Since I started doing the Featured Artists I have been lucky to find them all by accident by surfing the web. Recently I got even more lucky when I got an interesting email from Despina Tunberg of OMMA Center of Contemporary of Art. She wrote to invite me to participate in a show at the gallery. I was flattered and shocked to say the least. I am not a professional artist, my one painting is a testament to that fact. However, she saw some of my drawings and that one painting and was interested enough to ask me to send my work to her gallery for a show.
I explored OMMA’s site and found that Despina is an accomplished artist with a wonderful body of work, so I had to immediately invite her to be a Featured Artist on CIDtalk.com.
Tunberg’s work is alive and vibrant with colors, shapes, lines and movement that jumps off the canvas. In the interview below you will read her philosophy on art and life. She has an insightful, admirable approach to the world that is in every brushstroke.
The process her work goes through is not hidden. There are works that, as you study them, you can vividly imagine her standing in front of the canvas applying the paint with a lively, vigorous lust for creating her artwork (if I may be so bold).
There is such variety in her work, from the subdued colors and deliberate definition of lines and shapes composing the figure on the top left image to the vibrancy and less structured figures dancing below.
The diptych of what appears to be a dance troop practicing or a dance class in motion is one of my favorite pieces I’ve seen so far. The effect of the bold brush strokes and design of the figures is interesting. I can hear the music and the feet on the hard wood floor as I look at the dancers.
Other work, such as the figure on the beach “Sunbathing III” to the right, take yet another approach. The presence of the paint and process of getting the medium on the canvas become part of the image itself. Whether it is an illusion of “spattering” or another technique to achieve the overall texture of the sunbathing series, these images become more intriguing and illuminate Tunberg’s philosophy of movement and life. Injecting that sense of motion into her artwork she can make even the least active moments (i.e. sunbathing) exciting and visually stimulating.
Humans span the planet covering every continent, country, region, state, county, city, village, and home with countless cultural ideas, habits and rituals. However, the most interesting facet of our existence is that there are so many things that are global. Tunberg’s time in India inspired her to create images of woman in various states of socially acceptable dress and states of emotion. These images speak volumes about freedom, self acceptance, and even a deeper look at historic religious backlash on women in different cultures in this modern world. Poignant attention to details that capture expressions of struggle, dependence, fear and anger bring Tunberg’s work to a level beyond her stunning eclectic style, to become a thought provoking education for the viewer.
I’m so proud to offer this interview with Despina Tunberg. I feel she is an artist and person who offers a perspective of the world we could all benefit from absorbing visually and intellectually.
Cid: Where do you live?
Ms. Tunberg: In Hania, Crete, Greece
Cid: How old are you?
Ms. Tunberg: 44
Cid: Do you have formal art training or education?
Ms. Tunberg: Yes
Cid: When you were growing up, did you feel that your creativity got special attention?
Ms. Tunberg: Yes
Cid: Are Art and Design the way you make a living?
Ms. Tunberg: Part of it . My husband and I have an English language school and this is what we earn our living from. We have this gallery because we both love art and we are trying to keep it, sometimes investing money on exhibitions
Cid: Have you been a part of the “art scene” where you live?
Ms. Tunberg: Yes. We are considered to be the best gallery in Crete and we are always “in the news” here, since our activities are considered to be very interesting to the Media.
Cid: Do you attend gallery openings, check out the latest offerings of local talent, and hang out where the creative community migrate to?
Ms. Tunberg: Yes
Cid: How would you describe the art community where you live?
Ms. Tunberg: Hania is one of the most culturally active cities in Greece. It is a cosmopolitan place (it has always been like that) and people from all over the world have chosen this place to settle down. Most of them are artists who fell in love with the place, when they visited. I and my husband are among them. We visited Hania for first time in 1983. It was “love-in-first-site” In 1986 we moved here and we are very happy to have made this decision.
Cid: Do you have any children and if so, do they show an interest in artistic ventures?
Ms. Tunberg: Yes. We have a boy (19) and a girl (16) Our son Karl is leaving next week. He is going to study cinema in the USA. This is something like ‘an inherited talent” in the family. His grandfather was the famous screen writer Karl Tunberg who, among the 59 films he has written – did the screenplay for “Ben Hur”. His father (and my husband of course), Thomas Tunberg, is a screen writer and an archeologist. Our son Karl also composes music and he is very good at sketching. Our daughter wants to become an architect. She paints really beautifully and she creates beautiful artworks from strange materials. She is really inventive.
Cid: As an artist, do you feel people see you in any certain stereotypical way?
Ms. Tunberg: No, not at all!
Cid: Do you feel there is a stigma or blessing attached to being an artist amongst the “normal” people of the world?
Ms. Tunberg: Of course it is a blessing! Can we imagine life without art? Music, fine arts, cinema etc.? I can’t.
Cid: Are you an adventurous artist, trying new tools, mediums, ideas to keep your passion for creating alive? Or, are you reserved, preferring to stick with what you know, what makes you feel comfortable and safe in your skill “zone”?
