Tora Frogner (b. 1991) is an up-and-coming Copenhagen-based, Norwegian artist who works with sculpture, site-specific installations and mixed-media. She has exhibited in Europe and North America, and her art has been sold to buyers in Australia, France, Spain and Norway. Additionally, she is represented at BOON in Paris, Sirin Gallery and Audo House in Copenhagen.
Tora is co-editor of the art book Offentlighedens Rum (Spaces of the Public, 2018), a collection of images and texts reflecting upon the use and stories of public spaces with contributions from Mamma Andersson, Olafur Eliasson, SUPERFLEX, Tal R, Frode Grytten and 23 other Nordic artists.
Frogner works with a diversity of materials and often returns to simple materiality such as paper and clay in her art. In her practice, Tora Frogner captures atmospheres in nature using abstract forms and solitary postures to create a landscape of an odd existence, indecisive of whether its force is one of vitality or decay.
We met with Tora in her studio to discuss inspiration, experimentation and the process of creating her newest collection, the Growth series.
Can you shed some light on how you have paved your way as an artist and creator?
I’ve always experienced a powerful attraction to the aesthetic field in general, including many different types of creative work, such as dance, theatre, architecture and academia.
I still enjoy partaking in and seeking inspiration from all of these various fields, however, visual arts have always formed the backbone of my practice. A natural channel through which I find ways to process the world around me, as it were.
Creating has always felt very intuitive for me. It is a means through which I can explore my curiosity through play and creative experimentation. Creating has helped me come to terms with the realization that the world is a place filled with opportunities and untold stories — rather than a closed door.
How has your background in architecture and material studies helped shape or inspire your artistic output?
My architectural background has had a lasting impact on the ways in which I perceive space and reflect on its importance. My studies have helped to train my eye and develop my critical capabilities. As a result, I see things differently, for better or for worse. As a consequence, I am deeply interested in how we, as humans, make ourselves in the world, live with the world and create spaces and objects out of the materials surrounding us.
It’s challenging to pinpoint exactly what it is that you learn when working within a specific field, but I believe that both the tacit and explicit academic knowledge I acquired have shaped my practice in many ways. Conversely, I believe that my background in architecture has helped shape how I build the narrative of an artwork and my general approach when working with the materials I am drawn to.
What kind of emotion or ambience do you seek to capture in your artworks?
In my art, I try to capture the atmosphere of nature as materialised portraits — stills of movement and time. The expressions of my artworks refer to geological landscapes, corrals, wood or buds about to break out in blossom.
I am interested in creating artefacts by highlighting abstract forms and textures, which then build a connection between nature and the perception of nature. Just as nature does, human bodies grow, emerge and eventually decompose, transitioning into something else entirely. Similarly, things in the natural world have their life span, although this timeline can be much faster or slower than that of humans.
Could you describe the concept behind the growth series?
In my Growth Series, I work with the concept of the vase as a pure shape. The vase made from clay is a primordial object, built and used for containment as well as adornment through the ages. I love these old archetypes and traditions that have a kind of universal feeling to them.
Specifically, Growth is a reflection of the limits of materiality. The sculptures are made from unglazed stoneware, where the pigments from the clay create the colours and patterns.
Where did you draw inspiration from for the growth series?
The question of inspiration is always challenging because the answer, from my perspective, is quite varied. I don’t have a specific reference, object or place, from which I draw inspiration and my works often arise from a collection of feelings, drawn together from various life situations and experiences.
I do tend to lean towards the contrast between the robust and fragile, the soft and hard. Moreover, I seek to explore the idea that there is an aspect of time, growth and degeneration in everything which surrounds us.
Landscapes often inspire me, because these open spaces contain a mixture of many materials, colours and textures, but also narratives and stories told.
What does your work process typically look like?
I dream of having a structured workflow when working in my atelier, but I can never seem to make it work in actuality. Strangely enough, I believe that the best works I have produced so far, have been born from a moment of chance. Yet, behind these moments, exists hours of work, discarded shapes and sketches which I am not satisfied with.
My process behind creation is very open-ended. When I go to my studio to experiment, I try to surrender to the ambiguity of the creative process. Sometimes this takes the form of sketching but oftentimes I allow my hands to lead, gradually forming a concept or shape that becomes clearer as the artwork evolves.
I also set aside time for rest, allowing myself to go out for walks, read and organize. Some of my artworks are constructed intuitively and created as part of a dialogue with the material. Other times, my projects have been residing in my mind for years, resting until I eventually coax them out and bring them to life.
What makes minimalism or simplicity appealing? and how do you work with the concept of minimalism in your work?
I believe that simplicity is so appealing to us because it allows details to take the centre of attention. However, simplicity is perhaps most compelling when viewed in communion with high-quality materials and engaging shapes. Without attention to detail and craftsmanship, minimalistic objects or interiors can quickly become boring or alienating.
Good design is often perceived as an aesthetic bombardment of colour, shape and tactility. However, I also believe that it can be important to allow the senses to rest, through a sense of simplicity or minimalism. When done correctly, sparsity can become a type of meditation.
What was the timeline like when creating the growth series?
Each piece in the Growth series took between 6 to 8 weeks to create. From building up to carving and drying, the act of creating a sculpture can be a very slow process. I always begin with an idea of how the final piece is going to look — the shape, colour and clays, however, there is a natural sense of evolution and fluidity that occurs throughout the building process. Every sculpture is unique and I view each work as a small creature that grows together with me as I work.