Portrait of my father Erik Hultberg

Baird, Vanessa, 2006

Watercolour on paper, 154x103cm

Vanessa Baird (b.1963) received her education at the National College of Art and Design and the National Academy of Fine Art in Oslo, as well as the Royal College of Art in London. She works in a number of mediums and is best known for her drawings and watercolours. The spontaneous and direct qualities of these techniques appear to be particularly well-suited to her distinct form of expression and working method. She works in both a small format and enormous compositions, and the pictures often have a comic strip, narrative style. Vanessa Baird’s idiom is characterised by a roguish and absurd sense of humour, she alternates between seemingly commonplace motifs that are gleaned from everyday life and grotesque, nightmarish scenes that can be seen as perverted variations on Norwegian folktales.

The boundary between life and art seems blurred as Baird often makes uninhibited use of episodes and experiences from her own life in her pictures. Portrait of my father Erik Hultberg from 2007 is not a traditional portrait. Baird’s father was an architect and the picture is constructed around a number of small richly detailed drawings of buildings that he either designed himself or that had special significance for him – here are works by Louis Kahn and Le Corbusier, and his own Hallagerbakken at Holmlia and the blue prints for the row houses in Skjettenbyen. The picture almost has the character of being a narrative or a conversation between father and daughter, in which his life is summarized. It is a deeply personal picture made shortly before her father passed away, he had been sick for quite some time, and can thus be interpreted as a processing of grief during a difficult time.