Trolls… they’re big, they’re hairy, they live in the mountains and in the woods. They’re ugly and the older they get, the more heads they sprout, and they can smell a Christian a mile away. They hold fair maidens captive and will gladly take on the challenge of an eating contest. Should you ever come across a troll, you will be fortunate to be an atheist, as they will kill and eat any God-botherer. This is not to say that they won’t kill and eat any other person, but at least they won’t be able to easily sniff you out.
In no other Scandinavian countries are trolls such an established part of the culture and the narrative tradition as in Norway.
Theodor Severin Kittelsen (1857-1914) is one my favourite artists. Long before I knew his name I was familiar with his imagery. Kittelsen’s illustrations of Norwegian folk and fairytales have long been as much a part of the cultural heritage in Norway as the tales themselves.
The step from realism to fantasy was a small one for Kittelsen, and the Norwegian landscape was for him full of mystery and fantastical creatures. Everything in the scenery around him- stones, a tuft of grass, roots and trees- all acquired human or creature-like features through his imagination. Kittelsen captured the Norwegian trolls like no other illustrator has done before or after. His sense of mystery and imagination merged these creatures with nature; they were nature, not something separated or foreign from it.
This is largely why I find his imagery so inspirational to my latest body of work. Mystery and imagination is not a separate thing from the landscape around me regardless of global location, it is always largely influenced and changed by it.
And so I take my Norwegian cultural upbringing, my storytelling, out into the Australian scenery to see what becomes when my northern heritage and imagination is displaced within the great Australian landscape.