«But you haven’t got any colours like that» said the German TV company of the intense pink-purple hues in artist Eva Arnesen’s pictures when they were filming her one November in Hammerfest. Weeks later, they were eating their words!

True Finnmark artist

The landscape of Finnmark is all about big, simple shapes and broad horizons rather than intimacy and richness of detail. The people of Finnmark are direct, humorous and down to earth, and not generally given to understatement and subtle hints. Eva Arnesen speaks directly to the viewer with her strong colours and simple subject matter. When her brush falls short of what she wants to express, she simply writes the key words of her message directly on the canvas! And yet, despite the directness, there are few obvious answers in her art.

Nobel diploma

Eva was chosen to design the diploma awarded in 1997 to the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, naturally a great honour. Every year, three Norwegian artists are invited to submit designs and the one that is judged best is chosen. She is in good company with other eminent and internationally-renowned artists who have designed the Nobel Peace Prize diploma, such as Karl Erik Harr, Håkon Bleken, Jakob Weidemann and Frans [LE1] Widerberg.

Northern Lights over the Finnmark landscape

In Eva Arnesen’s broad strokes, the Northern Lights billow, ripple and flame across the sky over Hammerfest, over the bird colony islands of Håja and Hjelmen out in the Sørøysundet sound, and over the dark Finnmark mountains. In the deep, intense pink-purple she is so fond of, in brilliant primary colours and in striking turquoise-green against a deep, dark blue ‒ form, light and colour in endless variation; just as no one Northern Lights display is ever like another.

Photographic and painterly

When Eva Arnesen began painting her Northern Lights pictures, there were few good photographs of the phenomenon to be had. The old film roll cameras were simply not good enough to capture the images. Eva’s artworks, which were more naturalistic during the early phase of her career, offered some of the most realistic images of the Northern Lights available at the time. Since then, digital cameras have improved steadily and are increasingly able to reproduce the Northern Lights as the human eye sees them. At the same time, Eva’s paintings have moved steadily towards a greater simplicity of line which is also more powerful.

Finnmark atmosphere

Skies in Eva’s tones of intense pink-purple ‒ now fragile, now quivering with intensity ‒ evoke autumn in Hammerfest. Snow flurries in dark winter nights over Hammerfest. Blue Arctic Ocean against the verdigris-green slopes of Sørøya. Close-ups of blossoming summer meadows bathed in golden sunshine. Finnmark not depicted in detail but broadly, in strong primary colours and in the special light of the far north.

People and moods

Eva is also interested in people. In «Red Melancholy» a resigned-looking woman painted naturalistically against a strongly coloured abstract background looks out at us. The dancing procession of women in their evening finery painted in bright, glowing colours, a brilliant Northern Lights allegory with a touch of Vogue fantasy fashion about it. An enormous blue canvas with elegant women in beautiful dresses beneath spreading, leafy trees, must have been inspired by something far removed from Finnmark. On the other hand, boys on sledges in a sunny late winter scene are quite clearly from the local area.

Playfulness and comment

When Eva Arnesen was involved in starting the art gallery Galleri Kulturbanken (the Culture Bank) in the centre of Hammerfest in 2011, it was natural for her to join in helping behind the counter. For such an impatient and creative soul as Eva, intolerably trying periods of inactivity were filled with doodling. Everything from chickens and donkeys to Hammerfest streets, often with a couple of written maxims thrown in, capture a quick burst of the imagination to relieve a quiet Tuesday with few people in the gallery. Many of Eva’s large charcoal drawings also contain comments, observations, ideas and caprices which provoke and amuse.

Culture Bank with manifold deposits

Eva Arnesen shares her gallery and exhibition premises with a group of artists from Finnmark making arts and crafts products of various kinds. Claudia Casaletti in Kongsfjord makes small portraits from East Finnmark framed in recycled wood. Daniella Salater from Berlevåg makes amusing glass objects. The charming lady candle-holder figures in painted plaster are by Janne Bårdsen . Torild Normann from Hammerfest makes brightly coloured knitted products. Photographers Lars Mathisen and Espen Ørud capture the Northern Lights and the Finnmark landscape each in their own way. Wenche Hansen makes warm, sturdy slippers for cold winter evenings. All these talented craftspeople are to be found displaying their work in a former bank in Hammerfest town centre. All in all, the Culture Bank represents artistic share capital founded exclusively with deposits from Finnmark.

Read more

Galleri Syvstjerna/Kulturbanken has its own Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/syvstjerna.no

For more information about everything else Hammerfest has to offer, visit the website of the Hammerfest tourism office, Hammerfest Turist: http://www.hammerfest-turist.no/