“I have asked Sonja to make a contribution to my blog, as I have been featuring professional artists, writers, and musicians from all around the world, and inviting them to talk about themselves, their Art and Literature, in the current COVID-19 pandemic Era.”
Adam: I first met Sonja Bunes in 1994. I was living in a log cabin in the woods north of Oslo, and I had recently begun to paint. One day I was in Oslo and stumbled upon an art gallery on the second floor of a shopping center. Intrigued, I went inside the gallery and found a young woman sitting on the floor, sorting out paintings that were to be shown at an upcoming exhibition.
I felt a strange connection, which grew stronger when she looked up, smiled and greeted me. After some minutes she asked me if I was interested in Art. I timidly told her that I had only just begun painting, and that I found it energizing as the ideas leaped out of my brain and soul, and literally painted themselves onto canvas after canvas. At that point my paintings were very naivistic. I had no formal art academy training, and painted out of intuition.
Sonja asked me if I had any photographs of my work, and coaxed me to show her what I had been working on. For some odd reason I did have several photos of my paintings in my knapsack. It was obvious that Sonja was interested in encouraging learning artists. She asked me about my paintings (which were very New Age/Spiritual), and I explained that I had recently been diagnosed as a person with AIDS. My paintings were an exposé of my journey of healing … in spite of the fact that the virus was (at that time) untreatable, and I had been told that I had but a few years to live (10 years maximum).
I was thus consumed with trying to find meaning, in all directions: alternative medicine, meditation, prayer, and connecting with my Spirit Guides. Sonja looked at my work with sincere interest, and asked me if I would like to meet her partner with whom she ran the art gallery. Shortly afterwards I stood face to face with him, a tall artist-shaman, and I again felt an intense connection. He seemed to gaze directly into my soul as he asked me: “Why are you here; and what are your plans?” I gathered my courage and said: “I would like to have an art exhibition in connection with World Aids Day, on December 1st. I explained my project ideas, which were written down on a large sheet of paper, and included many details about marketing, press coverage, catering, entertainment, and more. He meditated on the project for less than a few minutes, and then told me that the project would indeed take place on World Aids Day 1995.
I hurried back to my log cabin and got down to work. I would share the exhibition space with a Russian artist, Irina Movmyga. There were about 200 visitors at the exhibition opening, entertainment, refreshments, and no fewer than five local and national TV stations carried news footage from the exhibition and short interviews with me. That remarkable exhibition was the first of many World Aids Day Art Exhibitions that I held in the years that ensued.
I eventually reconnected with Sonja a few years ago, and visited her art studio in Oslo. Both her and my art has (of course) developed since that first meeting and cooperation. We have both had several art exhibitions since.
The video is best viewed in a dark room with the sound on.
The Beat Around The Bush is interactive immersive visual art. A visual meeting between Tim Burton and fauvism. Soundscapes are inspired by Laurie Anderson, Brian Eno and Philip Glass. To the rythm of various mantras, destructive and loving, you can interact in extremeties of uncomfortable dark and joyful light.
Ulla is a quiet girl living inside a woman, leaving drawings and notes around both hoping and fearing they will be found. How will you react?
Vonja, the woman, is strong and healthy, but struggles with ambivalence and relational issues. She has ignored the little girl for too long. Can you help?
Challenges will come in many shapes and colors.
Why is it so hard to face childhood sexual abuse? How long shall we beat around the bush before facing the fact? When are we going to act?
This can be regarded as an artistic visual reply to the project Testimony.
For more info on the project see my YouTube channel.
The snake symbolizes transformation, and the images depictict Life, Air, Water, Earth and Fire. What got a young woman interested in talking to me in the first place was a multimedia animation that I had made from these images back in 2001. They are digital collages made from pictures of some of my paintings and drawings.
??? Victoria Falk, from “bild och form-linjen” , high school in Karlstad, Sweden? !!! Sonja Bunes
??? What education do you have?
