Erik Olson, Dusseldorfer
As with my previous work I paint what’s around me: the colors and forms and subjects at hand. The 24 paintings that make up ‘Düsseldorfer’ are the result of the last year as a guest student in Peter Doig’s class at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf and are portraits of the other artists in Peter’s class.
A year at the Kunstakademie was an unusual experience. The building, constructed in the late 1800’s, is a huge neo-classical structure with vast studio spaces. It was purpose-built for painting and I think perhaps more than any other school in the world, it retains this bold position towards avant-garde painting. In some ways, it’s more a giant studio building than an art school in its gritty physicality. The ethos is very free and open. Certainly as a guest, there is almost no structure to the experience. It can be pretty wild here: you have to learn to fight to survive in a way, but it’s also an amazing meeting place of talented students and legendary teachers.
As with my previous travels, what inevitably interests me most are the individual people in a particular place. The variations in my approach to each portrait drew from the sitter’s own artwork, their personalities, and of course my subjective relationship to both. The small, intimate portraits continue my fascination with the human face and the idea of the individual but together they also act as a kind of class portrait. This group of people, much like the Akademie itself, is a group of exceptions-- the unique, thus competitive, the poetic competition, the idealistic contest.
Born in Calgary in 1982, Erik Olson graduated from the Emily Carr University of Art and Design in 2007. The following years after university, Olson travelled extensively, spending time at artist residencies in Canada and India. Breaking with tradition, Olson self-curated his first solo show in a Calgary abandoned gas station in 2008. Since then his paintings have been recognized by curators and galleries which has led to exhibitions at the Glenbow Museum, MOCA Calgary, Art Gallery of Calgary and the University of Wisconsin / Milwaukee Union Gallery. In 2012, his painting, “The Skateboarder”, was included in the BP Portrait Award exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London, UK, Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland and the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter, UK. In October 2014 Olson moved to Dusseldorf, Germany to study at the Kunstakademie as Peter Doig’s guest student.