Kristin Romberg | Creating tactile worlds

Interview D. Foertig
puplished on
January 13, 2022
Kristin Romberg | Hylla at Hydrogenfabrikken
who is kristin romberg artist
Kristin Romberg | Image courtesy the artist

The Munchies Art Club shares with you our new featured artist Kristin Romberg and her breathtaking work.

contemporary female painter kristin romberg

Who is Kristin Romberg?

I am a Norwegian visual artist (b. 1970) and since 2001 I have worked on paintings in large formats.

I received my education at the University of Sydney, Fine Art, Westerdal Advertising School, Einar Granum Art School and have had numerous exhibitions in Norway and abroad.

contemporary female painter kristin romberg

In the last two years, I have moved towards installation art with my paintings, as they are mounted freely, hanging layer upon layer in the room.

My juicy, colorful works create a new dimension and I want to establish a new, tactile space where people can dream, escape, wonder, breathe, feel, stop and feel. 

Major changes | 148x158cm | Image courtesy the artist

I try to break with the established concept of canvas on stretchers and with the help of the visual layers I want to draw the viewer into a colorful, dynamic world that hovers between the subtle and the representative.

The paintings are abstract and have clear references to nature and I seek to give an experience of moving around in a dense, primeval forest or jungle.

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How did you come to paint? Was there a particular influence from your childhood?

When I was 15 years, I decided I wanted to be an artist. I loved to draw and was good at it.

No one in my family was an artist, but my mother was a seamstress and my grandmother was also very creative. 

A teacher at school encouraged me and told me about possibilities in art. 

school of graphic design, markus brendmoes student artist in residence uganda naiad, africa
Yellow sun and black stone | 148x203cm

My father was not happy with my choice, so he persuaded me to go three years with data and economics.

During those three years I discovered the Advertising business. I decided to become an Art Director. I went 2 years to an Art school painting and then 2 years learning Art Direction.

After that I worked 8 years in different Advertising agencies, before I quit and left for Sydney, Australia where I went to the University of Sydney, fine art dep. I brought my husband and 3 small kids with me.

I have worked full time as an artist since 2001.

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What is your drive when you work?

The driving force comes from within. I have always had this.

I have a huge work capacity and a lot of energy. I use the nature to balance this. I run in the forest, walk by the sea, and go skiing in the mountains.

The experiences from outside, I bring back to my studio and I paint the feeling I had outside. 

“When I paint, it's like a ritual dance where every stroke and every gesture is directly rooted in what I have experienced. It is an inner force that drives me to create exactly what I do. I am present, experiencing, sensing, and taking in - and then projecting it onto the screen. "

I think art is not something you do. It’s something you are. It requires total commitment.

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You have the most incredible studio; is it permanently in this large space that formerly was a hydrogen factory? Is this a permanent space you can work in or do you have certain time-periods? Do you do all your work there? Can you tell us a bit about it?

I’m so lucky I can juggle between different studios.

We have a strong and very good artist community here in my hometown Fredrikstad.

I have one studio 40 m2, in an artist community house called Hylla at Hydrogenfabrikken. (They used to produce hydrogen here).

We are 12 artists sharing the house with separate studios, and common lunch area. 

leader sirius hydrogenfabrikken project room helium, dancer henriette slorer, curator rake gallery

Next door we have this room called Helium Project-room 120 m2, where we can work big.

Here I have made my installation and taken most of my photos.

And then there is this large space, which is an old shipyard. I was so lucky to borrow it for free this summer and autumn.

When the weather gets warmer, I’m going back. All these studios are walking distance from my home.

trondheim, norway teacher dks, punkt ø and national gallery, momentum biennale jury-member ukm
My head is under water | 140x180cm | Image courtesy the artist

How do you start a painting? Do you plan on the piece, or do you begin with the concept of a series, or is it more of a free creative expression?

I never plan a painting. I just take a huge breath and choose color based on my feelings.

I sketch a lot, but I never use the sketches direct. So, yes, all my paintings are free creative expressions.

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Art to touch. How can we understand that?

You are not supposed to understand art.

What you like is very subjective. The more you see and experience art, the more you change of what you like.

It’s the same with music, theatre, food etc. You expand your mind. 

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I think that when I create art from within, without focusing on money, galleries, or what people like - then I make art that touch.

My paintings hit something in your heart you cannot explain.

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When I see your work hanging from the high ceilings, I have this powerful urge to dance through and twirl myself, half dancing, half jumping, my arms stretched out wide like Julie Andrews in the sound of music singing “The hills are alive!”. Is that the kind of reaction you are looking for?

Yes absolutely! I dance and swing under them myself.

Some people become calm and almost connected to the Devine.

I try to create a timeless space for the viewer. Time for reflection, wonder and a feeling of being alive.

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You find influence for your work from nature. Does it come from your surroundings? Does the work express how you perceive your natural surroundings? 

I am so lucky to live by the sea and the forest and yes, I use my surroundings a lot in my work.

We also have a micro cabin in the mountain and here I bring in a lot of the energy for my paintings.

In an abstract language my paintings are a perception of my natural surroundings. 

school of graphic design, markus brendmoes student artist in residence uganda naiad, africa
Blue coming through | 148cmx190 | Image courtesy the artist

I travel a lot, before covid all over the world, and I work on site. I travel a lot, before covid all over the world, and my paintings are often made connected to this.

They are non-verbal communications between my memories from a different part of the world, different atmosphere and landscapes to my present surroundings, connections, and dependencies.

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The journeys between memories and reality have left deep impressions and allow me to see things differently.

The moods and feelings that my paintings bring about are far more important to me than references to natural landscapes. 

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My last works were made in Uganda on an artist in residence stay there.

