Norwegian master painter and album cover designer Truls Espedal
Imagination has no limits and Truls Espedal knows it. As one of the most promising painters emerging from the current Norwegian contemporary art scene he’s a living proof of the creative capabilities of the human mind. His paintings are usually focused on hyper realistic details of the human body that set the tone for haunting, dream-like atmospheres. His unique sensibility seems to speak about the human condition from a very introverted and almost surreal perspective. On top of that, Espedal (who studied at UK’s Kent Institute of Art and Design andhas been exhibiting his works for more than a decade) is also known for his striking covers for Norwegian metalers ENSLAVED. He’s been collaborating with them non-stop for more than a decade now, gaining reputation as one of the of most unique cover designers out there. Let’s see what he had to say about his style and career in this relatively short but very informative interview.
HMA: Do you remember how your interest for visual arts began? How old are you now?
Truls Espedal: I can’t really remember any specific period or year when I became interested in visual arts. I think the interest has always been there. When I was a kid I often had an urge to draw what I saw around me, especially things that fascinated me. It could be everything from animals(including humans) and nature to objects and architecture.
From then on, the interest has only grown and the paper and canvas have become my space for contemplation, fascination, frustration, escape, anger and satisfaction.
HMA: If you have any, what artists or visual genres can you mention as influences?
Truls Espedal: Influences for me do not necessarily come from other visual arts, but I do look at the work of other painters like Bouguereau, Rembrandt and so on. I like to look at their technique and their use of skin tones etc.. I’ve also been in love with movies through the years, and often think of my paintings as still frames from a longer sequence. At least that is part of my progress in creating a finished image; Thinking about the subject in a bigger picture.
HMA: How would you describe your painting style, especially nowadays?
Truls Espedal: Hmmm…In a historical perspective my work could, at least to some extent, fit in with Figurative art and Realism, but added some surrealism and symbolism.
HMA: Is there any particular technique that you prefer to use to paint?
Truls Espedal: For the last 7,5 year or so I’ve been working with acrylic paint. It has been good, but over the years my technique and understanding of color have evolved. The acrylic paint as a medium became more and more limited, resulting in a switch from acrylics to oil painting just a few months ago. So my first official oil painting is actually the front cover for Enslaved’s “RIITIIR“.
This change felt liberating, as oils have a much slower drying rate and intensity in color. I’m now able to ‘sculpt’ a lot more and get smother transitions more easily.
HMA: Do you approach any different your more personal pieces than the work you do for cover artworks?
Truls Espedal: When I work on personal pieces it’s all me. There are no limits or other people’s ideas, views or work to consider. This is something that I really appreciate, but I also enjoy working for other people with given themes and within formats once in a while. It can be challenging, but that’s part of the attraction.
HMA: Do you think that your work for bands like Enslaved has opened new doors to to reach new audiences and for new professional opportunities?
Truls Espedal: Yes. The artwork, especially the work for Enslaved, has given me an opportunity to get my work out to a broader audience. With Enslaved there has always been a focus on the artwork, which has increased over the years. They release their music in all formats(the vinyl being my favorite), they use the artwork heavily on stage, on the web and they even do press releases solely on the artwork!
It has also opened a few doors, but the goal has never been to make a career in illustration/graphic design. I find it challenging and fun at the same time, but it is not my main focus. I’ve done some covers for a few other bands and had some requests that I’ve turned down, but Enslaved is one of the few bands I continue to work with.
All the attention is great and some people will check out my private projects/work through Enslaved, but it is two separate worlds.
HMA: All painters/designers have different methods to convert a painting on a digital image. Could you briefly describe yours?
Truls Espedal: I take digital photos of the painting. Then I’m able to get it into Photoshop for cropping and the necessary adjustments before it is ready for printing.
HMA: Could you tell about your current projects nowadays besides album covers?
Truls Espedal: I’m not sure if it can really be called a project, but I’m working on 10 new oil paintings. I’m in a transition period nowadays, expanding my ‘universe’ in both objects and subject. Oil painting is also quite new to me, so I’m in some kind of learning mode at the moment as well.
All of these paintings portray the human body as usual, but the surroundings have more to it now. The inclusion of more elements opens up for a wider symbolic language. I’m also trying to express feelings and subjects that lay in the ‘grey’ area, rather than the more instant ones. It’s a challenge but ever more rewarding if a piece turn out successfully.
I would like to think there is a red thread through all of my work, maybe a bit disjointed, but nonetheless. The work is all about the Human condition and all the paintings fit in with the working title I have for a future exhibition; ‘Perfect Human’.
Interview by Ramon Martos Garcia – Copyright 2013 © Heavy Music Artwork.