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Studio Visit - Astri Styrkestad Haukaas

Studio Visit - Astri Styrkestad Haukaas

Studio Visit - Astri Styrkestad Haukaas


Studio Visit with Astri Styrkestad Haukaas

Tappan is pleased to introduce Astri Styrkestad Haukaas, an artist based in Copenhagen, Denmark where she co-runs the non-profit workspace KVIT. Haukaas' artistic practice is driven by the process, by cause and effect, and by allowing herself to be influenced by the materials she works with.


Photos by Emily Petersen


Tell us about yourself and how you came to be an artist...


My name is Astri, I'm thirty-three and from Norway, but I live and work in Copenhagen, Denmark. I moved here 9 years ago to go to the school KaosPilots, a hybrid business and design program with a multidisciplinary education in leadership and entrepreneurship. The teaching program is not designed simply to shape students to fit the future, but to help them create it. I started the KaosPilots after six years of preparatory and private art school education. Almost 4 years ago, I opened an artist run, non profit gallery and workspace with my colleague Ingjerd Heggem Nergaard. We use this space to exhibit other artists and between exhibitions, as our studio.


I’ve always painted. I’ve had breaks from it -- long and short. After a while, I always come back to it. I’m not sure if I have ever had an epiphany or if there was a specific moment where I realised that this is what I was going to do, though, I had a long vacation with my boyfriend in California, hiking and camping through the different national parks. During this vacation, I reflected on what made me happy and what gave me a sense of purpose; what components I needed to activate in my life in order to be present and connected. I made the decision to make more space for making my own art, and to be aware of when to not give a fuck and when to give a fuck. To be more true to what I need and not what is expected or placed in my head through media for example. It takes practise to filter it out, and I’m in training.

I still have a lot of doubt and a lot of the time, I have no idea what I’m doing. But I think that is okay and I think it is important to recognise it as a valid state that potentially can move me from one thing to another. Art has always been a big part of my life no matter where I have lived. Both my parents have always been very supportive about it and they have introduced me to a lot of different art. My dad with poetry and literature. He used to paint with me when I was young and help me to make frames and clear out rooms in our home so I could have a studio. My mom supported me whenever I took a different path to reach a goal (she let me swirl around, exploring what I love, and allowed me to make wrong decisions and to be curious and not knowing).

I’m an artist first and foremost. But, I do a lot of other things on the side.



What draws you to painting?


There is something very immediate about it. During my long breaks from painting, I miss producing something about how I feel in this world. I can’t do that with words -- written or spoken. Painting is the way I react to the world.



What is your creative process? Walk us through each stage - from coming up with ideas/themes/concepts you want to explore, to translating that into an artistic vision, to creating the physical artworks and installations.


My subject matter is nature influenced by subjective memories. I love thinking about how humans make deep, personal relations with nature - places, mountains, lakes, on earth and in space. It fascinates me how we need to connect with it, but also distance ourselves from it. Like we differentiate nature in a very curious way; this is natural, this is not.. We are humans, that is nature... I am nature!

I work in bulks. When my space is a studio and not a gallery, I work everyday, and try to show up even though I don’t feel like it. I produce a lot, experiment, and try not to intellectualize or to overthink. When I pack it all down to make room for an exhibition, it’s a natural shift and I get out of my own head. I’m creating a necessary distance from my own work. I read a lot in the periods when I don’t have a studio. I let other people's words teach me about my own process. Someone else may have written what was too abstract for me to put in my own words. I don’t know if that makes sense…?

I also look at art made by others, and see what is happening around me, noticing my reactions to it. Both of these things are an important part of my creative process. The duality of the introverted space that is my studio, and the very extroverted space that is the gallery is so interesting. I learn so much from seeing all the art that comes through and talking to different artists. I’m forced to shift focus and to create new thoughts.

