ON DISPLAY - A CONVERSATION WITH CHRIS AERFELDT - EPISODE 05

Oil painter and photographer Chris Aerfeldt shares her inspirations, challenges, and how a strict childhood inspires her larger-than-life paintings of women.

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HEY SIRI, ALEXA, CORTANA! LET'S PLAY GAME OF THRONES 170 X 120 CM, OIL ON LINEN, 2018

HEY SIRI, ALEXA, CORTANA! LET'S PLAY GAME OF THRONES 170 X 120 CM, OIL ON LINEN, 2018

Oil painter and photographer Chris Aerfeldt joins us to talk about her artistic journey, her sources of inspiration, and finding the self confidence to keep creating even when experiencing self-doubt. Chris focuses on themes of freedom, authenticity, invisibility, and peer pressure. Women figure prominently in her work as larger than life characters, often placed in environments that are seemingly at odds with their activities.

Chris shares how her subject matter is influenced her experience working in the fashion design industry, by older Dutch paintings of women engaged in household chores, and her own background as the daughter of two Estonian refugees. As a result of their experience in refugee camps, her mother was very restrictive, and Chris’s childhood left very little room for self-expression.

“When I was growing up, I felt invisible and squashed,” she says. “Now when I’m painting my women, I want to be seen, I want to feel strong… My paintings are all very large and the women are all larger, much larger than lifesize. So they’re giants, because I feel like… I don’t want you to ignore my women, my women have to be seen.”

INSTALLATION VIEW, BAD MANNERISM, HEY SIRI - ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE - LADIES FROM ZARA SHOP WINDOWS MEET SEURAT, 2018

INSTALLATION VIEW, BAD MANNERISM, HEY SIRI - ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE - LADIES FROM ZARA SHOP WINDOWS MEET SEURAT, 2018

From making art to being an artist

Chris started out by doodling in her notebooks at school, often landscapes or other nature scenes that offered a mental escape from her home life. Later, she graduated to making oil paintings on scraps of cardboard in the family garage, but she never considered being an “artist” a viable career choice. Instead, she got a degree in art education.

But after trying and rejecting a number of career paths, she found herself increasingly frustrated and depressed. With the encouragement of her partner, she enrolled in art school.

'She stopped giving dinner parties because she couldn't bear the anxiety of getting everything ready on time' 130x160cm, oil on linen, 2012

'She stopped giving dinner parties because she couldn't bear the anxiety of getting everything ready on time'
130x160cm, oil on linen, 2012

Working through doubt to self confidence

Despite having made art and working toward being an artist all her life, she still struggles with not overthinking her process and being too self critical. She says that she has to shut out the rest of her imagined audience when she’s working in order to create from an authentic and vulnerable place.

“I think all of us have our self doubts, it’s trying not to let that self doubt rule what we do and rule our lives, because the self doubt can be so overwhelming,” Chris says.

TEA PARTY 100 X 100 CM, DIASEC PHOTOGRAPH, 2016

TEA PARTY 100 X 100 CM, DIASEC PHOTOGRAPH, 2016

About our guest:

As a nervous and hypersensitive eleven year old, Aerfeldt escaped to her father’s shed and started making oil paintings on scraps of cardboard as a way to be seen and heard, and to calm herself. In 2007, Aerfeldt was awarded the Samstag Scholarship, enabling her to travel to London and complete her Masters in Fine Art at Chelsea College of Art. Many of her pieces have been purchased by renowned collectors, including Charles Saatchi, and she has exhibited in the UK, France, Spain and Australia.

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SHE CAME HOME FROM WORK AND STARTED DUSTING AT MIDNIGHT 140 X 130 CM, OIL ON LINEN, 2016

SHE CAME HOME FROM WORK AND STARTED DUSTING AT MIDNIGHT 140 X 130 CM, OIL ON LINEN, 2016

FLOWER EATER 120 X 120 CM, OIL ON CANVAS, 2008

FLOWER EATER 120 X 120 CM, OIL ON CANVAS, 2008

Mauren Brodbeck