Meet ArtEx participant Idun Baltzersen

The artist Idun Baltzersen (35) is working closely with ArtEx mentor Kjell Erik Killi-Olsen (61).

Text: Lene Christensen  Photo: Agnete Brun

«He has a commitment to young artists. Not everyone is as naturally generous as he is», says Idun.

For nearly two years now she has been part of Talent Norge’s elite programme ArtEx, which provides twelve selected talents with mentors, coaches and a broad professional network.  

«The most important thing for me has been the contact I have had with my mentor, Kjell Erik. I live in Stockholm, so it’s good for me to be able to work more in Norway. Kjell Erik has helped me get a small base here at home», says Idun.

Up until 2 April she has an exhibition going at Kunstnerforbundet (the Artists Association) in Olso.


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A career in Sweden

The sculptor, painter and graphic artist Kjell Erik Killi-Olsen has been one of Norway’s most recognized artists for several decades. He is behind Kjøpmannsgata Ung Kunst, an art centre in his home town, Trondheim, where there are some of Baltzersen’s works as well.

«He recommended me to Galleri Brandstrup in Oslo, where he displays his works. Now they represent me in Norway», Idun says. She is also from Trondheim.

She is already a merited artist, particularly in Sweden, where she has lived since she started at Konstfack (the public art college) in Stockholm in 2012. Her monumental woodcuts have been displayed at Göteborg’s art museum and Moderna Museet in the Swedish capital.


Made art together

Kjell Erik and Idun’s close cooperation has been documented by NRK, the Norwegian National Broadcasting Company. In the series «Kunstnerliv» (Artists’ lives) we follow them making a large woodcut together, and it is obvious that both of them have learned a lot from each other while working together.

«It hasn’t been a particularly formal mentorship», says Idun, with a smile.

«I don’t have that many other older friends, and it’s good to be able to have colleagues of different ages.


Being an outsider in art

Even though Kjell Erik and Idun grew up far apart in time, they share that feeling of having been an outsider in childhood and adolescence. In the documentary they say that having been bullied means they have brought a ceretain discomfort with them into art.

«I’m very interested in postures and body langauge – for instance, how an insecure person looks from behind”, says Idun.

Her subjects are often young girls, often seen from behind. She has also made several self-portraits.

Her procedure is to cut out pictures in wood, which she then prints onto textile. The details are important so as to bring out tiny nuances of light and shadow, which create atmospheres and sentiments that are presented on flats that are as big as possible.

“I like the people in the picture to be big, so that one feels rather small when looking at them.”

She likes the resistance in the wood, that it takes a long time to cut out the picture, and that one never knows exactly what the result is going to be.

“I’m not the only one who decides, because so do the materials and everything that might happen in the process. It’s a good thing that one might get a little surprised as one goes along”, says Idun.


Help in setting boundaries

It’s easy as an artist to be ‘on’ all the time. Idun has had many conversations with a coach through ArtEx. One important subject has been how much one can justify working

“I have received a lot of help in setting boundaries between my job and my private life”, says Idun.

Last year Idun became a mother for the first time, which has made her better at prioritizing.

«As a mother I must sort out what is most important. I have also got better at getting help from outside. Even as a sole artist, one does not need to work alone», says Idun.

When she met the other ArtEx participants they spoke a lot about that – when to involve other people in one’s work. Everything from accounts to practical assistance in the production of art. A creative life can undoubtedly be lonely.

“So the greater the network one has the better. ArtEx has contributed to that. It has been interesting to meet the other ArtEx participants, to be able to meet people who are so ‘up there’ in their fields”, says Idun.


International ambitions

Being able to make a living out of one’s art is largely about being in the right place at the right time, according to Idun.

«Pull many strings and make embellishments on commission in addition to exhibitions» - that is her advice.

Going forward, Idun hopes to cooperate more internationally. From May onwards she will be ‘artist in residency’ for six months at Cité internationale des arts in Paris, thanks to a stipend  from Ingrid Lindbäck Langaard’s foundation.

She will bring her husband, who is also an artist, and the baby with her. They are sharing the parental leave and will get to know the Paris art world better. ArtEx’ network will be a boost.

«My dream is to exhibit my works at Palais de Tokyo.»  




Apply for ArtEx

Programme of Excellence in Performing Arts and film (ArtEx) is an interdisciplinary talent developing programme which is to help top-level artists to further develop themselves artistically and build an interesting and sustainable career. Through the programme you will become part of an extensive national and international network, you will get to take part in interdisciplinary professional gatherings under the auspices of Talent Norge. A support network will be available to you throughout the duration of the programme, consisting of a mentor, a coach and a place on Olympiatoppen’s health service. You will also get an individual scholarship that is to be used for professional development in consultation with your mentor. 




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