Chasing the Nordic Light

Sofie Børsting

ENIITO detectives: Chasing the Nordic light in art, culture and design

Did you know that Nordic capitals as Copenhagen, Stockholm, Reykjavik and Helsinki are closer to the North Pole than to Los Angeles, Tokyo and Johannesburg?
Life on – practically – top of the world is only possible due to the Gulf Stream’s lukewarm currents coming all the way from the Gulf of Mexico.
This rather up-north-in-the-middle-of-nowhere-location has brought us northerners closer to nature, the sky and the light – this is the stuff that Nordic art, culture and design come from.

Tracking down Nordic Light in painting, arts and illustrations
The curious, art- and design loving people at ENIITO decided to focus their magnifying-glasses and track down distinctive features in painting, arts and illustrations from our Northern top of the world.
With a number of impacts in Nordic art during the last century, we will investigate how the Nordic light, the weather, the landscape and the climate have been – and still are a – major source of inspiration for Scandinavian artists and designers .

Sofie Børsting and P.S Krøyer – miniature nature meets the grandiose landscapes
Among Nordic artists from the 19th Century the artworks of the Danish painter P.S Krøyer (1851-1909) was influenced by the French Impressionists and developed a Nordic variation by combining portrait- and landscape painting in a unique way.
As a master of sun- and moonlight Krøyer with an almost photographic technique reproduced the Nordic nature quite as it was, right there in the moment.

P.S. Krøyer: Hipp hipp hurra!

P.S. Krøyer: Hipp hipp hurra!

If we look closely at works as Hip, Hip, Hurrah! we see an impressive accuracy in the way light and shadow pulsate in the leafs around the people celebrating, on the table and in their clothing – we can almost feel the silk in the dresses.
The same goes for the impressive details in the picture Summer Day at the South Beach of Skagen. 
The way the waves turn in towards the beach, the sunlight reflects in the water and light and shadow in the many small footprints or indentations in the sand.

P.S. Krøyer Summerday at Sønderstrand Skagen

P.S. Krøyer: Summerday at Sønderstrand Skagen, 1884

In the pieces by Krøyer, we find traditional landscape painting with motives of people in the Nordic nature — and especially in Skagen.
 Sofie Børsting works like Krøyer with a very detail-oriented and almost photographic interpretation of the Nordic nature. Not as the classic landscape motif with sprawling representations of the Nordic nature, but with a modern and unique eye for nature’s multifarious details – its small nooks and characteristics. Details we often miss when we look at the motifs in its entirety and usual surroundings – e.g. a plant in the living room or in the garden.
In her graphic illustrations Sophie’s work functions as a microscope that magnifies and focus on natures many nuances and you might see her fine botanical representations as a kind of miniature work, giving us a unique insight to nature’s own creation.
The very detailed artwork is created from a combination of carefully hand drawn botanical elements , collage and gouache.
 Inspired by nature, dreams, art and childhood memories Sofie is working with a modern interpretation of the traditional landscape painting as seen in e.g Krøyers pieces. 
Her graphic and poetic illustrations in calming grey tones, with stories of sensuous imagery from a botanical universe in twilight are contemporary versions tuning in on natures smallest details instead of the classic imagery of vast landscapes.

How Hammershøi and Dam work with Nordic weather elements
Another great artist from the same period is Wilhelm Hammershøi (1864-1951)
Dedicated to catch that certain ambience caused by the Nordic natural elements Hammershøi is as another master of light primarily known for his dreamlike landscape paintings of light, which penetrates the trees and atmospheric phenomena as mist and sun rain. 
Light and air play major roles in his paintings of structural landscapes underneath more diffuse layers, that give rise to almost ethereal, subtle effects of the Nordic and evokes a dreamlike mood – particularly due to his misty, smoky mode of painting.

Kristina Dam – Nordic aesthetic with many expressions
The same misty, ethereal expression is found in Kristina Dam’s photographic artwork .
In her botanic poster series she is obviously inspired by botanical elements and Nordic weather phenomena as mist.
The constellations focus on how natural phenomena can be put into an artistic context and explore the encounter between botany, photography and design.
The posters can be seen as a declaration of love to Nature, resources and the simplicity of just being – a trend that reflect our contemporary concern about how we live life in a sustainable way and a trend giving room to natural elements in our interior decoration and design.