I have promised myself to carve out time for at least one residency per year. Somewhere that has wilderness that I can get lost in. Denmark does not have that. I want to be outside in the wilderness, to fill up my body and soul with the feeling of nature and then to bring this back with me to the studio, and inject it into my life in the city. My palette is very affected by this. I look to nature for my palettes.

I don’t have a plan before I start. I have a palette. But that's it. I let the painting take form, and I work until I can recognise it; until I feel at home in it. It can take one day, or it can take months. I think my process is very intuitive. I work, and then I step back and look at it. I have to trust my own decisions, or at least be curious about them when I look back.

They are a product of my inner life, my story created by inner memories and impressions. When the painting is done, I want to let other people continue the story. The painting is part me, and part object.

My titles are important to me, and they come after I have completed the paintings. I want them to be like a musical accompaniment, not an interpretation or explanation.


Astri Styrkestad Haukaas says

“I think my process is very intuitive. I work, and then I step back and look at it. I have to trust my own decisions, or at least be curious about them when I look back.”


What is your relationship with social media?


I love it. And I’m addicted. It definitely fucks with my focus, and I have a very hard time balancing my use. I’m a functional SoMe addict. I know I should maybe have some restrictions, but I’m very bad at stopping myself when it comes to what I want. Immediate pleasures often gets tended to straightaway. I’m a Taurus and I don’t like to denying myself of any pleasure. This sounds so bad. I’ll work on this, if I feel like it.



What influence does living in Copenhagen have on your work?


I am able to reflect on nature from the city. Copenhagen has a lot of art and culture and a vibrant, social community. After four years of running a gallery, I have developed a vast network of both professional and private connections. The people here influence me a lot.



What messages or emotions do you hope to convey to your audience?


I want people to ask questions without needing the answers; to be curious about their own presence and the footsteps they take in this world.



Describe your work in three words.


Abstract, process driven, curious.



Where do you draw inspiration from?


Poetry. Other artists. Nature. Friends. Memories. Longing. Philosophy. The political climate. The climate and the weather. Right now, I’m obsessed with the writer and activist Rebecca Solnit. I’m currently reading her The Faraway Nearby. And before that, I read The Field Guide to Getting Lost. Two times in a row. I was almost moved to tears by an excerpt from that book that I stumbled upon while reading about the color blue (which is a color I feel very drawn to and use a lot in my work). I can learn about my work through her words. I’m even willing to go as far to say she is teaching me about humans and the world we have created, which is a very central part of my practise.



When do you make your best work?


When I have time and space. I get so easily distracted. I have to lock out every thing so I’m alone in the studio. When I get into a flow, I can create without thinking too much. I want to save the thinking for later. Hehe. Whenever I take a break from my work and focus on curating other artists, I usually gather new experiences and new conversations.



What influence does modern culture have on your work?


I think the political climate is what influences and affects me the most. We are finally realising that we have created a society that only benefits a few people and our generation is taking the fight, changing this. It's feminism, it’s about social class constructs, it's about racism and sexism and also shifting the power imbalance by understanding how humans in this world are a part of nature, not above it. We can’t go on like we do now. On so many different levels, we need to change what we celebrate and idealize. I’m working on it every day. And learning everyday.



Who are some contemporaries or figures in art history who have influenced you?


Rebecca Solnit, Helena Frankenthaler, Norwegian poet Olav H Hauge, philosopher Arne Næss (to name a few). The artists that come through our gallery! I feel so lucky to be able to learn through those exchanges.



Are there any quotes or mantras that you particularly connect with?


I have been thinking a lot about the words that were spoken at the funeral of a magnificent woman I knew briefly. “Change is transformation. Take a deep breath”. And from Rebecca Solnit’s The Field Guide to Getting Lost, “in nature, if you get lost, the key to survival is knowing you’re lost. I think it is the key to life.”



What do you listen to when creating?


Nothing. It’s usually just quiet. There is so much noise everywhere else.



What makes you laugh?


My friends! They are so funny and silly and crazy and smart. We laugh a lot. Very loud. And luckily the shift from lightness and laughter to being serious, and then back again, is often smooth and frequent.



