Home Visit: Julie Lillelien Porter
Home Visit: Julie Lillelien Porter
Photos: Tove Lise Mossestad
Interview: Nora Adwan
Q&A with Julie Lillelien Porter: Artist and curator living and working in Bergen, Norway
JLP: Julie, A+F: ART + FOLK
ART+FOLK caught up with multidisciplinary artist and curator Julie at her home in Bergen for a chat in the midst of an intense work period. In addition to working as artistic director at Lydgalleriet, Julie was speaking to us just after her return from a couple of weeks in Oslo doing her second stint working with the Høstutstillingen jury. Julie´s art collection is both eclectic, showing her wide appreciation of different forms of expression, and personal; recording connections and commemorating events and transitions in her life.
A+F: Can you tell me a bit about yourself and your work?
JLP: I’m an artist with a background from the UK and Norway. My family moved from the UK to Norway because Margaret Thatcher was ruining the country, and my mother started going on about how “it will be better to grow up in Norway”.
I started my art school studies in 1996 at Kunstskolen in Bergen, and completed my BA a few years later at The Glasgow School of Art. After living and working in Glasgow for a few years I moved back to Bergen to do my MFA at the art academy here.
I’ve always had a lot of interest in self-organised projects and self initiation. I’m an anarchist at heart and I believe in artistic work being a platform for free thinking, many forms of subversive activity and generally a deconstruction of rules. I’ve always worked in a multidisciplinary way, which has to do with my personality; I am impatient and experimental and my belief is in the transcendence of definition and mediums.
I like process, dialogue and potential conflict. My studies in Glasgow, in sculpture and environmental art, were an influence on me and encouraged me to exit the art school and start figuring out what was going on outside the institution.
That way of practicing still makes sense to me and is often a starting point from how I operate; a desire to reveal less obvious structures.
A+F: So, now as well as your own practice you are also the artistic director at Lydgalleriet; a sound art gallery in Bergen, tell me about that and how you came to work as a curator beside your artistic practice.
JLP: I care about the undefined spaces between sculptural, spacial and sonic materiality. Curating at Lydgalleriet allows me to show these variations in current art practices. It motivates me that there is an ongoing self reflexive investigation into the field’s own identity– that the discourse is very open in terms of what and where the boundaries are.
I’ve always been into experimental music, so for me, Lydgalleriet is a platform for showing a lot of performative and live aspects of that field. I’m interested that the program at Lydgalleriet be relevant in terms of sound being a very spacial, active and ephemeral medium.
I think of curating as a natural part of my artistic practice. It’s about initiative. When I returned to Bergen from Glasgow to start my MFA, I founded Ytter together with three other students; an art project which started as a blog and developed into hosting exhibitions, seminars, publications, etc.
Ytter started from being in a situation, and using that situation as a starting point and contextualising it for further artistic processes. Some of our best projects often started with just a glance at each other in a conversation; a moment of opportunity which was elaborated on in a very scattered way.
A couple of my favourite memories were when we nominated ourselves for the rector candidature at the art academy (and then got deleted by the electoral board), and when we invited ourselves to exhibit at the art museum: We ended up making an exhibition in the park outside it instead, very successful in terms of not being inside the museum, but in terms of making a statement of being outside it. It was also extremely muddy.
A+F: Why did you decide to study MA here rather than continue your studies in Glasgow?
JLP: I got pregnant in 2006 and decided to go back to Bergen because there were interesting people working in the art academy at that time and people who had links to Glasgow. There was a relationship between the two places.
I was an amid reader of the online forum kunstkritikk.no at that time and was very triggered by the arguments and discussions that people published at that time, so I was curious about the Norwegian artist community, through the agency of that online forum.
There were super interesting artist initiated galleries in Bergen (Lydgalleriet was one of them) at that time. A lot of what happened when I came back was the establishment of studio spaces and work places for artists. I have always had to juggle my time between having a studio practice and earning money, and in Bergen it was possible to do that.
A+F: Shall we talk a bit about the works that you have here?
