Paul Hellsegg - Capturing Essence through Abstraction - Atelie

Paul Hellsegg - Capturing Essence through Abstraction

Paul Hellsegg’s inspiration derives from the rich tapestry of nature, particularly drawing on landscape, and patterns of culture and biology. From this inspiration comes a unique aspect of Hellsegg's work; the shapes, curves and color progressions that emerge on the surface of his works cannot be physically located, but appear as an illusion to the viewer. These elements actively engage with the interplay of color and perception.

This almost scientific aspect of his art serves as a driving force for further exploration. His deep connection to the natural world provides a commitment to conveying emotion through the language of minimalist, abstract art.

See Paul Hellsegg's works on his Atelie profile

Can you tell us about your journey to becoming an artist?

I discovered a talent for drawing when I was a young adolescent. I was even surprised by my own ability, as there was nothing in my social surroundings that emphasized art in any way.

I simply discovered an aptitude. By the time I had finished high school I decided I wanted to become an artist, and I went abroad to study. First I received a Bachelor of Fine arts from Pratt Institute in New York City, followed by a double Master in visual arts and film from the Art Institute of Chicago.

Paul Hellsegg at his art studio in Oslo

How have the distinct cultural landscapes of the United States and Norway influenced your art?

I think the clear influence in my aesthetic comes from the Norwegian landscape in general, and Norwegian maritime culture in particular. The way our boats are shaped; the way we've designed exquisite sea crafts. All aspects of Norse aesthetic sensibilities interest me. The patterns and decorative friezes carved in wood on ships and buildings rival in complexity both the Islamic and Mezoamerican tradition.

My interest in maritime culture also most likely stems from the simple fact that my father was a sailor; a merchant marine, and my mother came from a fisherman's family. I believe we are unlike any other culture in the way we live with the sea, and that has strongly influenced my creative approach.

The American influence in my work is very strong. All of my teachers in the US hailed from the golden age of Abstract Expressionism. That is my foundation as a painter. Minimalism, op-art, pop-art; all of it.

LUX Violet and LUX Roughe, painting, 180x180cm

How do you think your work has evolved over time?

I began as a figurative painter in the vein of Munch and German expressionism. After a brief stint as a portrait painter - halfheartedly pursued to make ends meet -,I realized I had no further incentive to explore figurative work. I was absolutely at odds with the prevailing half-assed neo-expressionist scene, not to mention the deeply flawed ethos of the Nerdrum clan. At the time my work was steeped in the work and legacy of Jasper Johns. It felt like a sort of solitary confinement. I made a clean break and began doing minimalist, abstract work. Simple, clean color progressions across the plane. Nothing more. That break remains the foundation of almost all of my work today. Everything was reimagined.

Can you walk us through your creative process, and how it might have differed for this specific exhibition work?

In general I always draw inspiration or motifs from nature. This has been a constant in all of my work. The way color changes during a sunset, for instance, ; the transformation of colors from the horizon line to the upper reaches of the sky. It's been a gradual process of simplification, as well, to where I always strive for the simplest possible expression of the feelings or the emotions I want the work to elicit. I find that simplicity without resorting to banality produces the most powerful results.

In terms of the Lux series, there is a physical law at work here. The figures that appear, the shapes that occur on these prints are not visually part of the surface, but they appear on the retina of the spectator. They're not physically present as a literal element, but they will appear as lines through the illusions created by the color juxtapositions. This almost scientific aspect of making these works has been very encouraging. It’s what inspires me to keep investigating, because I never know the outcome until I try it. The process mimics scientific investigation of trial and error; of hypothesis and experimentation. I desire to achieve a specific outcome, but the reality of the outcome always surprises me, fortunately.

From the LUX exhibition at our art space in VIA

How do you envision the future of your artistry? Are there any, are there any new themes or techniques or projects You're eager to explore?

I’m now working with a new set of imagery that has just surfaced, which feels like an evolution of the current Lux worlds. With these I’m exploring those laws of physicality even more as they are even simpler and they have no lines. They are pure gradient paintings.

The Lux series will also soon acquire different shapes, but here I am just in the beginning of the process.

Paul Hellsegg is launching a new collection of textiles

You've also made a series of beautiful new textiles. Can you tell us more about this project?

In the span of fifteen years, my journey as an artist has been deeply rooted in exploring the synergies between visual arts and its interconnected fields. Driven by a passion for authentic artistic expression, my upcoming textile collection embodies the fusion of architecture, fashion, and design. It's within these intersections of disciplines that I find a dynamic tension, sparking creativity and innovation.

The ethos of my work is also defined by a commitment to quality in an era dominated by the consumption of transient, mass-produced goods. Our world is inundated with products that lack lasting value, creating a challenge for both creators and consumers to find and appreciate enduring quality. This textile collection stands as a response to that challenge, offering pieces that are not only visually compelling but are crafted to withstand the test of time.

The textiles is currently at a prototype stage but you can register there to get updates and information when they become avaiable for sale:

Get updates on Paul's new textile collection


Paul Hellsegg (b. 1962, Oslo) has a Bachelors of Fine Arts from the Pratt Institute in New York City, and a double master’s in film and visual arts from the Art Institute of Chicago. Primarily working with oil painting and figurative expressionism, Paul has also worked in portraiture, textiles, sculpture and most recently, print. He has spent the majority of his career working in Oslo, taking inspiration from the surrounding nature. His artistic language bears the imprint of the Norwegian landscape and its maritime culture, adding further elements of calculation and scientific processes into his work.

Go to Paul Hellsegg's Atelie profile

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