J a n u a r y   2 0 0 6

Sketch Pad

Tore Djupedal
Defying gravity
by Kathy Anderson

orn in a small town in Norway, Tore Djupedal moved to the states with his mother and siblings when he was four; his father was already there as the Statue of Liberty greeted them. Tore remembers going to the Empire State Building and wandering around the canyons of Manhattan holding his father's hand. Tore grew up in Ohio but has lived in many places: Fort Lauderdale, Santa Fe, Chicago, Los Angeles, Albuquerque, Miami and Big Pine Key. He also spent a good deal of time in Canada and Europe. Tore and his wife, Tanja, landed in Eugene, Ore., in March 2004. Their 15-month-old twin boys, Rembrandt and Romeo, were born in Portland, which the family now calls home.

The ground floor
Tore Djupedal has experimented with nearly all mediums in his artwork, though painting in oils has been his mainstay. Sculpturally, he's worked with clay, steel, stone, wood, blown glass, bronze and discarded plastics. In two dimensions, he's tried acrylic, watercolor, pencil, pen and ink, oil stick, gouache, pastels and house paint.

"There was a period when I worked with fresco buono," he said. "This led to an interest in powdered pigment.

"Beyond the Black Hole"

"Initially I used it on canvas with acrylic gel. I next tried powdered pigment with gel on various fabrics, including burlap – sometimes mixed with sawdust and other debris.

"After a few years I went back to oils and added areas of gold, silver or copper leaf during the mid- to late-'90s."

When Tore moved to Oregon, he made the decision to work on the floor. At the time it seemed like a big step, but he now realizes he'd actually been inching his way toward it for years.

"Painting with thin washes of oil since taking a fresco workshop back in 1985 had channeled me toward a looser paint application," he said. "I poured paint. I dripped using brushes or containers. I launched golf balls into the wet canvas. I tried compressed air. I was learning to work with gravity.

"One common technique is to let the wet paint run and then turn the canvas over to reverse the process or halt the drip. Often I laid the canvas flat to work certain areas or shapes. This constant handling of the canvas became increasingly impractical on the larger stretched pieces. The main reason I hadn't switched to the floor earlier was that I was uncomfortable with the limited distance I could get away from the canvas to work."


Separate but equal
Despite this, Tore went ahead and moved to the floor. He also began using latex and alkyd house paints because of their liquidity and relative economy. His palette and paint handling appeared to change dramatically.

In addition, he went back to working on fabrics – starting with plaids, bold floral prints or lizard and snakeskin as background for his paint.

"I used blatant commercial patterns," he said. "I found fabrics that I felt would mix well with the loose, gestural strokes. I tried to separate my new work from what I had done before. New work for a new place.

"Looking at those pieces now I see that some of them are very strong, very tight. The fabric and paint complement each other handsomely. In the best of them there is a seamless interplay between paint and fabric, which allows each partner to support the other in the manner of a duet."

Shadow box
Due to this painting technique, the obvious comparisons of Tore's work to Jackson Pollock's are inevitable.

"Pollock made such a massive creative leap in his time that everyone who handles paint in a similar fashion is forced to stand in his shadow," he said. "That is the curse. On the other hand anyone who knows Pollock, even if from cartoons, can reference his painting and feel a familiarity or kinship to my work that might otherwise not exist."


Since moving to Portland Tore has continued with this technique but replaced the patterned cloth with strong solid colors and, most recently, a return to canvas. The newest pieces also incorporate a field of letters with the overall stick-and-drip technique he's been using.

"Words are created using international currency symbols as letters," he said. "This gives them just enough juice to be fairly unreadable. That, coupled with the additional veils of paint on top, completes the picture. I spell out my anger or frustration or joy in a very specific set of words yet the meaning remains private and personal. Just another code."

In 2004 Tore took classes in oil portraiture and figure painting, primarily as an exercise and because he loves the old masters.

"The technique was very traditional, yet geared toward quick results – a blend of old and new school. I reined in my expressionist impulses and tried to absorb as much technique as possible. It was great fun and I learned much in the process," he said.

Just a moment
As a result, Tore went back to basics in his approach to oils. Early last year he began staying home to take care of his sons. Since he was unable to work on large pieces at home he also began to paint still life.

"Two Pears"

"I did mainly apples and other fruit but had several forays into more contemporary subject matter," he said. "Some of these pieces I've shown at a small space on Southeast Hawthorne and another on North Mississippi.

"It might seem that the combination of my neo abstract expressionist minimalist pop and old-master still life just doesn't add up. My sculptures range from bronze abstractions to recycled plastic narrative and, if you throw in the slick computer-based imagery that I generate on my Mac, then surely I must be schizophrenic."

It's actually Tore's reaction to the here and now. Given the massive image flow in the world around us, he cannot help but to respond in kind. To a lesser degree, it's determined by the methodology and medium he's employing at any given moment.

"We are barraged by images all day, every day," he said. "The idea that one's style should be frozen into a single linear train of thought is both outmoded and repressive.

