Published: May 11, 2013
Media: Dagbladet Magasinet, Norway
This 6-page interview with Magne was published in the Saturday edition of Dagbladet on May 11, 2013. The interview took place in London on May 2 as Magne prepared for the opening of ‘Norwegian Wood’ at Paul Stolper gallery.
The article covers his art, The Beatles, how he balances work and family time, an update on his heart condition, and more.
In the article, Magne says that he likes that his art is easily understood.
It probably has something to do with my background in pop music, I like things that are immediate, but that have additional dimensions if you bother to take a look. It shouldn’t be the case that people feel inferior when they stand there and look. It becomes sort of like relatively banal or kitschy song lines in brilliant pop songs…it can be songs that you think are cheesy ballads. Then suddenly, something happens in your life that makes the song get a whole new meaning, and for the rest of your life, that song reminds you of that happening or experience. I see that as pop music’s strength and I hope to take a little of that over to my visual production in art. I don’t make art that has to be understood by reading manuals.
The article also gives some focus to Magne’s health. Having lived with heart problems for many years, he had an operation last year that has given him a new life at age 50.
I’ve lived with heart problems and of course it’s been difficult for periods of time. But, knock on wood, after the operation last year, I’m in great shape. I have to thank the Norwegian health care system for giving me a new life as a 50 year old. The problem now, is of course, if you ask my wife, that now I can work more than ever. Now I have no barriers.
See below for a full translation of the article.
“Now I have no barriers”
Translation by Tiffany Dahlgren
pg. 52 “On new tracks”
After 20 years with heart problems and pain, Magne Furuholmen is ready to create art from his biggest heroes, the Beatles.
Magne Furuholmen is now going to make music for a film based on Lars Saabye Christensen’s novel “Beatles”. The music will be made in the Beatles’old Abbey Road studios in London, and the film has gotten permission to use original Beatles music. Earlier, Furuholmen composed movie music with Kjetil Bjerkestrand under the name Timbersound. They received TONO’s (a music organization) “Edvard Award” for the music to the TV series “Hotel Oslo” in 1998.
He was one of the mentors in the music program “The Voice” on TV2, where his “student” Martin Halla, won.
He got his breakthrough as an artist with the exhibit “Kutt” at the Henie-Onstad Art Center in 1995. He presently has an exhibit called “Norwegian Wood” in the prestigious Paul Stolper gallery in London. The price for each picture at this exhibit is 60,000 kroner. Furuholmen has used several techniques through the years including woodcut, glass, sculpture, painting, ceramic, and sound. His artistic background is that he was a student of Kjell Nupen.
It’s very busy in London’s labyrinth of streets. The Spring sun is shining, the birds are singing, there are noisy cars, cold beer and bare legs. Behind a white painted door on Museum Street, Magne Furuholmen comes out, with clacking brown boot heels. With a “sixpence” cap over his unruly, curly hair, and a scarf around his neck, he is either sick with a cold or so occupied with his work that he didn’t check the outdoor temperature before he got dressed. He also has a jacket on, it’s not even open.
Magne: “Look here. I’ve made some cut outs. It could be cool, right?”
He spreads out colorful letters. They lay helter skelter over a white table at the end of the gallery.
Magne: “Did you know that the letters in –The Beatles– can be put together in 441 different ways?”
On the table now there is “stealth bee”. Then he shuffles the letters around and makes “table sheet”. He moves the letters around and around…”sable teeth”, “beat she let”, “athletes be”, “Beetle hats”.
Magne: “I really like that things can be torn up and broken down, up until they lose meaning, and then reconstructed to something new, maybe to something bigger than the starting point.”
He stops a moment. He rummages around in his pockets, and heads towards the exit door.
Magne: “Wow. It’s summer. Yes, Wow, it’s warm.”
He lights a cigarette, and covers the flame from the lighter with his hand. He inhales deeply, looks at life on the street outside the gallery. a-ha Mags ponders behind that blue gaze. A few years ago, it was unthinkable that he would be able to stand on a street in London, enjoying a cigarette without being attacked by screaming girls. Now he can stand in peace.
It’s a double dose of Beatles for Magne Furuholmen.
Presently, he has an exhibit called “Norwegian Wood”, a series of woodcuts inspired by Beatles hits at the Paul Stolper Gallery by Tottenham Court Road, Bloomsbury, near Leicester Square in the middle of London. Also, he is just starting on the film music for the upcoming film version of the Lars Saabye Christensen novel “Beatles”. This time, it started with a letter to Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono. Magne did it as a favor to help his friend, Lars Saabye Christensen. In the letter, he explained how important the Beatles had been to a-ha, and how important it was for the upcoming film to be able to use original material.
