Cloud castles, beach houses, and blue skies – Danish artist Mette Nørregaard’s reflective landscapes invite us to slow down, turn our gaze inward and connect
an article written by Milia Wallenius
ARTICULATE #31 | April 2022
Mette Nørregaard (b. 1973) is a Danish artist and figurative painter based in Gilleleje, a small fishing village on the north coast of Denmark’s Zealand. Here, surrounded by wild nature and the sea she creates works where waves roam wild and sandy beaches stretch as far as the eye can see.
As someone who grew up in a coastal village, Nørregaard’s paintings immediately remind me of home, family, and safety. At the same time, they also hold a promise of freedom and adventure.
Nørregaard is the daughter of a painter. She grew up surrounded by her father’s art, which inspired and encouraged her to pursue her own dream to become an artist. Like her father, her go to medium is oil on canvas.
Nørregaard started painting full time in her early 20’s and first exhibited alongside her father, who brought some of her work to his own exhibitions. She is an artist who values craftmanship and has spent years practicing and perfecting her own painting style, which shows excellent attention to detail.
Nørregaard prefers simple compositions and mainly works with pre-thought ideas. As a result, a major part of her creative process is unseen and takes place in her mind long before a brush stroke is made on canvas. She does not follow strict rules regarding the construction of her compositions but has a few general guidelines she works (and lives) by.
“If you succeed in combining humor and seriousness, light and darkness, I really believe you are onto something – in artworks as well as in life itself”, she explains.
As an artist Nørregaard is motivated by her ability to inspire others and make people feel. By being mindful about keeping the elements in her compositions at a minimum, she aims to leave space for different interpretations.
“There is almost next to nothing happening in my paintings”, she points out, “I think that the greatest ingenuity happens in the mind of the viewer.”
According to minimalist art theory, limiting the elements of an artwork expands the spectators mind from the art object into the surrounding physical space. The artwork is thus not only the object itself but also the space around it, which includes the spectator, along with any thoughts, feelings, and impressions he or she might have.
Nørregaard works with these ideas of minimalism in the sense that the spectator plays and important role in the constructions of meaning in her work. Here meaning is not found in the painting alone but in the interplay between the painting and the spectator.
“I rarely paint persons”, Nørregaard explains, “I like the paintings to be all about the viewer”.
By making the observer the main character she automatically allows diverse readings of her work. Each spectator will view the paintings in a different way and give the experience their own personal touch.
Nørregaard works with landscapes and architecture and merges the two into otherworldly scenarios that effortlessly move between realism and surrealism, reality and imagination, nature and dream.
She uses perspective and elements such as open doors or windows to create a sense of openness and lightness in her paintings. Long hallways emit a feeling of depth but can also be seen as symbols of a journey, a path or a road ahead. The unexpected intrusions of the sky or the sea symbolize the mind’s ability to travel from one thing or place to the next in an instant.
“We can be in one place and then suddenly, because of a smell or a sound, the mind transports us to another place”, Nørregaard clarifies.
Nørregaard’s paintings are like portals or windows between different places. Look at the paintings long enough and you might just start feeling the sand under your feet, the fresh salty sea breeze in your hair, the warmth of the sun on your skin and the smell of seaweed in your nose. Not forgetting the sound of the waves as they hit the shore nor the cry of the seagulls in the distance.
Many of Nørregaard’s paintings resonate with childhood, be it through the presence of a childlike innocence or childish things that remind us to stay open-minded and curious. Personally, her paintings remind me of childhood summers at a beach house when time was spent building sandcastles and finding figures in the clouds.
Nørregaard’s works are playful and fun, yet somehow bittersweet. While time in the paintings seems to stand still, they somehow manage to remind us of its passing. Be it through memories, as in my case, or through the literal symbolism in waves entering empty architectural constructions as if they were abandoned and left behind for nature to reclaim.
Nature is a major theme in Nørregaard’s work, where it is often depicted in the wild and untamed form of the sea or towering clouds in the horizon. What is interesting to see however is how effortlessly Nørregaard manages to balance this raw wilderness with a sense of stillness, silence, and calm. She achieves this by using her minimalist aesthetic, subtle palette of mainly greys, blues and browns, and a delicate play between light and shadow.
This is also what makes her paintings seem so incredibly peaceful and poetic, nearly divine. Looking at Nørregaard’s art is a highly meditative experience. An experience that has the potential to become a deeply personal, spiritual, intimate, and adventurous journey inward. A journey to a place where one can explore, learn, be playful, reconnect and evolve.
This article about Mette Nørregaard takes part of the 30th magazine, ARTICULATE #31. Read, download or order your print version of the full publication below.