Lise Ulrich – memorable moments from Nordic nature
With the coming of photography new ways of depicting Nordic nature became possible. In the tradition of landscape painting – and photography – we find the Copenhagen-based photographer Lise Ulrich . 
Ever inspired by her Scandinavian roots, Lise seeks to capture the quiet melancholy of the Nordic landscapes in her images.
Through her travels in the Nordic regions Lise Ulrich seeks to capture the quiet melancholy of the Scandinavian landscapes and hidden worlds, from the windswept beaches of Denmark to the majestic glaciers of Svalbard.

Artificial Nordic Light – Light drawings by modernist Jorn
As a typical modernist experimenting with a variety of art forms – ceramic, sculpting, writing and graphic arts besides painting – Jorn started out as a naturalistic painter following the legacy from earlier Nordic painters but in a completely different way – painting primarily animals, birds and mythical beasts in an abstract form.
In accordance with a modernist tradition for portraying contemporary phenomena and ideas Jorn in 1953 – together with photographer Poul Pedersen – executed 21 drawings “in air” with a flashlight in front of a camera. Each drawing was made in two versions, one positive and one negative and the motifs had a graphical and simple expression.

H.C. MATHIESEN – modern light-drawings of Nordic nature
H.C. Mathiesen’s artistic style is formed by his background at The Royal Danish Academy of Architecture in Copenhagen.
Strongly inspired by Nordic nature he gives his stringent and minimalistic drawings a very personal and significant expression.
If we look at the illustrations from HC Mathiesen we find various similarities between Jorns graphical light experiments and Mathiesen’s work although the motifs and the making are quite different. 
Whereas the light drawings are made in a dark room with artificial light the works from HC Mathiesen leads us back to the inspiring Nordic nature as seen in the Icelandic landscapes with glaciers, volcanoes and hot sources.

Olafur Eliasson – Sculptor of (Nordic) Nature and space
Today the Danish-Icelandic Olafur Eliasson (1967- ) is one of the worlds leading artists working with compositions and architectural installations, which often arise out of natural elements meeting institutional space at art museums worldwide.
One of Eliasson’s artistic drivers are experimental works in which he explores the boundaries between the viewers perception, institutional art and nature as an art form in itself.
You might see an artist like Olafur Eliasson as a result of the romantic Nordic tradition. 
His intense use of the Nordic art core ingredients such as space, light and fog together with a romantic and reflexive spirit creates an aura of something Nordic.

Olafur Eliasson Rainbow Panorama (2011)

Olafur Eliasson: Your Rainbow Panorama, 2011

Your rainbow panorama is a permanent work of art consisting of a circular walkway in glass in all the colors of the spectrum. This spectacular creation extends from one edge to the other of the facade of the cubic museum building.
Your rainbow panorama is a walk for the senses and an example of a modern art installation, which arises out of natural weather phenomena light and rain – so typical for the Nordic climate.

This summer Eliasson’s installation “Vær I vejret” continues his exploration of Nordic Weather elements, and in his art work he deals with the relation between viewer and artwork – is the spectator stepping into a work of art or part of a museum.
 You can enjoy the Art-playground in the summer 2016 at Ordrupgaard north of Copenhagen

Olafur Eliasson Ordrupgaard Art-Playground, 2016

Olafur Eliasson: Ordrupgaard, Art-Playground, 2016

Anne Nowak – inspired by natural phenomena
Inspired by the nature of Bornholm and natural phenomena as suns, moons and planets Anne Nowak works with textile design, fine art print and murals.
In the pieces of Nowak you see her fascination of nature and her reflexions upon rather existential subjects as the universe, life, faith and death.
With beautiful colors and an almost mythical representation of natures own elements the artworks from Nowak implement a bit of the milky way into you living room.


Nordic Nature in our homes
With a number of impacts in Nordic art during the last century, we have found that the Nordic nature, the weather, the landscape and the climate have been – and still are a – major source of inspiration for Scandinavian artists and designers.
In many ways new generations of designers and their growing interest in modern representations of nature marks a shift towards a more sustainable lifestyle.
Young people are conscious anti-consumers who care about the planet’s condition and nature’s limited resources.
A concern which is reflected in contemporary in art and design, where the representation of nature’s own unique designs can be seen as a declaration of love to the Earth, nature and the Green, which ideally surround us now and hopefully for many years to come.

Take a peek at the inspiring New Nordic design, arts and illustrations in our shop and see if you can find your personal favorites among our many items. 
Browse through the beautiful and unique items, which in a fine way continue the Nordic tradition for depicting light and natural elements.