!!! Two years at Oslo Tegne- og Maleskole in Oslo, Norway after doing aestetics in high school and one year at a ‘Folkhögskola’ with form and theatre. Three years at the Emily Carr College (now Institute) of Art and Design in Vancouver, British Columbia as a Studio Major. This means that I worked in a studio with relatively simple tools, no machines, just my hands and the chosen material.
??? When and how did you become interested in working with multimedia?
!!! In Vancouver, back in 1988-91, I looked with great interest at the animations and video art that was being made on the computers, but I did not dare to move into such a technical area. Not until 1996 did the interest for digital expressions grow intense enough for me to really imagine my self working with it. At a course at Aktiv Opplæring AS in Oslo, ‘Multimedia with Internet’ I think it was called, I discovered some of the possibilities that the computer has when it comes to creating art work.
??? What do you enjoy the most, working with the computer or drawing?
!!! Almost everything is like drawing to me, using pencil and paper, pixles and vectors or words and thoughts, it is all the same. An intimate size acid free sketch book, a soft pencil and an erazer has always been part of the mandatory content in my hand bag. These are the most direct tools when it comes to expressing emotions or ideas. It is in the sketch that you see the most immediate expression of the soul, without the vanity that finished pieces tend to be veiled by. I wouldn’t mind having an electronic multimedia notebook in my purse also though…
??? When and from where do you get inspiration to do your art work?
!!! It just happens. I work with the material and images show up, thoughts form and stories happen. “Snake Power” came into being from a badly scanned even worse drawing. I was determined to make it work somehow. The snake has been a returning motif since I was quite young. It is a symbol of transformation, change. In Macromedia Director I could enhance that symbolism by using different versions of the same picture. One object going through several phases. A person in development. I have painted the same pictures using acrylics on canvas.
??? Do you know what the picture will be and what you want to do before you start working?
!!! It depends. I have practiced so that I can take orders and work for other people and then you have to be able to have a certain idea and make sketches before you start. However most of all I like opening up the channels and letting what is hidden come forth in the material. I am aware of what directions it could take and make choices as I go along. It is very much like life it self. Seeing the connections between the two can actually make it easier to make choices in mundane reality too. Composing ones life is not so far from composing a picture, it just takes longer and seems more serious due to the consequences one has to endure. The wonderful thing about computer work is the undo function! In life we have to live with our mistakes.
??? When do you have the time to be creative?
!!! Creating is like breathing. We suck in and give out all the time. I have often felt stress when thinking that I do not have the time nor the space I would like to do my own work. But now I realize that life it self is a piece of art – the most important piece any of us can ever ‘create’, or rather the most significant material that we can make something out of..
Every day is an opportunity to make a difference, the same way one might wish to make it through ones pictures or sculptures or music. It does not have to happen within the framework of ‘Art’. It can just as well happen in a conversation, an e-mail, or even (perhaps first and foremost) in a thought. An object is, or is not, called art according to the context in which it is placed. It has to do also with the awareness of the artist making it. The same few lines made by a child or made by Picasso will have a different meaning, or will be received with a different attitude, due to the awareness of the person creating the lines. This awareness of ones actions is, in my humble opinion, as important, even more so, in daily life.
??? Which programs and tools do you use?
!!! I often make homepages directly in HTML. Basic, simple, no fuzz. Viewable in most browsers. I find it very irritating that they look so different on various screens. What makes it acceptible is that all users to a certain degree can have their freedom to decide how they wish to receive information. Not too many people know of all the control they actually have over their browsers though and keep them as they got them. This is unfortunate since a lot of good design can be distorted to the most horrible extent by a simple font size.
I try a lot of programs and find that like all other things in life they all have their good sides and their bad sides. Adobe Illustrator is one of my favorite image making programs when I draw from scratch. The flexibility of being able to later on chose to display the images on screen or make prints large as a building pleases me. Photoshop is excellent for editing photos, naturally, and making digital collages, but unfortunately I do not have the capacity on my computer to work on the file size needed to create good prints. I guess I am still a traditionalist in the sense that I like to have my pictures available on paper or some material that I can hold and somehow feel.
