Artist Ørnulf Opdahl’s exhibit on display at Nordic Heritage Museum, June 28-Sept. 1

Publish date: August 2, 2013

Ballard News-Tribune

From Norway to Washington, the mood of nature comes to light

Whether it’s capturing the last sun rays reflecting off the Sunmøre Mountains or the flickering city lights of Godøy, Norway’s Ørnulf Opdahl, contemporary landscape artist, embodies the essence of his hometown in his collection of oil paintings.

From June 28 to Sept. 1, Opdahl’s “Mood Paintings of the North” artworks are on display at the Nordic Heritage Museum –- Opdahl’s first solo exhibition in the U.S.

Using only a few darkly defined lines, Opdahl depicts the simplicity of light of his surroundings. Light in nature is what inspires Opdahl’s work.

“It’s just like that. A strong light against a mountain and it moves you,” Opdahl said. “What I try to express is a special light from a distance and the light is produced by the climate and the nature coming together. I like to play along the edge of abstract.”

After living in Oslo for 10 years to study and teach art, Opdahl knew he wanted to return to his hometown on the Western coast of Norway to capture the mood of the glaciers, fjords and dramatic cliff faces he grew so fond of.

When he comes across the perfect view, he takes sketches and creates a mental image, which he takes back to his studio in Godøy, where he lives and works and envisions the final product.

“I use a long time for every paintings. It’s a technique; it’s a process,” he said. “Something you see for a few minutes then it’s gone.”

Opdahl describes himself as a “melancholic person.” But, to him, it’s not a sad thing. Instead, he believes it helps him express himself through his art.

“My purpose is to (have) people to feel this desire,” Opdahl said. “You have a mood for the nature. It mirrors, in a way, your mind. You can find that in the moods of the paintings, but I think melancholy is a good thing to be because you are going deep into your thoughts and emotions.”

Because the area where he lives experiences long, dark winters, many of his works are painted with blacks and grays, but that only makes the sharp, white contrast of the light stand out.

While showcasing a well-known Norwegian landscape artist, Dr. Lizette Gradén, chief curator of the museum, said another reason she decided to bring Opdahl’s work to the museum was the comparable environments between Washington and Norway.

“If you look at his paintings, you say, ‘Well, these are dark.’ But really it’s about light,” Gradén said. “That’s another aspect that’s similar to the Pacific Northwest. The cold, the wetness, the rain. And (we’re) very exposed to nature and that’s what he captures.”

Opdahl isn’t too concerned with his audience deciphering the specific location in his paintings. In the end, it’s the emotions that he feels when he first sees the sight he hopes to convey.

“I’m not so concerned with the accuracy of the geographical location, but the mood, the colors,” he said. “It’s not the exact place, but it is the exact place.”

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