Magne: “I wrote that, without the Beatles there wouldn’t have been a-ha, and emphasized the importance of using original song material. Paul, Morten and I were like the boys in the novel, because of the Beatles, we dared to have big dreams. Regardless, the rights were secured, and it was because of this, I was asked to construct the film music.”
He rubs some sleep from his eye, sticks a finger under his “sixpence” cap, to itch his curls under his warm hat. There is a touch of silver and gold in his hair sticking out from under the sides of the cap.
Magne: “It’s actually really scary. To make songs that wil stand side by side with brilliant Beatles songs. I am also going to write the title music to the movie and sew together the musical expression. It also means that I have to deconstruct some of the Beatles material to make it fit in the movie.”
Dagbladet: “It will be similar to what you have done in these pictures here at this exhibit?”
Magne: “Yes. I like to break things down, to build them up again. Reinvent, in a way. I’ll use the old recording machines the Beatles used, and try to use the old tape reels, and the old microphones. I want to make it as authentic as possible.””
Dagbladet: “In Abbey Road studios?”
Magne: “Yes, that’s my plan. To try and borrow so much material and tools from that time as possible, to be able to work in the sound landscape of the Beatles. It’s about having respect for the fantastic Beatles material, but at the same time not so much exaggerated respect that I’m not able to hold on.The music will live its own life here and now, but at the same time, it will harmonize with the time period in the movie. I have some ideas how this will sound, but I’m not going to make too much music before I have seen clips of the movie. It’s important to see the whole picture if this is going to work out.”
Restless heart, Flutters, Arhythmia. Pain and discomfort. Magne Furuholmen has lived with heart problems for 20 years. They have been tough years, but now he is OK. After an operation last year, his heart has calmed down considerably.
Magne: “I’ve lived with the heart problems diagnosis and of course it’s been difficult for periods of time. But, knock on wood, after the operation last year, I’m in great shape. I have to thank the Norwegian health care system for giving me a new life as a 50 year old. The problem now, is of course, if you ask my wife, that now I can work more than ever. Now I have no barriers.”
He stretches his arms up in the air, as a victory gesture over his heart problems. He tells how it is to have a problem-causing heart in the body.
Magne: “Ït’s like the Internet. If a bunch of hackers send wrong impulses to interrupt the Internet’s way of working, then the Internet can’t function, and there is chaos in the rhythmics. That’s how it feels, at least for me. The heart is a basic apparatus, but there are so many impulses that can reach it and if all the impulses reach it simultaneously, it can be chaotic.”
Dagbladet: “Do you have to take special precautions daily?”
Magne: “No, not now. I’m healthy! For the first time in 10 years, I’m off medications, and it’s been this way for a year now. It really feels good. I have always been the type to not give a s*** about it, I wouldn’t let heart trouble stop me. I could have been operated on earlier, but I just thought that I could fix it and live with it as it was. There are some good things with it, too. It’s cool that the body can give you a very strong signal of –now you must lay down and relax–. It’s crazy and amazing.”
Dagbladet: “What about exercise and diet, do you have to keep your body in shape with this kind of heart diagnosis?”
Magne: “I should exercise more, but then we all should. Earlier, I lived in a very strict way, without giving the desired effect, actually. After the operation, I am like everyone else. I do what I want.”
The pictures hang from big clothespins on simple screws screwed right into the gallery walls. Several of the woodcut pictures are colorful–a screaming orange color reoccurs in several pictures. It functions as a wrong hit between tangents, a cool contrast in harmony.
Magne:”It’s been so long since I did woodcuts, so I felt it was time. Then this Beatles movie popped up, and that kind of triggered this whole exhibit. It’s not a coincidence that I used the Beatles as a theme, but there are a few coincidences that have led to this exhibit being what it is.”
After the opening of the Peter Blake exhibit at Tjuvholmen last year, Magne sat and talked with the man most known for the album design for “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”.
Magne: “I said I wanted to show woodcuts in London in May, and he told me he had a set of woodcut tools he loved. He suggested that I borrow them, and that was a very exciting starting point for me. So the exhibit here is my version of the famous album cover, and it has become a tribute to both Peter Blake and the Beatles.”
He points and explains, and shows how the letters “P” and “B” are in one of the pictures, the one that symbolizes “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”.
