Introducing Sif Nørskov

Emerging Artists
By Katharina Wenzel-Vollenbroich
Sif Nørskov in her studio at Royal College of Art, London. Sif Nørskov in her studio at Royal College of Art, London.

Sif Nørskov was born in Denmark and lives and works in London. She has just finalised her MA in Painting at the Royal College of Art and is currently displaying some of her work at Cob Gallery in London.

When did you first realise that you wanted to become an artist?

I always knew that I wanted to do something creative as I spent a lot of time drawing and writing as a child. It was only later on that I decided to try painting, and I think that because it is both rewarding and challenging in many ways, I couldn’t stop. In that sense, I never made the decision to be an artist, I just never considered not doing what I was naturally doing.

How do you go about creating your paintings?

Each painting I do is different, but I hardly ever start with a blank canvas as I think my works always turn out better if I have some constraints. To begin with, I just get something onto the canvas as I start to form an idea of how I’d like the finished work to look. My works never end up how I thought they would, but I think that that is part of the beauty of painting; you can’t quite control it. When a painting is almost finished, I tend to leave it for a week or so, and then I come back to it and decide whether or not it is finished. Sometimes I change them completely at this stage, and other times I decide that it is finished. Either way, most of my works have many visible layers on them and most of them are made using a combination of oil and acrylic paint as well as thick textures, as I like the qualities of a glossy layer of oil next to a matt and flat acrylic.

Nature is the main thematic thread throughout your paintings, have you always worked along this line, or have you developed towards it over time?

Nature has always been an important theme in my work. Before I started painting I took a lot of photographs that were about nature in a more literal sense. I am now more interested in how we relate to nature, especially in relation to fiction, as I am very inspired by literature. My works could be seen as fictional landscapes, but at the same time they are also abstracted enough to be ambivalent in their imagery. Because nature is traditionally both glorified and given dark characteristics in folklore and literature, it is important to me that my works are both somewhat dark and mysterious, whilst at the same time possessing an element of naiveté and humor. This might not always be visible, but these are some of the ideas that I work from.

If you could live and work anywhere in the world, where would it be?

If I could live anywhere, I would probably still be in the UK near London or in Scotland as I love the landscape there. The dream would be to have a house in the countryside and a flat in London to split my time between. I do enjoy living in a big city, but I think I work better when I have peace and quiet around me.

What’s your proudest artistic achievement to date?

I think the moment that made me the happiest so far, was when I found out that I had been accepted by the Royal College of Art. It gave me the validation I needed at the time and it was a great feeling, especially after having been to an interview and having waited for quite a while to hear back.

As someone who has been published in articles in respected art magazines, how important do you think art criticism is to the art world? 

I think it’s important to artists and anyone interested in art. It can be a useful way to learn about art and to develop and think critically about your own practice. But at the same time, I think it’s important to not forget that art is a visual medium the majority of the time, and I find that as an artist, you can become stuck over-thinking your works, rather than thinking visually.

Who is, in your opinion, the best art critic currently out there?

I personally really enjoy the writings of the German critic Isabella Graw, her writing is very intelligent but at the same time accessible, and I feel like she is a no-nonsense critic who is able to see art for what it is.

What’s the best exhibition space in London?

It’s hard to say, not all artists like the same kind of space, but I personally like very white, clean and almost impersonal spaces where the works on display really stand out and dominate the experience that the viewer has. There is something brutal about the Gagosian gallery space near Kings Cross, all of the rooms are oversized with high ceilings and concrete floors, I quite like that.

What was the last album you listened to?

I use Spotify a lot, so most of the time I don’t listen to a full album, but a mix of different tracks from all kinds of genres. What I listen to just depends on my mood. I listen to pretty much everything from pop music to classical music, but I think the last full album I listened to was ‘Jazz På Svenska’ by Jan Johansson who is a Swedish jazz pianist.

What would be your dream project?

At the moment my studio is quite small and the ceiling is not particularly high, but at some point I’d love to make some very large paintings that could fill up a whole wall from floor to ceiling in a large space.

Do you have any advice to young people who want to make a career as a professional artist?

I’d say to go for it if it’s what you really want. Being an artist is a very unpredictable way of life, so having some form of income on the side from something that you also enjoy, is worth bearing in mind. Boring advice, but I think it’s important to think about whether art needs to be the main focus in your life, or if it’s an interest that you can fulfil on the side as I think your creativity can easily be suppressed by external worries. 

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Sif Nørskov in her studio at Royal College of Art, London. Sif Nørskov in her studio at Royal College of Art, London.

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