Trine Berntsen is a 42 years old artist from Bergen, Norway. She has 3 children at the age of 9, 12 & 15. and is newly divorced.
I work permanent full-time as a «Facilities and Operation officer»at a Chr.michelsens Institute. A researchers institute that address issues that shape global developments and generate knowledge that can be used to fight poverty, advance human rights, and promote sustainable social development.
I am a self-taught painter. I started seriously painting in 2017. It has become my passion in life and I love to create and be in my bubble. It gives me so much pleasure, joy, and self-confidence.I mostly paint on the evenings when I have the time. I sell about two paintings a month approximately.I paint on mostly big canvas as 1*1 m. I love to do art that is not necessarily beautiful, but shakes people and makes people think or feel. I’m doing a very cool project now for one of our researchers for a project called «war and fun». He is doing a reaserch on how soldiers use humor in war. The first of two paintings I am making is from a real story of a soldier from Iraq, who lives in the US now. I did an interview with him and he told me his story about when he was kidnapped/captured by Isis. The picture came out very strong and the strong story makes the whole picture very special.
Lisa: Hi Trine! For all of the people who are new to your work, tell us a little about yourself.
Trine: Hello! My name is Trine Berntsen. I am a 42-year-old artist from Norway.
I have three wonderful children at the ages of 9, 12, and 15, that I love above all. I have a full-time day job as Facilities and Operations Officer, at a Research Institute. Here I am surrounded by amazing colleagues that make my everyday life happier. I love to run, swim or hike in the mountains that surround our beautiful city of Bergen.
I am very social and love to spend time with my family and friends. My life is quite busy, but I like that. I need it to be creative. Getting impulses from the way I live helps my creative process.
Lisa: You’ve started painting in 2017, and that is hard to believe because your work is amazing. How did it happen, was it a lightbulb moment or something else?
Trine: I have always loved to paint. I remember my teacher at school showed my paintings for the others-not because they necessarily were so beautiful, but they were creative. I never found the time or the creativity to go deeper into it and to be honest, I didn’t think I had it in me. I think I came to a place in life where I needed more to happen and didn’t feel fulfilled in many ways. My kids got bigger and more independent and I could focus more on the things I wanted to do for myself in life. And there were a lot of creative projects in my head that I wanted to put down on a canvas. It started with some brushing paintings and I showed it to people. I got positive fedbacks and I thought that was fun, so I got the motivation to continue and started painting and experimenting with different techniques. I did lots of abstracts, but have now found love in painting figurative.
Lisa: Tell us about your artwork, medium, style, subject matter etc.
Trine: I like to paint on a big canvas. The bigger, the better. But normally I paint on 3D Canvas 1×1 m.
I paint with acrylic paint. It’s contemporary art that symbolizes emotions. I love the dark art style. I like my art not to necessarily be so beautiful and perfect. I want to make people think and feel something, not only beautiful when they look at my art. I never answer when people ask me who I have painted or what it means. The reason is that I want people to study it, think and feel and make up their own minds. It’s my picture, but you own the feeling you get by looking at it.
Lisa: You say you are working on a very cool project now, and it involves a soldier from Iraq. How do you paint a story to a canvas, what is the process?
Trine: I think it is important to find the essence of the story that makes people understand what you want to convey. In this specific case, I had to combine war and fun, which is the name of the research project. It’s a very difficult aspect to know in the first place, and even harder to put on a canvas and make people understand what’s going on. In my first picture which includes the Iraqi soldier, I did an interview with him on facetime. I got in touch with him true my good friend from the US who studied to be a pilot together with this man. We arranged a facetime meeting and talked for 1.5 hours. He moved me deeply. Not only his story but also him as a person. A beautiful and calm soul, that had gone thru brutal things in life, but was now in a very good place. He wants to stay anonymous. I got a strong true story from this Iraqi fighter pilot who had been captured by ISIS. He told me the brutal story of him being tortured and then put down into a dungeon with other prisoners. They got to know when they would be killed and how. They were just sitting there waiting for the day to come. Every day the ISIS was coming down to the dungeon, to pick up one soldier to kill. And every day they came and presented the dead body for the prisoners so that they could see what was waiting for them and that they were serious. I asked the difficult question “if and how did you manage to use humor in such a dark place”. And he answered,” the human mind works like this- when you know you are going to die, you want to tell someone your story. And mostly the happy sides of your storys”. Because of his calming, trustworthy and listening personality, he became the person in the group that everybody used as a therapist and they told him their story. And they laughed… So the painting is supposed to reflect him sitting there with his mind and thought, head hidden under a bag ISIS placed on him, while listening to his friend telling his story and laughing-holding his own skull in his hand, knowing he will die. And his neck is already half-cut and bleeding, but he still laughs. I feel I managed to put his strong story to the canvas and at the same time show the world that, yes we use humor also in the darkest places, for fun but also for surviving.
