Thin line between humor and truth with Georg Oskar

Brief moments in time, the everyday, inspire the nuanced humor of Icelandic painter Georg Óskar. Glimpses into the human condition; the sweet, the mundane, the ironic. With a rough brushstroke and a murky color palette, Óskar’s works convey a sense of blunt scrutiny, a naturally evolved, stylized form that personifies his subject matter. Never one for belittling or judgement, Óskar’s portrayals present a sometimes thin line between humor and truth.

With a distinct twist on his subject matter, Óskar explores life. Relatable and real, Óskar offers his sometimes sarcastic, but always genuine observations of our existence.

AMM: Although you currently live in Berlin, you are originally from Iceland. How have these two very different landscapes inspired your work?

GO: I just moved to Berlin, I love it here. The city has a nice vibe to it and I can get so many new experiences from living here. I really look forward to the summer, I hear Berlin is different in the summer. I had never been in Germany before I moved so I don’t know! First experiences are always fun and fresh. There are a lot of painters who come from Germany, who I have followed for some time; I knew there was a big creative scene here, which is something I need now. Iceland! I am from the north part, a town called Akureyri, which is where I have done most of my paintings. It’s a friendly isolation to live in Iceland, with nature just a step away, but at the same time you are never too far away from family and friends, and there is something beautiful about that. That has always had an impact on my work and mind set. I guess I am in Berlin now to get spoiled, let’s hope in a positive way.

AMM: You started experimenting with painting at a young age, how would you say your style has developed as you have grown and evolved in your work?          

GO: When I first started painting some years back I just liked to paint abstract, minimal, figurative and so on. I have been through several styles of painting. I just wanted to paint, it felt good and because of that it felt right. Make something. Mix colors and shapes. Now I am thinking of more personal things, I like to use painting as an expression of my thoughts and inner dialog in some way. Something which means something to me or makes me wonder about something. When you have done something for years, your style will show up. Because you have done a little bit of this and a little bit of that. As long as I can work, the style will continue to develop. I am a bit more picky now I guess, I have a more clear vision for my work; it has this common aroma to it now.

AMM: Although your work is figurative, your style lends itself to a more crooked representation, how has this developed?

GO: I have taken a little bit of everything into my work, less of this and more of that. I just try to do the things that interest me. Driven by gut feeling, which often leads to these crooked figures. I also like awkward things. Something which is not right, but works. “Something which is not right, but works”, even this sentence is crooked! I have a hard time doing something totally right. Whatever that could be and means, because of that I have to find out my own world of right and wrong. The current representation of my work is the best thing I can do right now. I give myself the freedom to work raw and quickly on some pieces and more on others.

AMM: Much of your work is narrative, but the subject matter is so versatile, what usually inspires these pieces?

GO: I like making stories, I absorb something from each day, and the pieces of information that interest me can be so different from each other. That is what I bring to my studio work, moments I had or someone else’s; something I read on the internet or saw on the streets. All of these small happenings are my material bank, so to speak. Because of that, the paintings look different from each other as well. If they all look semi-similar, I would feel as if I was talking about the same story again and again. As I am using life as my main resource, I have an endless amount of things I like to comment on.

AMM: Many of these narratives seem like social observation, but there are also aspects of political commentary?

GO: I have a long distance relationship with politics, but sometimes I call and say Hi. We always have super awkward conversations, but they generate good material for me.

AMM: Some of the work feels humorous, but slyly so, how do you incorporate this nuanced element?

GO: Humor is important to me, in every side of life. Keeps me positive and not that serious all   of the time. It’s an important element in a fast growing world. There are certain things that I feel attracted to: how things can be viewed; what to take seriously and what not; what matters; why it matters to someone, to me. If you laugh at something, and you were not supposed to do so, what happens then. If I manage to laugh a little bit while making a piece, that’s perfect. If I am entertained, very likely, someone else will be as well. But it’s okay to be laughing alone too, that gives it maybe the extra twist, and it becomes slyly funny at the same time.

AMM: The titles offer an additional necessary factor to your work, seemingly intentional in meaning and significance, how do you construct them in conjunction with your work?

GO: I look at the titles more or less like an extra layer on my work, more tools in the box. It is about getting my meaning or feelings told in the most honest way, or with a wider spectrum. It’s part of my process; to paint and ask questions, an internal dialog. Asking questions leads to answers.

Sometimes I write on the piece, I use that for the same reasons; to capture the right feeling for the work. For example, a painting I did recently is of Superman wearing his red cape and blue clothes and he is petting a cat. His face is kind of sad but silly cute at the same time, the expression on the cat is more surprised, more like: what is this guy all about, why is he here, why is he petting me and talking to me? Written text on the painting is “Hi my name is Superman”, the person in the painting is explaining to the cat who he is, the cat should not worry, he is here now and he is a hero. I think this is a beautiful moment. Honest and innocent but at the same time a bit twisted.

AMM: Can you tell us more about your color palette and the process in which you choose these colors?

GO: I usually use a muddy and muted palette, I clean my brushes usually after I finish a piece so the palette gets infected from the process. The palette is a result of my working process we can say. Comes naturally to me.

AMM: Finally, what are some future plans you have for your work? Any experiments with a new medium or subject matter?

GO: I see the narrative come out from the canvas in the future, for example sculptures, installations, text pieces. I have done some of them before. That is something to think about. Painting will always be my main pal, I have this relationship with it, which I love very much.

Find out more about the artist: www.georgoskar.com

Interview by Chase Dougherty for ArtMaze Mag.