About Elin Glærum Haugland

Elin Glærum Haugland

Whispers from Sensations, Nature and the Unknown

I am a visual artist based in Oslo, Norway. Throughout my life I have felt a strong connection with plants and nature. I remember from walks in the nearby forest as a child, that the flowers touched ’something’ deep within me. Growing up, the forest has been like a shelter, a place to exist freely and breathe, co-exist with the soil, plants, insects, animals, trees and sky. I have felt that there needs to be something more to all of this, more than what we can see and hear, and that one of many clues to this lie in the feeling sense that we are all born with. In my experience, there are many layers to this reality that seem invisible, but it does not mean they are not there. For instance, I am thinking about the mystery of social chemistry, subtle or strong vibrations between people, plants and animals. Emotions and sensations rising in us, between us – this all creates invisible landscapes that we can sense that we are ‘in’ or moving through. I am interested in and trying to grasp these inner and outer fields visually and emotionally through experiencing, studying and painting them. This kind of sums up what my art practice is investigating. I am questioning what it means to be a human being, what it holds and what possibilities still rest there, undiscovered. In this way, I see myself as an instrument of senses. How is my body and my mind perceiving itself and its surroundings if I place myself in one environment compared to another?

Since finishing my studies in 2014, I have been working on a project looking into the use of natural mineral colors in different cultures who have a deep connection with nature. I have traveled to the Amazon jungle in Peru and Brazil, Palawan in the Philippines, pacific islands like Easter Island, Tahiti, Samoa and New Zealand, as well as forests and mountains in Norway. In each place I have visited museums of cultural heritage as well as meeting with people and nature, to get a sense of the local cosmovision, visual art expression and traditional use of natural color pigments.

Some of my questions have been: Regarding people who live close with or in nature and who express themselves artistically using materials from nature. How do these people see the human being in the whole puzzle of the planet, the Universe? What part do we play? What part are we meant to play? What are we? What are we really capable of perceiving? The journeys have provided me with different perspectives that challenge the western viewpoint I grew up in.

Painting in nature, with nature itself, gives me a sense of connection with the land and surrounding flora. In the process of making a painting, I sometimes feel like nature is conveying secrets to me as I paint, and allowing me to serve as a voice for nature. Then it feels like what appears on the canvas is a visual translation of these secrets, like an abstract language of patterns and shapes. When I paint in different places, the shapes and patterns in my paintings change from place to place. This causes me to ask myself, what if the common visual expressions used by local artists and crafts makers who live close with nature in different parts of the world, has something to do with the land on which they have been made? There are no clear answers to my questions. This is the sphere I like to create works from, from a space of possibilities. I see painting as a way of diving into the
unknown. During the period of home isolation due to the global pandemic, we are many who are finding ourselves in the midst of uncertainty. For me, the term of ’the unknown’ has become even more important. For the first time in my life, I have felt that I am standing still in this moment. The here, the now. The recent past looks different than the past I am used to, and the future can ́t be planned and controlled to the extent it normally could. As soon as this strange time was a fact, I felt a need to dive into the unknown of my own self, using painting as a tool. I have been painting to try to find expressions that reflect back to me what is happening on the inside and subconsciously. It is a series of acrylic paintings on paper. For this series, I needed a larger and more vivid color scale than the natural pigments offer. Still, some of the paintings have a mix of acrylic paint and found pigments from the areas surrounding my home.