Rune Furelid is a contemporary artist from Norway. He first studied economy at BI in Bergen and Oslo and after an unfulfilling career, spent 5 years in film school. He later discovered a passion for painting and decided to start painting for a living. Rune studied under the great classical figurative master painter Odd Nerdrum, who’s is considered by many the greatest classical figurative painter alive today. In a very short space of time, Rune has become extremely successful. He owns a gallery in Ålesund, Norway and his paintings attract many collectors and art enthusiasts from around the world which is not surprising considering the depth, meaning and great technique of his work.
Could you tell us about the experience that sparked your fascination with painting?
It’s one of those happy accidents. I was finishing my degree as a screenwriter at the National Film School in Norway, when one of the founders was quitting and wanted someone to paint him as a funny gesture. Nobody wanted to so I said I could try. Never painted before and never done any drawing either, but I'm always willing to do the things I’m least good at. After five portraits of him it actually, in a strange way, looked like him. But the big thing that happened, that I absolutely did not expect was, that I completely fell into an extreme flow while painting, that was like a super powerful drug, where time, place, thinking and everything else that is really not that important in life, seemed to just vanish. And that's what fascinated me and after finishing film school, I actually took a 180 turn and decided to take a break from film and paint for half a year. As a vacation. To relax. For fun. Little did I know that pretty soon people would start contacting me after posting my work on Facebook wanting go buy my work. I mean that was a shock to me. Cause I was not an artist, was I?
When did you have that moment of realization that you are a creative and that is what you want to choose as your profession?
Well. It took me some time to get used to the thought of me being an artist. But I’m finally getting used to the idea. My moment was not so much thinking of it as a profession, but more like a moment where I thought that here is an activity that has a quite powerful influence on me and that makes me really happy when doing it. Having it as a profession is something I in retrospect can say, yes, it has been my profession for some years now and not so much something that I thought early on that, hmm.. I wonder if I should make this my profession. You know like the road gets shaped as you walk kind of thing, not the other way around.
You went to film school. Would you say there is some sort of connection between filmmaking and painting, through a storytelling element? Do you feel like your paintings tell a story of some sort?
Good question. I use many of the same principles that we use to create a dramatic work as I do with a painting. My French editing teacher always used to say "you should take away the most important scene in your script". I try to remove important elements in my painting when it's possible. Why? Because I want to engage the audience, so that they will contribute and get active. I want to create art where the audience contribute to completing the painting. So half the painting is through interpretation in their head. I also learned through the photo teacher there that what is inside the frame is always bigger than the whole. Meaning where I stop my painting, the composition of it, is really important. Don't try to tell everything. Show half of it and leave the rest outside of the canvas for the viewer to add and imagine. So abstract elements are crucial to my art, again to engage the audience to take part. In film, Hitchcock would leave the camera behind while the characters could wander of leaving the audience to have to create the picture in their head out of what the sound would tell them. This is a very powerful tool that I try to use in painting by leaving out, taking away, reducing, making things more abstract to pull the audience in. This is the main reason I get a lot from customers that they feel a very personal connection to the painting they are buying. And most of the time what makes it personal to them is not because of what I've shown on the canvas, but from what I actively choose not to show. And when the audience fill in the rest they participate and therefore get a very personal connection to the painting. This does not always happen, but very often I hear this. And this is my goal when making art. To create a reaction in the viewer.
You studied under the great classical figurative master painter Odd Nerdrum. Could you tell us about the process of learning from great painters like Odd.
Well, being a student under Odd Nerdrum was a truly unique experience. I got to stand close to one of the truly great masters in figurative painting and look at every move he made, seeing paintings come to life right in front of me. Too me it was also an insight into the technical stuff that can be so hard to figure out on your own. He usually never talked about the technique, you just had to watch him work, which was a lot of fun for me. He also talked about art history, that became lectures while he was working. So quite a unique experience. I had so many questions when I became a student, because I had tried to find answers in reading about Rembrandt, Caravaggio, Turner, Monet and others with just small bits and pieces of information here and there, and now I was standing in front of a master painter being able to see how a "Rembrandt" was made. Odd Nerdrum in my view is one of the few living master painters we have in the world today. If anyone is lucky enough to become a student there, they will learn so many things that they can use for the rest of their life to create beautiful paintings.
