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MUNTHE ART MONDAY: Anne Gudrun Sejersen

Name: Anne Gudrun Sejersen

Please introduce yourself and what you do.

I am a trained artist with a degree in Fine Art Printmaking, art history and contextual stud-ies from Robert Gordon University, Gray´s School of Art, Scotland. However, since grad-uating I have mainly made a living by teaching Fine Art. My name is Anne Gudrun Sejersen.

I work in a wide variety of media. I especially enjoy making site specific work with a theme. For a few years I have been involved in a project called House vis-it/Hausbesuch/Husbesøg where a group of artists from Germany and Denmark make exhibitions in private homes and in business premises within a specific neighbourhood. It takes form as an event with a very short opening time, usually just a couple of days. Each artist gets a space allocated and transforms it in one way or the other.

I enjoy investigating a given problem and finding the story it is telling me. For example, what is important in this space and how does it relate to its surroundings and how can I best communicate my reflections of the life lived there combined with that which I find in-teresting and important? How much can I reveal without stepping over the line? Or how can I change this space, so that we see it with fresh eyes and from new angles? Transformation - opening up the world to others in order to point to that which I find important. It really is about finding and telling narratives which unite us. The process is often painful and also necessary and sometimes meditative. Once in a while I think I should just make something pretty - lovely decorations for peoples walls.

Being an artist can so easily become just about one’s own navel - a narcissistic explora-tion. Also the art world today is very much about money and one’s success is measured in how well the work sells. I think we need to be more socially conscious - look at the world around us and see our connection with it.

In a way I am attempting to reveal myself to others – i.e. by telling stories about myself and how I see the world – I try to make meaningful connections between my past experi-ences, the way I act and react in my present life and my conception of the future and how I would like to shape it. I hope to avoid the superficial. 

 What themes do you pursue in your art?

In my work, I use a collection of personal symbolic images (paper dolls, toys, candy wrappers, medical illustrations, children's drawings, objects, patterns, plants, textures, animals, etc.) as metaphors for perceptions and experiences. I like to experiment and explore new possibilities for combining the modern and the traditional. Making art is, for me, a research process where I seek to gain a greater understanding of life. My work is a reflection of my inner life and its relationship to the outer life. Art is the place where I can be most honest. It is a form of communication in which I share joys and sorrows in an at-tempt to express that you are not alone. I examine what we have in common as human beings, what is important to us, and what is it that makes life meaningful? I have a basic sensation that everyone and everything is connected.

I am preoccupied with the marks that perceptions and experiences leave in our minds, the imprint we get from our cultural heritage, and the way in which the "inherited" is seen in repetitions, assumes new forms or is forgotten about. All the signs, traces and marks that are remnants of one human being’s narrative - and our common narrative.

Balance, how nothing exists without it´s contrast and how we need to control the demons within us to thrive, repetitions, life cycles, the hidden and forgotten, layers under the fa-çade, transformation, reminiscence, the search for that which is important, all of these are also themes that I consciously or subconsciously consider in my work-process.

I do it to be a free person and becoming myself. To get rid of the story that is the women’s collective story about being in the traditional housewife norms and create my own story. How-ever, I get stuck in the duties and anxieties past onto me through previous generations and I try to get rid of it by examining why it is still sticking to me.

What is your ultimate goal for your artwork?

That we all are looking for a way of becoming and you are not alone in trying. Others share the same struggles and joys as you despite differences. We are not all so different after all and we all share rather similar dreams and hopes, sorrows and disappointments.

Actually I would be happy if I could make people open their eyes to the importance, beauty and mystique of something like a simple elder tree.  

What would you like people to notice in your work?

I hope they find something archetypical/universal. Something they can relate to even though we do not share the exact same experiences. That they sense a mood, a connec-tion, an atmosphere, feel touched or at least a bit of wonder which makes them question things. And that their world is a little bit bigger afterwards. I think that art is a way of com-municating which can open people’s minds and eyes to other people’s situation. Being able to use a media which successfully communicates one’s intention with one’s art so it has the impact one intends is a sign of making successful art.

Which other female (artist) inspires you and why?

Shirin Neshat is a contemporary artist which I admire. She was born in Iran in 1957 and lives in exile in New York, USA. I first came across her work at Documenta 11 in Kassel, Germany. It was her video installation called “Tooba”. I stayed in the room where it was shown and just looked at it for hours. She touched my inner core and I was mesmerized. It was a feeling of belonging and being in touch with the meaning of life, the inner core that runs through everything. It was an experience which made a deep impression and stayed with me. Her work is highly aesthetic and she puts a lot of effort into the form of her work. It is also deeply personal and takes it´s starting point in her own life and experiences. 

However, she manages to bring out the archetypical and be universal in the stories she is conveying. She makes work out of a necessity to tell stories and connect with people and she does it with integrity. When art makes you feel changed inside and you feel a greater insight of some kind then you have met great art. She is capable of just that. She often examines the life of women and the sacrifices they make to follow their dreams and passions. Her courage and determination to do that is what I find inspiring. This quest to keep examining, exploring and investigating the form, the media which best conveys her aesthetics and the themes she wants to bring to our attention. Also that she never be-comes navel gazing but unites people by finding that which we have in common and touches us through emotions. Her work is very socially conscious and ambiguous and can be interpreted in many ways. She truly goes against the superficial.

How has the art scene coped with the gender imbalance since you began your career? How could it still improve?

Equality’s biggest hindrance is that we think we have it. I started my career with the idea that I was an artist first and then a woman. And I have heard the argument: "when art by women’s is not being bought as frequently by the museums as art by men, it must be be-cause the quality is not as good". In fact, nothing has happened in the past twenty years according to statistics, when it comes to the art institutions' purchases. Although a fairly large percentage of the art students are women, it is still mainly the works by male artists the museums buy most of. In other professions with many women, it is not known to me that the female students after graduating are significantly inferior at their chosen profes-sion than their male colleagues. I have started to believe in gender quotas as a tempo-rary experiment because of this lack of change. The consequence is that a lot of voices are not heard and stories are not told or represented. I do not want quotas forever, but I would like it as a temporary method. It could be interesting to know what it does and if it matters to the audience that they are exposed to more art by women. Women are highly capable of creating communities and I think we need to strengthen the sense of commu-nities and belonging in the future. Life is richer when we are part of a community.

Historically women have not been allowed to express themselves with the same kinds of media as men, neither have they had access to art education. Therefore, clothes, make up and chores in the home such as sewing, weaving and embroidery have become the outlet/place where women could express themselves. Greve Museum's Hedebo collec-tion is an excellent example of this. 

We are not only divided by gender, but also by ethnicity and environment and diagnoses´ and age and ...? - Which stories should be defined as most important to tell? Quotas must be a time-limited experiment and then it must be reconsidered - again and again we have to think about and evaluate what can be done to create balance, equal rights and equal worth between all so-called groupings. When we take something for granted it might quickly disappear.

Each Monday MUNTHE brings you a new interview with a female artist. Follow the series at MUNTHE ART MONDAY.