"That said, I believe my concerns are much the same regardless of the material with which I choose to work: My place in the world. A need for beauty and truth, not always simultaneously. Integrity. Humor. Heat. Love. Life. Death."

Give and take
Tore's list of favorite artists is extensive and all have influenced him in some way: Rembrandt and Carravagio for their drama and sense of light. The Flemish painters for their humanity. Gaugin, Van Gogh and Matisse for color. Picasso for grand vision. Fra Angelico for humility and abstract reality. Arp and Duchamp for humor and absurdity. Munch for emotion. Agnes Martin for steadfastness. Pollock for freedom. Keifer for integrity. Anish Kapoor for simple beauty. Bueys and Warhol for irreverence. Judd and Michelangelo for purity. Koons and Schnabel for bombastic ego.


"I get a little bit here, a little bit there," he said. "The ideas come from anywhere ... a snippet of conversation, a book, a cloud. Sometimes they lie dormant for years, decades even, and then spring forth. Others arrive fully formed.

"Most often it is an improvisational give and take with the canvas, paint and myself.

"I still like to work in 3D from time to time but currently it's for my own pleasure," he said. "It is in some sense a personal pursuit. I'm sure I'll turn to it again in the broader sense, too."

Eye to eye
Because Tore's family is in the process of buying a house, he recently gave up his studio. In the meantime, he's temporarily working out of a garage. He also has not shown his work much in the past few years.

"The reasons are many," he said. "I've moved several times cross-country. I've been traveling. Building a new life. Having kids.

"To be brutally honest, it may be due to my frustration and relative lack of success with the artist-to-gallery-to-collector paradigm. It forces everyone to be a salesman and marketing genius rather than a good artist. The best artists are defined by the market savvy. Some will say that's sour grapes. Partly true. But, I go to a gallery or a recently opened museum and see the work. A few pieces are very good. Most are mediocre at best. Should this make me happy? I know that my work is as good and better. Isn't that what an art education trained me to see? So what to do? Keep working. Keep looking for that one dealer with a true eye. Be in the right place at the right time."


Tore does have a tiny gallery space at 1515 NW 18th Avenue, between Quimby and Raleigh on the west side of the street. He used to call it the Skinny Room because he's able to hang only one very large canvas at a time. He recently changed the name to the Tore Djupedal Gallery.

"I try to change the pieces on a weekly basis and will continue doing so," he said. "In that sense I'm always showing my work."

Childhood scribbling
As a child, Tore was always drawing or playing with Lincoln Logs, an Erector Set, Play-Doh and an Etch-a-Sketch. He attended a few art classes where he made animals and other objects with clay.

"I still have a little black horse as well as a lot of drawings from that time," he said. "It's uncanny how closely some of my adult work resembles the scribbling of my childhood."

Tore and his siblings received plenty of encouragement from their parents, always visiting museums on their yearly vacations. Eventually, all but Tore gravitated toward music. One sister is an opera singer and voice teacher, the other a pianist. His brother runs a museum in Norway, plays guitar and writes.

"Although neither parent was an artist per se, they both expressed their creativity in many ways," he said. "My mother knitted intricately patterned woolen sweaters, socks and mittens for the family. In the early years she occasionally sold her sweaters. She also tried her hand at ceramics and watercolor from time to time. Both played the organ and piano."

Tore's father was an engineer.

"He had a wonderful touch with a pen," Tore said. "He used to joke that he couldn't think straight without a pencil in his hand. At the end of his career he designed both a new steel mill and a containerized shipping facility but was equally skilled with more intimate projects. While we were young he showed us how to carve and work with wood, something he passed on to us from his own father, a master carver. The last thing he made was a lovely cherrywood dining room table."

Vertical hold
Tore took only one art class in high school. Afterwards he returned to Norway for a year and made a conscious decision to become an artist. He went to Ohio State University and earned his BFA. He taught for three years at the Canton Art Institute, but found that it took so much time to be a competent teacher that there was none left for his own art, so he gave up teaching.

"Get Mad at Them Eggs"

"Ever since I was a young man I wanted nothing else but to be an artist," he said. "It seemed at that time like the finest kind of life. Creating objects of beauty and passion. A life of freedom. Intelligent articulate people. The ability to move vertically through society. Was it Freud who said 'fame, fortune and beautiful lovers'? Something like that. A young man's reasons."

Now Tore creates art because he can't stop. He may go months without making a piece but then something comes over him and the work starts to pour out again. A new train of thought calls forth a series of new images.

"It's as if they pile up in my brain and then the sheer weight of them collapses whatever scaffolding holds them in place and they tumble down onto the floor," he said.

"I believe I will keep working forever. My goal now is to have the means to provide for my family and still be able to fully realize any piece of which I conceive. My dream is to create one true masterpiece."

E-mail Tore at tre700@msn.com. You can reach Kathy at kanderson138@comcast.net, and draw on other Sketch Pads.

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