The project had the working title Snotra’s vision, in honor of the goddess Snotra, associated with wisdom in Norse mythology. The word snotur in Icelandic has many meaning: wise, beautiful, nice or good. The word snyrta is derived from snotur and means to make nicer, to put in place or tidy up!
From 2009 –2011 I was studying and working on a series concerning the old Norse poem Hávamál. The poem is 164 verses, most likely of different origins. It is Odin’s guidelines to men on how to lead a happy and fulfilling life. The verses were gathered and written in the 12th century but are said to have existed before 1200 a.d. as rhymes that were sung or performed. That way the poem was preserved in the memory of the generations. The morals are quite manly and an interesting theory is that they were handed down from father to son.
Though some of the verses address very ancient morality, most, if not all of them are still valid today in my opinion. For both sexes!
Each picture is my interpretation of one of the 164 verses of Hávamál. Through my studies I´ve come up with a system of colours and symbols.
The paintings can be classified into 4 categories. Those are the four main values of importance and the keys to fulfillment according to Hávamál.
I have given each category a color, i.g. red for friendship, yellow for joy, green for wisdom and blue for independence. This is a key to read the pictures and when the viewer appreciates this, he also knows what the picture/verse is about. There are many symbols in the pictures. A bird is a symbol for cautiousness, a pine tree for love, a road for friendship, the spiral for reputation, the snail for loneliness, a rabbit for the hard working, a butterfly and a rainbow for joy and a goat for contentment.
The symbols give more detailed information about the subject of the verse in focus. The backpack is a symbol for experience and wisdom that one draws from it. The traveler is a common person in Hávamál. Symbolic for a man that travels through life and gains wisdom on his way. Also symbolic for Odin himself.
The often mentioned guest is implied by using chairs and cups and friends by the road. The wolf and a steaming kettle are the danger that can always be expected. Animals walking on the grass are a symbol for modesty and there are many more. In fact I have made a whole book of symbols!
On the back of every picture I write the verse that the painting is derived from and a definition of the symbols in the picture.
The paintings have the shape of an eye for two reasons. Firstly it is a reference to Odin. As the poem is his guide to men, we are reminded that he sacrificed one of his eyes to gain wisdom. The pictures are inspired by his vision and are my interpretation of one verse. This said I also chose this shape because this is the way we see out of our own eyes, our vision is formed by the eyelids. To me this is the natural shape for a canvas since this is the way we see the world around us, and also an interesting shape to work with.
All of Snotras painting are made with mixed media techniques and mixed methods. Meaning also mixed styles. I have been developing this method for over ten years. I combine old and modern print techniques with the painting process. I paint and draw on the canvas in layers. Also scrape it and make marks on it with all kind of tools to get the right surface. It is a messy and colorful process that brings out a subtle, yet deep and complex background. Then I paint and draw some more, often with water soluble paint and inks and at last print the symbols. Sounds colorful and expressive doesn’t it?
But this is not the case, as in Hávamál modesty is a virtue and I deliberately make the paintings smooth and light looking in their last stages, yet very strong in their modest expression.
I often get the question whether my work with this theme concerns only the old Norse religion. I must say that I don't consider it that way. To me the poems are mostly common sense that has lived with the Scandinavian and German folk through ages. And not only a German thing, I have found similar morality in all kinds of religion; Christianity, Islam and Buddhism share some of the morals. Their message is also sometimes found in old Greek tales and Latin sayings. So I do believe that most of them are profound moral groundings that I find extremely interesting to base my work upon.
eye shaped canvas