Could you talk us through the process of what happens when you pick up the brush and start painting?
Well. I don't ever make a plan. I paint intuitively. Accidents are very welcome and I paint from a state that I have to explain first. I meditate two times a day, it’s called Transcendental Meditation. And if you are a creative person that are not doing this meditation twice a day, well then you are missing out on something that is truly amazing and a must-do for anyone who wants to create. David Lynch, who is my creative hero these days, has through his many YouTube videos in some strange way influenced me to try it out. Just search TM David Lynch and watch the documentary and other stuff you find there. So. What had TM and David Lynch got to do with any of this painting stuff? Well. All my paintings, every single one, comes from this field inside me, a field of consciousness, that every human being has inside, a field that very often in neglected, a field where all creativity and great thoughts and ideas come from. When we think with our mind, creating thoughts, we are very limited in our work if we work from our thoughts. But once you start meditating and really get into that, then amazing things will happen and you will create things you never thought was possible to you. It's not anything religious or anything you have to believe, or anything like that. TM is just a mental technique to dive within and free yourself from thinking and acting purely out of this field of consciousness. So. When I paint I go into this state where my hands just flow around, ideas come and my brush moves, and gradually something takes shape. I don't use my intellect. I don't think..hmm.. what shall I paint now? No. I just pick up the brush. Make a mess on the canvas and then go from there. I of course prime the canvas that I've stretched on stretching bars that I make myself, and so on, and I ground the painting with a warm tone like Rembrandt, Caravaggio, Nerdrum and all the others, but when I create and work I do this from this field within. And the fruit of creating from this field is that I can work all day, and never get blocked, never gripped by fear, never feel that I don't have anything I want to say, or any other horrible thing that ever so often can prohibit the working artist. As a screenwriter, we have a better name for this that is writer's block. Witch is something you easily can avoid if you do TM meditation. So my advice is? Anyone who have not heard of TM meditation should or must take a course and learn it. It will change your life in more ways than this interview has room for me to explain. Some hints is that melancholy, depression, anxiety, fear, negativity and other horrible stuff will just go away gradually and you will become a truly happy person that will crush the myth that you have to suffer in order to create great art. Suffering will block your creative flow.
Why do you think you enjoy the process of painting so much? Is it because it reveals something special about you or perhaps because it allows you to kind of work through things in your mind?
Again. Very good question! I enjoy painting because by doing it I create peace inside me and it makes me truly happy. It is important for me to point out that me as a person is kept pretty dislocated from what I create. What I create is something that flows out of me, through me, but it’s not me. I’m as a person, you know, Rune, 39 years old, this tall, Norwegian, educated this and that. I'm just a happy observer of what comes out or through my hands. Am I saying that it’s not me who creates the paintings? In a way yes, but saying that would make people react. So let's just say that it's me, but and there is a huge but! I create from the conscious field inside me, a field that everyone has, a field that is the same in every person, a field that is not "me" as the name tag version if they were to introduce me to someone else. I as a person has learned techniques yes, I've studied colors, learned from Odd Nerdrum many things but what I create comes from this field that is not me. This keeps me humble also. I don't crave for recognition. I don't paint because I want anyone to love or praise me. I personally paint because I love the process. I’m lucky also that customers seem to always come through my door wanting to purchase my work. Today I opened the doors in my gallery for two hours today, and a guy from Singapore became a customer and someone from Norway. So I'm lucky. Everything I make seems to sell, but it does not go to my head. I’m just glad to be able to do this for a living. My work is not an attempt to say anything about me as a person. What I create is paintings that hopefully will make customers connect and at best, the artwork will become complete when they fill in the missing puzzle, which is their personal story that matches with the painting. My artwork can be looked at like someone pointing in a direction and then they will find the destination hopefully. Not all my paintings succeed in doing this, but this is what I'm aiming at.
When you paint, how much do you think about the viewer of your paintings? Are you painting for an audience or is it more internal and then you let it go and share it?
Some of this question has been answered, but to be clear I never think about the audience when I paint. I actually don't think at all mostly when I paint. I just act. Intuition would be a better word. I work intuitively. When I don't get any impulses to change anything on the painting anymore, then I call it quits and let it go.