Magne:”Ï used Peter Blake’s tools in all the pictures, and supplemented with a power saw to get a rougher look. All the texts are Beatles songs. My starting point was to write down the text, and then cut away the excess. I let the forms/shapes of the letters control both the knife and the saw, so I have ended up with the same forms that are part letter, part shape.”
Several of the titles are soundtracks that will be in the movie, otherwise he has picked out titles that he likes the sound of. The exhibit got the name “Norwegian Wood”, naturally enough.
Magne:”It’s actually very coincidental in relationship to the Beatles catalog of songs. Then funny coincidences pop up along the way. In the lyrics to the song “Glass Onion”, John Lennon wrote the line “trying to make a dove tail joint” which is an expression within carpentry. It describes a method for adding together 2 pieces of wood. In a way, it becomes a description of how I add together this work.”
Suddenly he is gone. Where did he go?
Paul Stolper, the gallery owner, says “I guess he’s gone to the loo”, (bathroom), thinking aloud. He and Magne have a friendship that stretches back many years. In 2011, they opened the gallery “Stolper + Friends” together at Tjuvholmen. As quickly as he disappeared, Magne is back again.
Magne:” I just had to check my cap hairstyle. It’s not nice to have flat hair in photos.”
He laughs at his own vanity.
In the streets outside the gallery, Magne makes a path through the crowds. He crosses the street like the purest Beatles member, and gets a finger gesture from the driver of a white Peugeot car. The artist doesn’t ask permisson before setting out.
Magne: “I have always had a tendency to seek out risk. To jump from heights, to throw myself out into things, stuff like that. I have it in me to try and challenge physical limits. I like to challenge myself. As a 50 year old, I dislocated my shoulder on the ski slope this past winter.”
At home, his wife Heidi (50) and their 2 sons Thomas (23) and Filip (20) have waited patiently, first while he toured with a-ha, and now while he works with different art projects, or performs with Apparatjik.
Magne:”The kids have gotten so big now, so now they have to take care of me. Nah….it is mainly all worked out because of my wife, of course. Still, I have tried to balance it all as best as I can. Sometimes I have had to make sacrifices along the way, but there are also many things I have cut out, like hanging out with friends or spending hours sitting at a Cafe’. So, all in all, I’ve had a lot of time with my family. It’s all about prioritizing.”
Dagbladet: “Are you effective the whole time?”
Magne: “Yes, when I’m in a process.”
Dagbladet: “What do you do to totally disconnect and get away from it all?”
Magne: “Uh, I’m not really sure. No, I don’t know if I do that. I’ve thought about taking 6 months off, just to listen to music. I’ve thought about it for many years, but I haven’t had time.”
Dagbladet: “Are you restless?”
Magne: “I can say there’s an energy once I start something, and yes in that there is a form of restlessness. I like to be in movement. It’s easy to convince myself to take part, when the ball starts rolling, I’m hanging on to it.”
Magne Furuholmen likes that his art is easily understood.
Magne: “It probably has something to do with my background in pop music, I like things that are immediate, but that have additional dimensions if you bother to take a look. It shouldn’t be the case that people feel inferior when they stand there and look. It becomes sort of like relatively banal or kitschy song lines in brilliant pop songs…it can be songs that you think are cheesy ballads. Then suddenly, something happens in your life that makes the song get a whole new meaning, and for the rest of your life, that song reminds you of that happening or experience. I see that as pop music’s strength and I hope to take a little of that over to my visual production in art. I don’t make art that has to be understood by reading manuals.”
Dagbladet: “What do you want to do with your art? What is it’s purpose? What do you hope to accomplish with it?”
Magne: “Actually, I’ve never had any other answer than I do it because I like to do it. I LIKE to do these things, and I hope my enthusiasm is contagious. Some people might have a bigger or better experience than others when they see my pictures. But the answer is, I can’t let it be.”
Dagbladet: “What inspires you?”
Magne:”For me, inspiration is an incomprehensible concept. Many think that one needs to be inspired to start something, but for me, it’s the process that gives inspiration.””
Dagbladet: “But if you are standing in front of a blank canvas, what triggers your first move?”
Magne: “Actually, I never start with a blank canvas. I have a starting point before I get going, a framework that necessitates an action. I often ask questions along the way, during the process, but I like to choose techniques that don’t give regrets. What’s done is done. I choose conscious techniques that make it more difficult for myself.”
Dagbladet: “So, your trash can is empty?”
Magne: “Well, it happens that I throw things away. Not all works make it to the gallery. But I try to lock myself in forms that have a definite and sure hint of –the point of no return–. I consider as little as possible, both in the process, and afterwards. In a way, it’s a flow. I just follow the rhythm.”