Espen Kvålsvoll (1992, Trondheim) lives and works in Oslo. He graduated from the MFA programme at the Oslo National Academy of the Arts in 2019. His first solo presentation titled "Scent Hound" was exhibited at Van Etten in 2020. In the two years leading up to this exhibition, Kvålsvoll worked with the presented series of paintings which strongly contributed to shaping his "signature" expression. These paintings developed into a long-term project that he is continuously expanding and that have impacted the artist’s current work.
Kvålsvoll’s art is centred around painting, built through processing a form of collection of motifs, collecting elements from urban landscapes, architecture, ornamentation, decoration, images, art and painting history across different environments and eras. With his post-modern approach, Kvålsvoll isolates these motifs from their original context and gather them into visual spaces or constructed landscapes. Each series of painting are developed over extended periods of time. Every painting in the series is to be seen in context to one another, together they form a painting universe, where one can recognize features reappearing in several of the artworks. They create almost psychedelic depicted rooms and landscapes with a consistent theme and circle of motifs.
From 2019-2020, Kvålsvoll was awarded a studio at Kunstnernes Hus, with a completely unique skylight and size, leaving him free to liberally experiment with colours and materials. In this period, he developed a painting technique of bold brushwork that was of great importance to his practice. He experimented with contrasts such as thick materiality and thin layers, which resulted in wave-shaped pattern formations that transforms elements and motifs incorporated in Kvålsvoll’s paintings. He utilized the clarification of the physical in his paintings through material properties, inviting the viewer to a greater physical sensory experience.
Concurrently to his collection of motifs, Kvålsvoll begins his artistic creation with drawing. The drawing works both as a tool to assemble his compositions and is also a way to digest information and motifs gathered. In the rotation of drawing and painting, Kvålsvoll builds a continual register of future paintings, and motifs are connected across time and space. This register of compositions is the starting point for the paintings and is transferred directly onto the canvas.
He removes and isolates motifs from their original context and maps the objects while comparing their similarities; the rearrangement of symbols and motifs helps to mystify them. In their new context, they get new associations, while they are abstracted by Kvålsvoll‘s use of colour, playing with the boundary between pattern and figuration in a post-Impressionist manner.
Kvålsvoll stayed in Paris during the spring and summer of 2021. His time in France influenced how the artist perceived light and shadow, in different circumstances such as nights and sunny days. Kvålsvoll experienced the shade to be stronger in contrast to the sunlight in France than in Norway. This in turn resulted in a new approach to consider space and figuration in his art. His paintings are composed as scenes that work as an entrance to presenting motifs and objects as scenery in staged light. With his figurative approach, the scenes create room to play with drama through compositions.