Painter Erling Sjovold of the University of Richmond, artist-in-residence at Bowdoin from Oct. 1-22, held an open studio on Oct. 18 to cap off his stay at the college. “It’s a beautiful space,” he said of the studio in the new Edwards Center for Art and Dance, finished just in time for his residency this fall: “I arrived and got right to work.” Sjovold certainly spent a productive three weeks, creating a roomful of vibrant environment-inspired artwork that was enjoyed by a steady stream of students and community members last Friday.
On one wall Sjovold displayed a series of stark iceberg paintings – a retrospective series from his recent residency in Iceland – painted with simple, ribbon-like lines of watercolor textured with sand. The paintings on the opposite wall depicted a locale closer to home: mid-coast Maine.
Some of those works, small oil paintings with serene vistas of water, trees and sky, were created on-site near Blue Hill. “I love that tradition; I like how quiet it is,” Sjovold said of plein-air painting. Yet to contrast with the conservativeness and realism of his plein-air works, Sjovold also explored a very different style: working loosely from photographs he took near Brunswick, he painted several expansive, “confrontational” pieces to convey the feeling of a place rather than its visual appearance alone. “That painting, for instance, is much more about sound than anything else,” he said, pointing to a color-streaked canvas that seemed to be alive with the rushing waters of the Androscoggin River.
In Sjovold’s view, the evidence of his artist’s hand in the latter paintings is an appropriate way to convey the human influence that pervades nature today. Having grown up in southern California, he remembers being exposed early on to oil slicks on local beaches – one factor to which he attributes the environmental theme of his artwork. “They’re probably an equal proportion pleasure to angst,” he said of creating his works.
In addition to painting intensively, both indoors and out, over the course of his short-term residency at the College Sjovold gave an Oct. 8 artist talk and met with several drawing, painting, and photography classes classes (taught by art department faculty James Mullen, Mark Wethli, and Michael Kolster). Sjovold has recently completed residencies not only in Iceland but also at the Virginia Center for Creative Arts in Amherst, VA.