Ellen Hegg paints the town
Colors, coffee, and ink
Full disclosure, I was initially intrigued by the work of artist Ellen Hegg when I saw that she painted with coffee. She is not the first artist I have seen who does so. There is one artist, Carla Cardona, whose work is displayed in a local coffee shop, CREAM. She paints with coffee and her work has the quality of sepia street art; mixing the antique with the modern.
In the 1870s, Albert Pinkham Ryder wandered through New York nights in the wee hours, often trying to capture the mood and tenor of the moon-drenched city sky. I have a vague memory of an art class in which we learned Ryder used unusual materials such as coffee grinds, tobacco juice, and candle wax to create a specific timbre. His results are incredible, but fleeting, i.e. unstable, as the materials he used are prone to crack and shrink.
[Editor’s note: Andrew Saur, friend of The Norwegian American, also paints with coffee. Learn more at coffeeart.com].
So I was curious as to how artist Hegg incorporates the unorthodox material of coffee into her work.
The thought of using coffee also made me giggle, as it is so apropos for a Norwegian artist. One cannot have a Norwegian gathering without including this dark rich brew in hefty measure. In terms of per capita imbibing of this beverage, Norway weighs in at 9.9 kg (about 22 lbs.) annually, only surpassed by Finland at 12 kg (26.5 lbs.). Iceland, Denmark, and Sweden are not far behind.
Hegg’s use of color is totally the opposite of Ryder’s, but her mood and tones are similar. And like Ryder, she spent some time capturing the feel of New York. In April, she had an exhibit at the Trygve Lie Gallery in the Norwegian Seamen’s Church, “Colours, Coffee & Ink.”
One piece featured was “Skyline.” Brilliantly, the pointed edges of New York’s hard-edged architecture are softened and soothed by a wash of blue.
I had the opportunity to ask Hegg questions about her life and work.
Victoria Hofmo: Can you speak about your early life in Norway and where you live now?
Ellen Hegg: I was born and raised in a small village in the middle of Norway, and I had an early interest in drawing and painting. I moved to Spain in adulthood and alternate between living and working with courses and exhibitions in Spain and Norway.
VH: You are also a visual arts teacher. What do you wish to instill in your students?
EH: I have several years of art education and have taught and had students for many years. What I want to bring to my students is their personal expression, and to teach them techniques appropriate to their expression.
VH: Why did you work with coffee?
EH: I experiment with a variety of materials that are not so popular nor traditional, breaking barriers and giving room to my carefree nature. My works involve the use of not only coffee, but also ink, bister, and materials hardened by Mixit-Art, using realism to present contemporary modern issues.
My painting and drawing techniques have been developed through an exploring approach; some of my works reveal aspects of realism while in others are abstract representations of my surroundings.
VH: Your pieces often contain a heart. Why?
EH: A red heart can be considered a signature statement of mine found in every piece, as the universal traveling message.
VH: Can you speak to how your work is therapeutic to both you and your audience?
EH: In my pieces, I directly address audiences to find healthy ways of managing stress, in some cases by using an abstract expression to experiment with various media and color schemes.
My works evoke joy and harmony, as I wish to take my audience through multiple narratives, highlighting the values of love in various dynamics.
Hegg’s philosophy sounds beautiful and much needed in our fractured world. Many others believe so, too, as she has been represented by InArte WerkKunst Gallery in Berlin, Mad Gallery in Milan, and Rio Gallery in New York. She has also been recognized for her artistic excellence in Milan and New York.
Learn more about Ellen Hegg at www.ellenhegg-art.com.
This article originally appeared in the June 28, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.