Kristine Fornes

Text by Dr Jessica Hemmings


"Taking a line for a walk," is how the Swiss painter Paul Klee described drawing. If anyone were to anthropomorphise Norwegian artist Kristine Fornes' drawings for the sake of Klee's walk, then my guess would be Whippets: elegant, swift and slightly mischievous. Like sophisticated graffiti, Fornes brings alive a playful cast of cartoon-like characters to populate a magical world.
Fornes "illustrates personal histories about people" drawn from domestic life around her. She transfers her delicate sketches from paper to silk or cotton, piecing together discrete elements and embellishing selected passages with embroidery. Often the entire surface is dyed or painted with colours the kitchen provides: coffee, fruit juice or syrup. Suffused with child-like innocence, each walking line captures the personality, mood and emotion of moments that may otherwise litter the day unnoticed. While everyday situations are recorded, so too are what Fornes explains as "characters carrying out shady business, odd small scale-transactions and conspiracies." The narratives that result may feel familiar, but they do not exist in any storybook you have read before.
As though seeing through a child's eyes, Fornes gives us insight into a humorously awkward world where make-believe and reality can combine. Norwegian national costume, genealogy and parish-history books are inspiration. So too are the life-style magazines that "show us the way to live, how to sit, how to stand, how to hold a bag or a fork, how to stand while you are using the vacuum cleaner." Collaged together, they represent humorous, elegant sketches of a world only partially our own.

Dr Jessica Hemmings
Associate Director
Centre for Visual & Cultural Studies
Edinburgh College of Art

Initially published in Bloom 18 Enchanted, Edelkoort Editions, September 2008