JLP: We can start with these ones by Torgrim Wahl Sund. We studied together and this work was produced by him a couple of days before his exam. It was an unpredictable act and freaked out his exam censor. He was climbing up a ladder wanting to hang a huge drawing piece. On his way up he noticed these spots of dust on a ledge. The images here are of this dust, inverted digital prints. The same mirrored motif, but with one tiny difference (which I only recently noticed!).
What I appreciate with Torgrim’s work is his insistence on something momentary, often in a relationship between a tiny detail and the larger context. The images are a very raw output from years ago; playful, very subjective and process based. They are each titled with a reference to a Captain Beefheart song, The dust blows forward ’n dust blows back, which I also really love.
A+F: You can see a lot into the work once you start really looking at it; galaxies or a kind of Roschach image. The cosmos connection is very strong because Kirsti’s (Van Hoegee) work with the moon is right next to it.
JLP: That’s right. Kirsti’s image is a part of her ongoing series Moon Gazing, mobile photographs of the moon. I don’t particularly see Torgrim’s pictures as space or galaxy, but there is an interesting link between the body, human existence and how you relate to space in both of their practices. To me it’s very existential.
This work of Kirsti's is very concrete: she is photographing the moon, so it’s concrete rather than mysterious. What’s mysterious is the moon itself. Another photograph she has taken is the one of the moth, from a show she had several years ago. It was a gift for my 40th birthday, and I have a special link to this specific image because I wrote about it. The moth’s wings remind me of knitted patterned Nike trainers.
A+F: It would be nice to elaborate a little on what attracts you to particular works, the works you hang are quite diverse, what is it that gives them value or meaning?
JLP: I’m attracted to various forms of magic and discovering potential meaning in situations, relationships and moments. Many of the works are gifts and reflect a diversity because of that. An artwork I bought myself is the oil painting by Sindre Hustveit. He exhibited a series of these at Galleri Bokboden a few years ago and I was attracted to the skin coloured arm in it although it’s a completely non figurative painting.
It’s very formalist and painted thickly, almost an object. There’s a strong presence of the body in it.
The image over the piano is by Sveinung Rudjord Unneland. It is titled Power. There’s a very spontaneous expression to it, and it’s very weird and odd. You have to spend time decoding it for a while in order to see that the blue grid part spells the word «POWER». And there’s a mans face underneath the word power with little eggy eyes.
A+F: It seems very naïve and childlike and it feels strange to combine it with the very precise lines over it.
JLP: Yes, it’s very sketchy and that’s what gives it the power, in a way. There’s a nice play between the title and the act of expression in it. What gives art works meaning is a personal thing, and I am interested in the edges of reason that come into reflection while trying to relate the new and unknown; the incomprehensible.
A+F: How did you become interested in art?
JLP: I’ve always been interested in artistic expression and don’t believe it primarily has to do with my education. I played the piano and danced from ages 4 to 18 and became gradually more interested in visual art.
From a young age I was fascinated by works of art which create a puzzle rather than present an answer, and I’m interested in artistic expression as esoteric rather than rational. This relates to life in itself, so my interest in art reflects my interest in existing. This might sound pretentious, but I experience these connections as under-communicated in the art community.
I don’t collect or buy art in terms of economic value or support, but want to be surrounded by people, imagery and objects that create meaning in my life.
This oil painting is by Erik Pirolt, which was a gift from ages ago. A framed sketch, part of a series he did when we studied together at KIB. The print underneath is a mono print by Marianne Amundsen titled Mutter. There is a brutal humbleness to it.
A+F: You don’t ever show your own work at home?
JLP: I have in periods of time had some of my own work up on the walls, but I have a lot of large scale stuff which would dominate too much. I also think I relate to my own work on too many levels, so it can be difficult to look at it all the time.
A+F: what are your artistic plans for the near future?
JLP: I’m hoping to work more in my studio at Deltic now. I’m working with some new text pieces and digital collages at the moment.
Thanks so much for your time!
Once a month, ART + FOLK will introduce someone from our local art community. We will open the doors to their home or to their studio and have them tell us a bit about their everyday, their work and what they have on their own walls.
Interview by Nora Adwan; photos by Tove Lise Mossestad.
This project is supported by the City of Bergen (Bergen Kommune) and Arts Council Norway (Norsk Kulturrådet).