Midnight Activities: Trude Viken

9 April - 6 May 2022

Trude Viken’s path is a fairy tale. A story about the good things that our ubiquitously connected world may bring. She lacks formal education from an art academy and is perhaps therefore considered an outsider. On one hand. On the other hand, she can be considered the eminent debutant that she is after she, with great success, broke through with a solo exhibition at the Fortnight Institute in New York a few years ago. But she came in from the outside, so to speak. With thick brushstrokes, she conducts the revenge of painting, where infernal and grotesque feelings are conveyed on the canvas. Trude Viken has nurtured a dream of becoming an artist all her life, but the fear of standing out prevented her from realising it. In addition, the life of the artist is not an ordinary life, she was told. First and foremost, she needed to support herself otherwise. Said and done. But the creative urge was strong and could not be quenched. After her first visit as a child to the Munch Museum in Oslo, a fascination arose that developed into an introspective kinship with the compatriot Edvard Munch. On the way to her studio, Trude Viken even walks past his winter atelier. But the correlation does not end there. The perseverance and the ability to use painting to explore and process the emotional life with relentless honesty is something the two painters have in common, together with the desire to illustrate the emotions that we all carry, but nevertheless renounce. What interests Viken is how we feel behind the mask with which we conceal our true faces. We smile and appear carefree in front of the people around us, but in the end, we are only deceiving ourselves. Being human is a demanding business. Life is indeed one long suffering. Especially to be a human of today when our contemporary and digital, sometimes supersaturated imagery exhorts us all to strive to be smart, perfect, and strong winners. One selfie must surpass the other in the equally eternal and hollow cycles of the image feed. Although Trude Viken finds this tiring, it is thanks to social media that her work came to attention.

Installation Views
Press release

Not so long ago, Trude Viken found herself strictly outside the established art scene. In this way, her pictures also become a kind of self-acting critique of the veneer that houses art; the shimmering façade that is the art world. A master without a degree. As a result, her very original and distinct self-portraits showing the faces behind the façade have asserted themselves on the canvases. It is as if the artist has developed a physiognomic typology where facial expressions both mantle and expose the rich variation of emotion. In order to explore her emotional life, Trude Viken’s art has also been based on the several different versions of the motif, the motif being herself. A visual index of human emotions, from laughter to anxiety and everything in between.

One can probably consider it likely that the self-portrait has a history as long as art itself. It was during the Renaissance that the development of the self-portrait as a genre gained momentum. It then gradually spread across the continent as the artist’s status and self-image increased. Edvard Munch performed at least one self-portrait a year. Often with his camera in a, a posteriori, anticipatory way. Trude Viken's portraits from the everyday series Diary Notes suggest fantasies that formulate our inner lives and our most tangible emotions with the help of an acute seduction. The fascination with the alteration of one’s own face is something Viken shares with her colleague Munch. The face’s various grimaces, gestures, and the collocation, that is putting the colours side by side using the brush, is a focal point, a focus in the process. What happens then, what kind of appearance does it make? She does not want to spend time on details, she does not need to. The shapes that emerge from the image surface sound in dissonance with the usually neutral backgrounds. At the same time, she wants to be able to say as much and as little as possible about the limits of simplicity.

The exhibition also includes a series of larger paintings depicting scenes, as the titles Scene reveal. Here, Trude Viken has departed from the self-portrait’s stripped-down and unveiled subjectivity in favour of something that can almost be compared to tableaux in which different sets of figures are located. Here, too, are the facial expressions and grimaces that in dreamlike sequences explain something to us, something we are unable to put into words. Among figures large and small, crosses and crescents, spherical objects and the occasional flower, there is an open symbolism where we have to seek retort in the question of who we really are. Or not, everyone is free to do as they please. The paintings seem to make such an obvious statement in themselves that the need to comprehend the meaning of the motifs eventually ceases. Viken’s works are experienced above all as unaffected and bold, executed with a certainty in the voluminous colouring that can almost be touched by with the naked eye. What could be more classic than painting with oil on canvas? And does not an introspective chain, a connecting element right into the core of art, dwell there? The ability, or rather the approach, to take something from ourselves to show others? Viken urges us to break the fourth wall and step forward from behind the façade. To stand in front of it with our bare skin clad in emotions and let the mask fall. Trude Vikens paintings are so close to us that we can neither distance ourselves from them nor let them come to us: beautiful feelings, grotesque affects, erotic passions... all honest, glorious, and true.


Trude Viken (b. 1969 i Lødingen, Norway) lives and works in Oslo. With painting, she explores the social and emotional façade and the mask we all wear. Within the framework of self- reflection, her painting studies and develops the grotesque, the macabre, the erotic and the humorous. In a short time, Trude Viken has exhibited separately on several occasions, including Fortnight Institute, New York, M + B Gallery, Los Angeles and Vestfossen Art Laboratory, Oslo. In addition, she has participated in a number of group exhibitions. In addition to the current exhibition at Belenius, Trude Viken has an upcoming exhibition at OTP Copenhagen later this year and a large separate exhibition planned at Kaviar Factory in Henningsvær, Lofoten in 2024.