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Kristine Fornes creates new magic worlds with her artwork. This unique Oslo based artist is constantly inspired by her land’s culture and history, creating such a special art using embroidery and prints combined with drawings and illustrations. All the details are precisely sewed and her touch and lines are delicate and elegant, giving a result that’s something really different from anything else. In her work we meet a lot of natural elements and wild animals beside churches, capitals, princesses, spider webs and caricatures, just to name a few of Kristine’s characters.
I find especially interesting your artwork when you associate an animal to a drawing of an architecture or a church. How did you came up with this choice? How are the animals related to the buildings? 
These animals belong to the stories I re-narrate. And I realize now, that there are remarkably many animals in my work. The artworks Hic! Hic!, Tortoise over Oslo, The Escapist, The Mine and Northward and Downward were all made for exhibitions having Oslo as a main theme. In Oslo, there are many places named after animals: Bjørndal (The Bear Valley), Ulvøya (The Wolf Island) and Gråbeinsletta (The Gary Wolfs Plains). The wild animals are so present. I read a lot of cultural history and about architecture, especially about churches, which are the most important cultural treasure and bearer of history in our culture. They tell us about the whole society.
When I look at your illustrations a lot of different childhood stories come up in my mind, but never a specific or particular one. Where do you take the inspiration from? Are the characters all figments of your imagination?
I have had some illustration jobs for Norwegian publishers, both fairytales and other histories from both Norway and other countries. The illustration The man-eating tree is for instance made for a fun fact-book and a story about carnivorous trees in Madagascar. I tried to imagine how these trees would have been explained with the help of pedagogic posters, like the ones we had in school, when I was a kid: transformation from man to fruit in three steps!

You have two children, right? How do you feel they influence your art and the stories you choose to draw about?
I like that you ask about this! I have studied art mediation for children, and work quite a lot with art projects with children. I have used my own children’s drawings in my artwork. In the piece Pine, Pine, Spruce and Spruce I needed a lot of different trees and asked both my own and other children to draw trees for me. Everything we do from the moment we learn to draw is under the influence of cultivation and the learned. The children’s free, un-learned lines differ from my lines, which are more trained and predictable.
You use recycled materials as canvas for your drawings and they are often full of stains, having a story behind. Do you start from these spots to build up a story or do you turn around them and let them create an additional meaning to the situation?
Both. There is a big difference between using re-used, old fabrics and buying new fabrics from a roll at the shop. But I have done that too. There is no consequent thing for me, to use old, worn fabrics, but it is obvious that fabrics with clear traces of use carry other stories than fabrics that have never been used. Sometimes the textiles former use comment on the theme I’m working, other times it is a subject to the work. Some of the fabrics have been so torn, that I have repaired them before I working on them. And some of the fabrics have already been mended in the old fashioned ways, where the mending is hardly visible. I have an enormous respect for this techniques that is about to disappear completely.
I really like the feeling and the mix you give at your drawings with embroidery. We can find a character made out of a nice and detailed body with a really simple and child-like stitched face. Is there a meaning behind this artistic choice?
There is a combination made by the elaborate bodies with intricately embroidery and primitively drawn faces, the contrast between preciseness and sloppiness. It gives a more uncertain foundation. For instance in the piece The Tropic Dress: is there a real person standing there, so pompous and pretencious in his dashing suit. In the bottom of the artwork, I have embroidered funeral amulets from a Czech book with wooden toys in, which have inspired me a lot.

You are from Oslo. Do you feel that your country and your city have an influence in your art and in your storytelling choices? 
I was born in Longyearbyen at Spitsbergen and lived there some years during my childhood, but have lived mostly in Oslo. My work revolves around the links between textile history, architecture, archeology, cultural and natural history. Oslo is also a quite extraordinary capital in many ways. First of all it’s a seaside town, but at the same time, there are no roads or houses between my house and the enormous forests that lie east of Oslo. The places I have lived, have influenced me. The artwork Røykstue (Cottage with Smoke in) is inspired by the culture in the big forests, spreading across much of the Scandinavian peninsula. In my more recent exhibitions, I have been inspired by more urban motives from my surroundings.
Your work can also be seen as a different way to work with collage. Have you ever used this technique? Is some of your inspiration coming from there?
When I graduated from the National College of Art and Design 18 years ago, I often used several techniques in one artwork, but slowly I have gotten rid of almost all of them. Now I work using only embroidery as my tool of expression. This choice also has to do with the craft. If I worked with collage, that would make it impossible to specialize in embroidery. To work with just one technique, specializing in one technique and refine that expression is important in my art.

Gaia Bonanomi
Marius Wang

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