Lisa: What is a day of working like in your studio? Do you have any rituals that help you get motivated or in “the zone”?
Trine: It most likely finds a place in the evening, and I need to be in a place where I will not be disturbed. I put on my painting clothes, put on a music list called “listening” which has almost only sing and songwriters, classical music, or acapella music. I light candles and I look at photos or think of people that make me start my creative process in my mind.
Lisa: You also work at a research institute that focuses on poverty, human rights and promote sustainable social development. How does your art help with the work and vice versa?
Trine: We address issues that shape global development and generate knowledge that can be used to fight poverty, promote human rights and promote sustainable social development. I strive to be grateful to live in a rich welfare state like Norway and work in a company that works with such incredibly important themes, goals, and values. My company conducts research on how we can make the world better for those who are not as well off as us in first-world countries. This is something I try to take with me and bring into my paintings. I have an opinion that all people on earth are fighting their battle and must be allowed to feel a little sorry for themselves, but at the same time not to forget to be grateful for the good you have. I think this helps to make you happier as a human being and survive. In my art, I try to express good and bad feelings everyone feels, regardless of race, ethnicity, and gender. I listen to the stories from the people our researchers are studying and I try to find the similarities in them and us. But also take in the brutal life they live and the small problems I struggle with compared to people living in poverty, war, and distress.
Lisa: What is the most recent piece or project you’ve enjoyed working on, and why?
Trine: The recent project I worked on was a tough painting for my uncle John. He wanted a rather small canvas where he wanted me to interpret the Utøya tragedy that occurred, in my artistic way. The Oslo and Utøya attacks in 2011, also called the July 22 attacks, terrorist attacks on Oslo and the island of Utøya in Norway on July 22, 2011, in which 77 people were killed – the deadliest incident on Norwegian soil since World War II.
Lisa: Do you ever experience creative blocks? And if yes, how do you overcome it?
Trine: Oh yes I do. I sometimes take a pause. But mostly I just paint over and over again, until I get to where I want. It can make me in an angry state of mind when I don’t make it. It’s frustrating, but on the other hand, I love to see the result. That’s an amazing fulfilling feeling to go from “this will never work”, to “wow did I really paint this?!”
Lisa: Share some interesting facts about your art with us.
Trine: I hide signs in my art that are a part of me. For example, I may incorporate a scar, an emotion, or a story into my work. I have art that is named after hidden messages in the painting. I have art that has paintings that I didn’t make on purpose, but it just occurred and it makes the painting exceptional for me.
Lisa: Who are a few artists/people that really inspire you right now, and why?
Trine: I am really inspired by my art fellows that I follow from my Instagram account “threeneart”. I also love to look at Pinterest and in art books etc. I love to be inspired by other artists. If I would have to pull someone forward I would say, Christian Hetzel, Christophe Hohler, Eric Lacombe, Michelle Petrelli.
Lisa: Do you see your art as serving a purpose beyond art?
Trine: I definitely see my art as a serving purpose because it gives people joy and time for reflection when they study it. It makes them dream away from their daily life and into another place where only dreams, thoughts, and feelings don’t matter- they can think and feel whatever they want and that’s the beauty of art.
Lisa: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Trine: I see myself happy in my life as I am now, but also discovered by the world of art and selling more art so that I can afford to make even more good art. I have moved into my own house and maybe found the love of my life and my kids are healthy and happy. Maybe I have more exhibitions and have a famous name. Mark my name people “Trine”😉