The plan is to go to France in September on an Artist in Residence stay there. I also have a working place in Lofoten, north of the arctic circle, where I am going to work this year.

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Vision for the future | 140cmx180cm | Image courtesy the artist

The large tall works, their size, the large space, the colors immersing the viewer into a fantastical world. What would you ideally want the viewer to experience? 

I hope my work gives people a hint of optimism for the future.

I believe my bright colors and expressive energy gives something positive back to those who see my work.

I want to create a room where visitors are allowed to touch and lift my paintings.

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My artistic project is about creating a tactile space where people can dream, escape, wonder, breathe, stop, and feel.

I work with paintings in large formats, abandoning the established concept of canvas on stretchers.

I try to evoke nature and offer the audience an experience of moving around in a dense forest or a jungle.

I let people touch the paintings, and by doing so they will leave traces on the canvases.

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I truly enjoyed the video you made at the Project room Helium, Hydrogenfabrikken space with Henriette Slorer, dancing energetically over your paintings, mirroring the work below her. How did that develop?

Henriette has been a professional dancer in 15 years. After she retired in an age of 40, we have cooperated. It's been 7 years now.

Our project is a genre-wide collaborative project where we explore creating a new language where movement, rhythm, colors, and streaks create a seamless symbiosis.

Through several meeting points both in the dance studio and my studio, we have developed methods to prove connections between painting and dance. This film is something we did in this process.

Video shows Henriette Slorer.

Do you prefer working alone or with others around?

I prefer alone in absolute silence

How about music, what does your playlist look like? 5 most heard songs?

10 years ago, I listened to music when I worked. But now I can't have anything interrupt my bubble.

If I am in Artist in Residence and there are people around me, I listen to music. My daughters have made me some lists on Spotify with calm music.

I listen to a lot of Norwegian artists like YLVA, Sondre Justad and Fay Wildhagen.

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Compared to other European countries, how is Norway's art scene developing from your point of view?

There is a very high level on the Norwegian art scene.

The trend is using materials form the nature and handicrafts is taking a new level. A lot of works made of wood, rocks or found objects.

Th is a high focus on taking care of nature and environmental protection. It also seems that more tactile works is in the wind and of course painting is more popular than earlier.

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You have done quite a few residencies internationally. Which one was the most memorable for you?

Oh, that is hard to answer because each of them has been special in their own way.

If I must choose there must be Costa Rica in 2014 and Uganda in 2018. It was in Costa Rica I started to work abstract, so this was a new start for me. I was staying in an old snake farm, and it was very exotic. 

The colors that appeared in Costa Rica was bright in yellow, pink, and green and I produced a whole exhibition on that stay.

In Uganda I was together with a colleague and we were staying at an art school for youth over 18 years old. So we had our own

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Blueberry flowers 2 | 146x148cm | Image courtesy the artist

You did quite a few projects. I love the mural you did for the Teacher’s room in the Rødsmyra primary school. How involved are you in the Fredrikstad cultural community?

Since 2011 have I been very engaged in bringing contemporary art out to schools and students.

I have worked and done project with hundreds of children in the age from 5-18.

I also cooperate close with the municipality in my hometown, doing local project in our city.

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UKM (Youth art performance ) Project

During Covid restrictions, were you able to use the Project room Helium space or did you work from somewhere else? What kind of work did you produce during this time? Does the pandemic have any kind of influence?

For me the two years of pandemic have been two good years with a lot of time in the studio.

Both in the project room, in my smaller studio and in the large shipyard. 

I usually do many projects with schools and children, but because of the pandemic this has been cancelled. Instead I have had a lot of time to create paintings and install my project.

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I am sorry to hear that they hacked your Instagram account, especially after building up a very impressive 27K followers. How important has Instagram been for you as an artist?

YES! I am so sorry and so frustrated! And now the hacker is blackmailing me!!

Instagram is without doubt the most important platform for artists.

For me it’s been good business as well, selling paintings all over the world.

Through Instagram I meet people interested in art, other artists, galleries, and a lot of good people.

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What one good advice would you pass on to our fellowship of young emerging artists?

Believe in yourself, work hard, and don’t give up.

Give yourself time and space.

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Green hope | 148x190cm | Image courtesy the artist

Any special plans for 2022?

In May am I participating in a big group exhibition in Denmark at Dronninglund artcenter.

I have also applied for AIR in Cannes, France in October. If the pandemic goes away, I am also exhibiting at the University gallery of Kampala in Uganda in December.

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Anything else you would like to add?

I have had an ongoing project since over 9 years. This project has taken me further in my paintings. Every day, I make a small painting in a special format and on a special paper.

The size is 6x9cm. Regardless of where I am or what I do, I make this small painting. Then I take a photo of it and post it on a blog and on Instagram.

Today is day number 3297. It is like a visual diary, and I can see that what I create in this small format often appears later in my large paintings.

We are two artists in this project, and it is a lifetime project.

Short CV

Selected solo exhibitions: Gallery Onetwentyeight (New York),

Galleri Vulkan (Oslo), La Galleria (Barcelona),

Gallery Carousell (Riga), Nordic Cultural Center (Riga),

Art Associations Fredrikstad/Eidsberg/Ullensaker/Rygge (Norway),

Hole Art center (Norway)

Selected group exhibitions:  Østfold Artcenter (Norway), Østlandsutstillingen (Norway), Fridge Art fair (Miami USA),

Fluffy Crimes #4 (Chicago, USA), ArtNorthCenter (Denmark), Gallery Ceres Chelsea (New York),

Meieriet Artcenter (Lofoten, Norway), Bodø Biennale (Norway)

Follow the artist on Instagram:

A very big thank you to the wonderful Kristin for sharing her work and her story with us!

Credit all images copyright the artist