Meet: Kristian Evju
My father is a full time artist, so the option to study art was always there. However the conscious decision to pursue art as a career was probably made in 2002; I had been studying psychology at the University of Oslo, and enjoyed it very much, but I had also been painting and drawing a bit in my spare time. There was a Red Cross charity exhibition in my building in Oslo, and one of the organisers had seen my work and wanted to include a few in this show. I had my first solo show half a year later and managed to sell quite well. The experience encouraged me to apply for a place at the BA (Hons) Painting and Drawing course at Edinburgh College of Art. I was accepted onto the course, registered as a self-employed artist, and that was really the start of my career.
I was quite lucky after finishing my BA in Edinburgh – the college experience was great, and in the next three months after graduation I won five awards for my work. I had already been showing regularly whilst studying, but because of these awards, my exhibition calendar started to fill up. So it felt natural to become a full time self-employed artist.
The decision to do my MA at Chelsea felt like the natural next step. The MA Fine Art course is quite intense, as so much is crammed into less than a calendar year of studying, and I felt that this would suit me well. It would also mean that only a year would be taken out of my exhibition program, and it felt like the right time to review and refine my practice.
I chose Chelsea in particular for a number of specific reasons. Besides having a reputation as one of the best art colleges in the world, it is physically well located in the contemporary art world, it has truly excellent workshops, access to some of the world’s leading artists as tutors, and it attracts an invaluable resource in the form of highly skilled and talented art students from all over the planet.
I think finishing a master’s degree in any subject should necessarily be quite difficult and challenging. If it is not, then you might not be dealing with subjects that you truly care about. And there are no guarantees that you will find good solutions or solve your academic riddles during your time there. In fact, a master’s degree should be the start of something, not the end. It is a place to ask important enough questions, and develop a sound enough studio practice to kick-start a hopefully exciting and successful career. I had a tough, but still enjoyable time at Chelsea. I was selected student rep for my year, so I got to know a bit about the political and administrative side of the UAL, which was both challenging and exciting.
I think one of my absolute highlights during my time at Chelsea was collaborating with the technicians in the various workshops. They are absolutely amazing, and I would still not hesitate to seek advice there for current projects. And I’ve kept in touch with several of my fellow students.
London is simply one of the best places to be if you rely on constant visual input and context for your work. I guess no practicing artists is fully exempt from this, and it is a really good place to orient yourself in terms of your contemporaries.
I was recently awarded the Conté à Paris Drawing Prize, which is one of three prizes awarded through the Griffin Gallery Open programme. It is an open competition in its inaugural year, sponsored by Liquitex, Winsor & Newton and Conté à Paris, so I decided to enter two drawings. The jury was made up of artist Ian Davenport, Nigel Hurst (Saatchi Gallery) and Becca Pelle-Fry (Griffin Gallery), and over 2500 artists applied. 93 artist were selected to show at the Griffin Gallery Open exhibition, and I was completely taken by surprise when my two drawings were selected for the Conté prize. This is the first prize I have won specifically for drawing, and it means a lot to me, as I care a lot about this particular way of making art.
I am currently working towards a solo show for an art centre in Norway. The show opens in September, so I am working on the last painting at the moment. The next time I’ll be showing in London will probably be at the London Art Fair early next year. Other than that I just signed up with a new Norwegian gallery, and will be planning a solo show there as well as in Germany next year.
This year I am also part of the UAL mentoring programme, and am volunteering a bit of time to share my knowledge with a currently graduating MA Fine Art student at Chelsea.