Flash MX is the program I am most interested in learning more about. I think that is the program I have waited for all my life. Mixing drawing and soundscapes in movement and letting the audience interact with the story to make it their own; I have wanted to do such a thing since I was quite young, but I had no idea how. Movies seemed too big a project to hold, but now it is possible for one person to express something in that fashion by themselves. Everything I have done so far are sketches. Perhaps at 40, in four years time, I start ‘the real production’. Until then I’ll keep collecting material for content.
??? Is it possible to make a living as a multimedia artist?
!!! Anything’s possible. The most dedicated may. Perhaps it is easier for a designer. As an artist you might be more experimental, less commercial, and spend more time doing such things that the custome is not willing to pay for. Perhaps there are no boundries between the two any longer. For the time being I work part time at a high school, teaching multimedia, graphic communication and aesthetics, and also do some freelancing to pay my bills.
??? What reactions do your pieces bring forth?
!!! High school students ask to interview me… 🙂
Some are shocked, some smile, others wonder. It depends what work they see.
I have made some connections over the Internet with other artists due to the fact that I show some of my pictures there. One of my projects is an e-mail group discussing art, thought, ideas, experience, feelings around their creativity and being. It is like a collage of bits and pieces from different peoples thought in time. This is something I haven’t had enough time to focus on lately.
??? When are you happy?
!!! When I see love being expressed between people. The type of love that says; I accept who you are and I am here for you. In love there is hope. I find happyness in little things. Things that aren’t really that small when you don’t have them. We take so much for granted, and forget to enjoy what we already have. I wish to take back the riches of simplicity.
??? Have you travelled much?
!!! The past decade I have focused more on inner journeys than on outer. I was born in the USA, but my family did not stay there for long. We lived a few years in Kenya, Africa. Although I do not remember much it had it’s effect on my life, my person. All mandatory education I received in Oslo, Norway. During holidays I was lucky to see quite a few places in southern Europe before the extreme tourism started happening. After high school I went to Texas and worked with children for a while. I studied in Canada, and I did some travelling around the US. There are many places around the world that I would like to see, but it is important to experience the closer cultures too. We have, for example a huge ant hill in the back yard. It is amazing!
??? How come you’re living in Sweden now?
!!! I moved here to be closer to nature. It is an excellent combination with high tech multimedia work to live in a low tech environment. It keeps me grounded and somehow in balance. Now that communication can happen over the Internet one no longer has to stay where everybody else is staying. Even if it is in another country it is close to ‘my home town’ Oslo.
??? Have you had any exhibitions?
!!! I have on a few occations showed my work, but I have not been very active in that area. I have so much to learn before I feel ready for that. We are constantly bombarded with images, text, sound – noice. Right now I think the comment I’d like to utter is to plant a large forrest on all the major high ways to slightly ease the pace. I believe that stress is stupefying and that it keeps us away from a wisdom that we have access to but do not pay much attention to.
Internet is a forum that I like to use. I suppose that is exhibiting too, but it feels more like a direct conversation in which one can participate at any time.
Drawing takes time and it shows time. It is about activity, in the quiet, movement in time and in space, inside and out.
In recent weeks my work has changed in a simplifying way. The Covid-19 situation has taken me back to the here and now, back to the most intimate and direct expression; drawing on paper. Thoughts and emotions blend with the lines and colors on the sheet. I find my self engrossed.
«Coming Alive» is the working title of the project in my home studio. It points to both the feeling I have in this process and to the content of the motifs. It is a natural continuation of, and/or part of, the project that awaits in the studio, «Digesting Decades», which is a series of torn up old sketches and drawings that are put back together in new constellations.
Pictures always carry something of the old and bring it into the new, whether in the form of pure drawing, or collage. Both my work process and my pictures are about something new being created from something old. The craftsmanship in the drawing builds new expressions using classic principles and qualities. Contemporary art and life builds on our history. It lies in the materials, and in the hands holding the tool.
Transformation is central. The essence of my motives over 50 years is man and nature, and not least human nature. Birth, life and death are, as we know, a traditional existential theme in art. Nothing stands still, everything moves.