Inside the Studio

What Lies Beneath Irene Gronwall’s Layered Abstractions

What are the major themes you pursue in your work?

I am an abstract painter and I paint layers upon layers. I am interested in what lays underneath each layer; in life, in nature, in people, in actions – in things I see in everyday life. What lays behind what we think we see? That’s my inspiration. Sometimes I paint with many colours, sometimes less colours, concentrating more on form and movement. People don’t have to understand my work, but if they experience some emotion – I’m happy.

How did you first get interested in your medium, and what draws you to it specifically?

I like acrylics because they dry quickly and that is good for me since I tend to paint as if I am in a hurry. Hence also the many layers. I love drawing lines in my work, and I have always done that.

How has your style and practice changed over the years?

My style has changed from lots of colour and many marks, many small forms, to less and bigger forms. I often use a few colours so that the eyes can rest on the forms. But I also surprise myself every now and then and paint all the colours that I love. I don’t want my paintings to be too pretty, there has be an opposite element of something else that will evoke other feelings. Dark-light, soft-sharp, sweet-dangerous.

Can you walk us through your process? Do you begin with a sketch, or do you just jump in? How long do you spend on one work? How do you know when it is finished?

I start with some idea, like how can I take the last painting further, on the same theme, and keep some colour and form from the last one and elaborate with it into something new. I often work in series of two or three. I can fall in love with a part of a painting, and that can stop me from moving on with it. If that happens, I must kill that darling, move the canvas, turn it around and continue. Or I put it aside and continue with another painting.

Who are some of your favorite artists, and why?

One of my favourite artists is Franz Kline. I love his boldness, his trust in the brushstroke and that it is enough. Less is more, that is what I have learn from him. And to be brave!

I also love Helen Frankenthaler for her experimentation, and her seriousness in exploring her own talent. She was not afraid to change her style and said there are no rules. She also said about her different styles, “I hope that in the end, others can see that it’s me holding the paintbrush”. I hope that goes for me too.

What are some of your favorite experience as an artist?

I love meeting my collectors and talking to the people who see my work; I enjoy listening to what a painting means to them, what they see in it and answering questions they might have about my work.

If you could have one piece of art in your life, what would that be?

I’d love to have a painting by Kline.

About the Author

Katherine Henning is Senior Associate Curator at Saatchi Art. Need help finding art? Contact her via our free Art Advisory service here.