The contrasting volcanic and glacier shaped landscapes of his native Iceland, and the light and flora of Southern California where he lives now, are part of the visual memories Arnor Bieltvedt draws upon while painting. Like a generation of Icelandic artists before him (Nína Tryggvadóttir and Kristján Davídsson are influences), the intensity of these landscapes inspired Bieltvedt to perceive deeply, to look for elements that stand out and how things connect as a whole. Working abstractly, his paintings express his admiration for nature, its beauty on the surface and its underlying force and strength. Abstraction allows him to focus on color relationships and to organize essential impressions and memories into painted poetry.
Bieltvedt paints quickly across the canvas, his gestures expressing feeling through intense mark-making and varied contrasts and rhythms that form an unrestrained and confident, harmonious whole. There is a struggle between figure and ground, paint and surface, which he can’t resolve, so he immerses himself into the paint, painting physically and emotionally, an action he attributes to the influence of abstract painters Jackson Pollack and Joan Mitchell. And like them when painting, he is not aware of himself, the painting is telling him what to do. He contemplates the technology of paint — its saturation, texture and plasticity — by painting with a variety of media, starting with layers of acrylic washes, overlaid with lines of paint pens, searching for the structure and emotion of the composition. Eventually the painting becomes infused with life and energy through the use of thick layers of impasto oil paints often applied with swift, energetic strokes of the palette knife on top of the acrylic underpainting. Matte acrylic washes are juxtaposed against the slick layers of oil paint, allowing the oil to shine.
The work displays a radical and free use of color, as well as experimentation with composition, scale, and the structure of the painting. Anticipating an interaction of color while moving the paint around, he applies the paint directly to the canvas rather than a pallet, saturated, with a focus on one color or two. To understand light and space, he first challenged himself to paint only in black and white. For Bieltvedt, color becomes the anchor, creating equilibrium and interaction. Like in the unspoiled yet surreal Nordic landscape, a country of water and many different shades of blue, he knows that the colors in nature combined with natural light, cannot be truly replicated, so he will paint its opposite. Bieltvedt imagines color in the middle of the eye’s retina and seeks the unspoiled nature of color to represent a pure expression of humanity and life.