What makes you nervous?


Expectations. It’s a love / hate relationship.



What makes you excited about the future?


Young people and the old people who are still curious.


About Astri Styrkestad Haukaas

Inspired by nature and the subjective filter of memory, her work reflects on human relationships with the natural world.


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About Astri Styrkestad Haukaas

Astri Styrkestad Haukaas is an artist based in Copenhagen, Denmark where she co-runs the non-profit workspace KVIT. She attended Strykejernet Art School in Oslo, Norway. Inspired by nature and the subjective filter of memory, her work reflects on human relationships with the natural world.


Photos by Emily Petersen


"My subject matter is nature filtered by subjective memory. I work to interpret moments I’ve had in nature, fleeting memories, whether that is witnessing an overly heavy sky or water steaming by with information. I love thinking about how humans make connections with nature. We need to connect intimately with nature, yet we also distance ourselves from it and continuously feel the need to differentiate between what is natural and not. I work to bring the physical world inside through my creative process. I go out into the wilderness to fill up my body and soul with the feeling of nature, and then I bring this back with me to the studio and integrate what I learn. I let the painting take its form without too many rules though the color palette is important. I work on a painting until I recognize it, until it is something I feel at home in. The painting process also reflects the way I move in nature and in the studio. It is about a flow, accessing places without too many plans or strict rules, and letting a meditative curiosity guide the way." - Astri Stykrestad Haukaas 



2010 - 2013, KaosPilot, Business & Design School, Aarhus, Denmark, Leadership and Entrepreneurship

2008 - 2010, Strykejernet Art School, Oslo, Norway, Fine Arts

2005 - 2006, Trøndertun Folk High School, Fine Art



2019, Kroppen Hun Bar (The Body She Wore), duo exhibition, Galleri Syningen, Ål in Hallingdal, Norway

2017, Vi tager intet ansvar (We take no responsibility), group exhibition, Wearhouse 9, Copenhagen, Denmark

2016-2017, I come back to the geography of it, duo exhibition, Barkas Engros, Copenhagen, Denmark

2016-2017, Aal Art Association 40 year anniversary Exhibitin, group exhibition, Galleri Syningen, Hallingdal in Ål, Norway

2011, Fall Exhibition, Ål Art Association, duo exhibition, Galleri Syningen

2010, Graduation Exhibition, Strykejernet Kunstskole, group exhibition, Galleri Brenneriet



2018, Smudge Cleanse, group exhibition, Co-curated with artist Pia Eikaas, Kvit Galleri

2018, Magnus Pettersen, Solo, solo exhibition, Kvit Galleri

2018, Pia Eikaas, Street Haunting, solo exhibition, Kvit Galleri

2018, Artist duo Spacegirls, Body Lotion, solo exhibition, Kvit Galleri

2017, Mail Art, group exhibition, Kvit galleri

2017, Lotte Rose Kjær Skau, So Hold Me Mother B, solo exhibition, Kvit Galleri

2016, Émotif massif, Kvit Galleri 1 år, group exhibition, Kvit Galleri

2016, Melanie Kitti / Joseph Helland, Mule Maneuvers, duo exhibition, Kvit Galleri

2016, Lotte Rose Kjær Skau, Fire Gule Digitale Pletter, solo exhibition, Felt Galleri, Norway

2016, Kvit Group Show #2, group exhibition, Kvit Galleri

2015, Kvit Opening Exhibition, group exhibition, Kvit Galleri



2012 February-May, Galeria Santa Fé, Bogotá, Colombia

2012 May, Concept developer, 100en1Día, Bogotá, Colombia

2012 May, Event and Concept developer, Kairos Housing Project, Bogotá, Colombia February

2010 January-February, Prosjekt manager and educator, Lamu Art School, Kenya

2008 & 2019, Initiator and co-founder, Galleri Silo, Norway



2018, September, Leveld Kunstnartun, Norway

2008, Can Serrat Art Residency, Spain