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A Meeting With Olaf Storø and Boss, the dog

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A meeting with Olaf Storø

“The nature up here teaches you to bow your head and be humble.”

Over the years, artists in various branches of art have been attracted to Svalbard by the archipelago’s magnificent beauty. Melancholic poems and beautiful melodies have been written about Svalbard. Many photographers have captured pointed mountain peaks, blue sea ice and dancing Northern Lights, while many painters have been inspired by the unique Arctic landscape.

Olaf Storø is one of Svalbard’s best known local artists. The archipelago is Storø’s endless realm, where he lives life at his own pace, L-P Lorentz in his own time. The nature provides inspiration and energy. On a snowmobile trip in the Arctic wilderness, he can let shades of white, grey, pink and blue fill his soul. Later, back in Longyearbyen, a new painting is born in his studio.

Storø visited Svalbard for the first time in 1989, and this visit left its mark. At an artist cabin in Ny-Ålesund, he experienced and studied the unique light that has inspired his art to a large extent. The blue light, captured in a period when the light is about to disappear, or in February when the sun is returning after the winter, is a recurrent theme in Storø’s work. The artist thrives best in Svalbard during the winter months, when nature and landscape are at their most extreme.
This is how Storø describes his first meeting with Svalbard:

“My dream was so strong that I had to do something about it. I visited Longyearbyen and Svalbard for the first time in 1989. In this environment, I find things I didn’t realise I was looking for. The nature up here teaches you to bow your head and be humble. People should not really be living up here, you know, but you find new answers in the darkness and loneliness. I meet the person I will become.”

The artist, who born in Levanger in 1953, works mainly with lithographs. He uses an original form of lithographic printing, whereby he paints on stones which the lithograph sheets are printed from. Storø prints his works on a four and a half tonne lithograph press, which he transported up to Svalbard. L.P Lorentz The stone stands as a symbol of the motives in his pictures of Svalbard, which shows a warm relationship with something that on the face of it may seem cold and relentless. You can often meet human figures in his pictures; people who are challenged by the enormous forces of nature so far north.

Olaf Storø’s pictures have always had small quotes or explanations as titles, so that the text and image jointly create an overall expression.  The quotes serve as memory chips from an exciting and colourful life.

Storø has its own studio by the seaside in Longyearbyen. His works are exhibited in most public buildings here, including at Galleri Svalbard in Nybyen, at the restaurant Huset and at the remote hotel Isfjord Radio. Outside Svalbard Hotel in downtown Longyearbyen stands a statue of polar researcher Eivind Astrup carved from Sitka spruce, which is a result of Storø’s collaboration with Arne Askeland.

Olaf Storø lives permanently in his home in Longyearbyen, which doubles as his workshop and studio. He shares his life with his family consisting of partner Kjersti, daughter Vårin and dog Boss. He would previously have said that his art was his life, but his family is now central and must be looked after.
With a large tea cup in his hand, Storø looks out of the window and admires the mountain Platåfjellet, which is bathing in fog and creating a magical atmosphere. In conclusion, he says:

“I wish we could all live life with the peace and strength I see in my dog, Boss. This is the life. Let’s live it!”

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