Ms. Tunberg: I always try new techniques an new materials. And what I am also looking for, as a gallerist, is modern expressions, no matter how extreme they might seem!
Cid: Are you interested in computers and the internet? If yes, how does the technological world come together with your creative thinking?
Ms. Tunberg: It is a really great tool. I love looking at artists’ portfolios. It has given me the chance to watch all new trends all over the world. And I think it is a Huge Great University to be able to see what artists did and do. It’s all there! That’s fantastic!
It is also a very cheap way for every artist to present their portfolio. No more expensive portfolios sent to galleries and waiting for answers. Just a message and a link… and it’s all there!
I love it!
Cid: What plans do you have for the future? Any new mediums or areas of the artistic world that you would like to explore?
Ms. Tunberg: Yes. I have a lot of ideas but I can never describe it beforehand. Nobody would understand what I mean. Fine art is something that only when it is ready – to -see can be understandable. And in many cases… not even then…!
Cid: I can’t say enough about how utterly amazed I am at your work. Do you get a lot of enthusiastic responses to your paintings?
Ms. Tunberg: Yes, I get a lot of messages from other artists. That gives me a lot of courage to continue. Artists’ opinion counts for me much more than clients who buy my works!
ABOUT YOUR WORK.
Cid: On the website you write, “Even when the subject is seemingly lifeless, I try to depict it as alive, to imagine how it would be with a soul.” That is an excellent view of the world. Have you always had that same philosophy about life and art, or was there a time when it materialized from a specific experience?
Ms. Tunberg: I think it was always there, but it was really conscious when I did this series and I tried to find out why I did it. It is strange, but I thought about it, only after I had created many works and I thought about them as a series. Maybe it is because I usually follow my instincts and I never think – at least consciously – when I paint!
Sounds crazy? Why not?
Cid: I admire the “phases” you pass through in your work. The focus on India, the works with eyes in the landscapes, it seems you get an idea or a concept in your mind and make an effort to explore it completely. Is that intentional? Do you look for themes or concepts to delve into or do they just happen naturally?
Ms. Tunberg: They just happen! There are some scenes that I can’t avoid painting them. Usually they are scenes that make the viewer think, or feel. This feeling is , in most cases, not happiness. I never create happy scenes! It’s not that I love misery of course! It’s because I have very strong feelings in front of certain scenes, and the only way to feel better, is to paint them. To make others see what I see! I don’t know if I manage to do it… but I try..
Cid: Did you make a trip to India specifically to absorb the culture for inspiration for your work or was that a pleasant byproduct of your visit there?
Ms. Tunberg: I went to India just to travel around. It never occured to me what I was going to see and feel! It was a great shock! It made me see my life again and rethink about all my being again, starting from 0 point!
Cid: You have a variety of approaches to painting techniques and styles, do you make an effort to try different things or are you naturally drawn to a more eclectic creative process?
Ms. Tunberg: It is a matter of how I feel at a certain time. It’s just me. My inner self on a canvas!
Cid: Do you find nature, landscapes, etc. are as inspirational as humans in terms of subject matter? Is it more of a challenge to capture human emotion, activity and personality than to capture the innate beauty of nature?
Ms. Tunberg: I find human beings a great inspiration. I am not interested in landscapes alone. Maybe this approach is too egoistic but I do not find a point in painting nature without the essence of a human being in the scene! Maybe I think that human beings are the most important thing in the universe? I hope I do not believe it! I would never accept such a thought to be mine!
Cid: How do ideas come to you and what is the process from conception to reality for each painting? Is there a time frame in which you like to complete a work, or does it depend on the painting?
Ms. Tunberg: I don’t know. how ideas come to me. They are just there. Often is very difficult to start, but when I do it, then I can’t stop and they come up very quickly. And then I become very creative and inventive!
Cid: The gallery, OMMA Center of Contemporary Art, offers a collection of artists with a variety of styles from all over the world. A lot of galleries focus on one style or concept. What makes your gallery different and what inspires you to open the shows to such a wide range of artists?
Ms. Tunberg: The different approach that Omma Center has is that we do not choose artists because we believe they will sell. We choose artists whose work we believe in, we like to show it. If we had the mentality that we choose artists because their art sells, it would mean that our clientele controls which artists are worth seeing, and this way, we would not offer anything. We would just sell stuff. Why shouldn’t we sell something else then? Something that everybody needs to buy ? Why shouldn’t we sell food or clothes? Art is one of the most difficult products to sell, because only few people appreciate and buy it, worldwide.
Our intention is to show art that educates our public. Art that is really worth seeing! And if we insist on that, then, slowly- slowly our public will get to know the difference. In the beginning it was really hard to survive, because of this mentality.
Now, we have started having results and we see we were right to have such a belief! The public has started corresponding.
Omma is considered to be a serious place and our exhibitions are presented by all media all over Greece. Twice a week, teachers bring children – of every age, even nursery schools come- at the gallery and we guide them through it. I think that’s great!
Thanks to Despina Tunberg for her time and effort in participating in this article and use of her images.