors and teachers, Reitan takes influence from a range of classical painters and older techniques as well. Edvard Munch and religious Middle Age motifs in strong colors are some key inspirations observed in his works. He also often uses the Madonna-figure, who is ‘the Mother of all women’, in his works. Depicting women as spiritual creatures intrigues the artist. Another recurring theme is a man’s yearning in time and space.
Much of his artistic process revolves around reflecting the conditions of our current world, and his works are intentionally created with multiple layers and perspectives. His artistic statement also mentions that he does not have a fixed message within his paintings, and instead invites people to search meanings for themselves and find what they can. He describes our present world as “cruel” and “busy”, and therefore creates these works in response to our need for deep reflection. This depiction of chaos and trouble, yet beauty and wonderment within that chaos, is shown in his mishmash of vibrant colors, lines and textures.
In addition, Reitan has a trademark in all of his works: The Yin & Yang symbol. He calls them “a small black and white couple who are always somewhere in (his) paintings”. The pair in black and white was utilized for the first time in 1983 to create depth and perspective effects within his paintings. Originating from Chinese philosophy, another strong influence in his works, the black and white drops of water come together to form a perfect circle, symbolizing unity. Perhaps this is his way of adding an element of balance within the colorful conundrum of his paintings. Today the stroke pair has found its natural place in all of his works on an equal level as the artist’s own signature.
To date, the artist has part participated in more than 150 solo and group exhibitions in Norway and internationally, including notable art fairs like the Los Angeles Art fair, Miami Art fair, as well as the Asia Contemporary Art Fair in Hong Kong and Shanghai Art Fair. Reitan is currently represented by the Ashok Jain Gallery in New York, who will be showing the artist’s work in a solo show at their booth (#328) at Art Concept Miami 2016.
For more information, visit Ashok Jain Gallery.
This article was first published in Art Republik.