Interview with Ingvar Björn
Ingvar Björn is an Icelandic artist recognized for his vast array of art that is showcased around the world. Ingvar is also well known for his work with UNICEF in which he broke the world record for the largest artwork of all time. Aside from his massive art designs, he creates stunning paintings, some of which he has quoted his daughter as inspiration. A frequent flyer, Ingvar splits his time mainly between Iceland and Germany along with any other countries that may be on his calendar that day. While almost his entire 2018 schedule is booked, Crzy Lvrs had the opportunity to chat with Ingvar live from his studio and he helped us understand how his masterpieces are created.
“Art is not hard until you realize it is hard” -Ingvar Björn
When did you start as an artist, can you give us some background?
“Initially, I wanted to be a veterinarian and help animals, but I kept getting drawn in back to art. I was raised by a single mother and I didn’t know my father until I was 15 years old, so my older brother helped bring me up. My mother is a photographer, while my brother is also an artist, both of them were big inspirations to me and encouraged me along the way. I always painted and created things my entire life, had a passion for photography, and I eventually sold my first picture at the age of 19. Personally though, I’m a bit different from my family, my brain is all over the place, I got lucky growing up being exposed to different colors all around me.”
Why do you do what you do?
“I just think it’s a really cool thing to do, it’s something that I said I wanted to do before I died. I guess you can say it was part of my bucket list, it’s the same as someone saying they want to visit a different continent like Asia. I said I wanted to make a better world, I want to make a difference while I’m alive. If I can change anything, impact someone’s life, or do something to this world then that satisfies me. Art is something that chose me, I didn’t choose it.”
What is the purpose of your work?
“The purpose is to get people to come together. The colors and beauty are all just avenues for people to admire the nature of art. It’s the idea that I’m able to get art out of the museum and into the streets for anyone to see. For example, my piece with UNICEF was to get people from around the world to join in making art.”
What is your favorite type of artwork?
“I enjoy installations, in particular, I love the show that I put on in Barcelona. For example, combining music with an installation is something that brings it to the next level. I had an exhibition in Iceland with 3D design on buildings and when I see a mother and child walk by with their glasses on admiring my work that’s what does it for me. I’m able to make statements in my installations, sometimes its political such as my crime scene work, but everything I do tell tells a story. I have an upcoming installation where I’ll be placing a mannequin on a mainstreet in Iceland with quotes about the country written all over it so that people can read about different perspectives.”
What was a major turning point in your career?
“Money, that was a big issue when I first started my career. Being an artist is not easy, it’s not the fairytale that everyone thinks. It’s a long and tiring process that takes years depending on what path you want to take your career. Becoming an artist was always about passion and never about the money, but you have to realize that can’t do large scale pieces without funding. Paintings don’t require any money, and I sometimes even fund my other projects with revenue from my paintings, but I rely on company sponsorships for many of my installations. Recently I pitched a piece to 3 companies and 1 company turned around and said they’ll make an offer for the entire project, that’s the difference between then and now.”
What is your favorite artwork you’ve done?
“My favorite artwork is my daughter, she’s a masterpiece! Children have such a different perspective, they’re so pure and think so simply. My daughter has a huge influence on my artwork that I create. My mother always kept all of my art as I grew up and I do the same for my daughter.”
What did you do to get your name out there as an artist?
“I find that it’s very easy to network in Iceland, it’s almost like I can pick up the phone and call the President. I honestly just got involved, I put ideas out and asked for advice; I sat down and talked with people. I was never afraid to pick up the phone and call someone for help and I was okay with someone tell me no because no is not a final answer. I’ve had many people throughout my career help me along the way and I try to give back to others as much as possible. One thing that many people don’t understand is that most people are willing to help if they have the resources to do so.”
What advice would you give to young artists who are just starting out?
“You have to believe in yourself and always be positive, you cannot be an artist if you are negative. Never give up on your dreams, some people are going to hate your work, and others will love it; the beauty of it is that not everyone likes the same thing. I also don’t envy anyone, I feel that most other artists feel that they are the center of the universe, you have to find your own path. My biggest piece of advice is to find some cheap noodles because you’re going to be poor at some point in your career.”
What is your main inspiration?
“I mentioned earlier that awareness is a big part of my work, that includes politics, along with other causes. As of late, my new thing is awareness of the environment; nature is something that certainly inspires me the most. Especially when it comes to winter, all of the white snow on the ground, just the process of putting on your winter clothes and exploring nature is something that really brings out my creativity.”
How do you work?
“Being an artist, you never know when you wake up what you’re going to be doing today or tomorrow. I always wish I had more time in the day, I spend a lot of time negotiating with companies to sponsor my upcoming projects. My mind is constantly bouncing from project to project, so I’m always working on more than one thing at once. For example, I have a painting that I’ve been working on for almost 6 months and I’m still not happy with it while other times I’ll paint something and immediately fall in love.”
What is next for your career?
“My schedule is almost completely booked for 2018 so I have a busy year ahead. I’m very excited about being commissioned by the Icelandic government to create 2 artworks for the 100th anniversary of the government. Working with the government allows me to help bring Icelandic nature to other countries around the world while supporting the deaf and blind. I will also be working on a sound art piece that incorporates a recording artist that Rolling Stone magazine named one of the 10 best drummers in the world. It is going to be an exciting year to come, I’ll also be travelling to the United States for the first time in many years to showcase some upcoming work.”
Make sure to check out Ingvar’s work: http://ingvarbjorn.com