Looking at your body of work, is there a painting that you are especially proud of or emotionally connected to?
Well the paintings that I personally connect to the most are the ones where the whole story is not told. Nick Cave, the musician, which writes fantastic lyrics for his songs described it wonderfully when he said that if a listener understand the song fully, than it loses its appeal. When the listener cracks the code it falls flat. So him, like Bob Dylan, keeps the audience always wondering, and that's where the enormous power is. When you create questions in the viewer. So don't tell the whole story. I'm very picky when it comes to what gives me a long time kick and will continue to surprise me, but I have a few paintings that I've made that I still find fascinating, still after years I like looking at them and those paintings are 100% for sure not the ones that tell the whole story, but the ones that leave huge room for me to interpret and create while looking at it.
The spirit of Boonji is to support and protect the creative. Is it important for you to support other creatives and what role do you see yourself playing?
Well here in Ålesund we have all kinds of creative people that I have the pleasure of meeting from time to time. And what I do is that I share my knowledge freely with them, invite them into my atelier and show them how I work. You can look at them as students if you want, at least that’s what they would call themselves. But I look at them as fellow creatives that just need a technical push in the right direction, you know, tools so that they are able to tap into their creative field within. I also of course advice them to do TM meditation which I mentioned earlier in this interview. So having been able to receive knowledge from Odd Nerdrum and others on YouTube, I feel it's the least I can do to give back to the ones who want to learn just like I did and still do. Oh yeah. Always look for new ways and keep learning and experimenting. That will keep you pushing forward doing old things in a new and exciting way.
What is your idea of happiness?
Happiness for me is to be able to do what I love doing. So you can in a way say I’ve already succeeded in life. The trick now is to just stay on this path, open and positive for whatever my curious mind wants me to look more closely at. And as far as happiness goes. I am truly happy in my life. I know its sounds horrible but if you ask people that meet me I smile a lot. I know. I used to hate people like that too. But TM meditation is the reason. Honestly. Before TM I had anger, anxiety, semi-depression and all kinds of negative shit going on in my mind. Today (he he), I just don't pay attention to what that small part of my brain produces of what I would at best call garbage. I don't take 95% of my thoughts seriously. You can test it by writing down your thoughts. Some of them are really far out there. And when you do TM meditation you get in contact with a dimension that is detached from the thinking mind. And that is where happiness comes from. Distance from thought. Of course we need the intellectual part of the brain to make plans and stuff. You know what to do on this date at that time, what food to get and stuff, but the rest is unimportant so I overlook most of the stuff that comes from my thinking mind. Besides, the ideas I get from not thinking, like when you are doing the dishes, you've probable noticed that a fantastic idea comes along, or while jogging, or some other activity that keeps your thinking mind busy, then truly great ideas come from "nowhere", well that nowhere is your conscious field within. And the more you get in contact with this, the more happy you get. It’s like a side effect of TM meditation. After you've done it for some time twice a day, each for 20 minutes, I do it sometimes longer, then after some time you just feel more positive and happy. And after even more time you understand that you have actually changed as a person. And you have become one of those crazy happy people that you hated so much earlier :)
What would you like to say to your 16 old self?
Do TM meditation twice a day for 20 minutes a day, and then everything will be okay… He he… I’m sorry but it's actually what I would say. I could of course say, be yourself, believe in yourself, do what you love and so on. But that would all come by itself if I had only started TM meditation at that age. If you reading this start doing TM meditation, then you would practically do the saying "give a man a fish, he would starve after some days, but teach a man/woman how to fish then he will be fed for a lifetime", goes something like that.. and it's true when it comes to this. TM meditation is the how to fish in life. And every problem that will occur will solve itself nicely. I promise :)
What are you currently working on?
Currently I'm putting oil paint on a blank canvas. And after some time I think it will become a new painting that I’ve never seen before. And that makes me happy. You should try it. It’s really a wonderful thing to create something out of nothing. The trick is to just start and don’t stop. Do it every day from inside your bedroom, living room, garage or whatever space you have available and after some time people will start to notice your work and after some more time people will start asking you to sell your paintings. And after some more time you will most likely be in the same situation where I am today. Where you have your own gallery and atelier in a larger city where the customers just seem to find their way into your world and start throwing their money at you.