Lisette Knutsen is a Swedish artist who creates obsessively and continuously. Her work is mostly drawings using watercolour paints and black ink on white paper. When you look at one of Knutsen’s drawings, you instantly feel overwhelmed. You are uncertain whether or not you should be horrified, mystified, or grateful that you had the opportunity to feast your eyes upon such honest and aesthetic compositions.
I spoke with Lisette during the week on a zoom call. We talked, both a bit nervous. However, as Lisette began to relax, she told me about her passion for creating bizarre imagery. While discussing her creative process, Lisette shared her knowledge of pareidolia – the natural human tendency to view faces and patterns in ordinary objects. She explains, “I sometimes just put colours on the paper and then try and find things in the colours – weird figures, people, or eyes.”
This approach to artmaking aligns with Leonardo De Vinci, who discussed a newly invented kind of seeing that inspires the mind to invent. This new kind of seeing consists of observing undefined forms and allowing images and scenes to emerge. We all do this, how many times have you pointed out the moon’s face or a giraffe shaped cloud?
Many visual artists use this process to make their imagery. This involves creating abstract works and then pushing the unordered forms into something coherent – allowing your psyche to unconsciously make associations, potentially resulting in the production of visual fantasies. This tactic was a popular approach by surrealist painters (such as Salvador Dali) and artists who also practised as mediums (such as Georgina Houghton). An important element of this is to be confident in your desire and ability to create, resisting the urge to copy someone else’s work. As Knutsen describes, “I do not want to copy anyone, because then, what is the point?”
Knutsen would fit into the outsider art category as she has been diagnosed with bipolar one, autism, and ADD. She also experiences symptoms of OCD, which she states is evident in her drawings, “you can see when I post something on Instagram, it is always symmetrical. It can’t not be symmetrical because that makes me crazy!” However, I do not think her work should be defined by her diagnosis. Instead, her art (and others) should be appreciated separately as impressive and imaginative creations regardless of whether the work is cultural or non-cultural/insider or outsider. This is the reason why I am exploring a different way of considering visionary art. I want to understand the category according to the characteristics of configuration instead of the artist’s diagnosis.
Here is a snippet of our conversation/interview:
Could you tell me a bit about yourself? Where are you from? What is your passion?
Well, to start with, I am from Sweden. My grandpa is from Norway, and my grandma is from Estonia. I like to dig deep down into my family’s history. I also like to collect and organise things – like, books, stones, or movies.
Is being an artist always something you wanted to do?
Yes. It started when I was a kid. I knew no one could take drawing away from me. Everyone can draw and paint; when you’re a kid, you can paint; even if you go to jail, you can draw.
Would you consider yourself a professional artist?
I would really because I do this every day. Even when I have schoolwork, I draw later on – it’s a full-time job. I don’t sell that much, but I also don’t care about that. I just really like my drawings.
You said schoolwork. Are you in college at the moment?
University. I want to be a councillor. I really want to work with autistic people because I have this myself, and I know a lot about it. But, there is always more to know because no one is the same. I think people with autism are always so honest; they don’t mean to be rude. I am very honest a lot of the time, and sometimes that gets me into trouble.
Honesty. I am glad you brought that up. You can see that honesty in work a lot.
Yes, I don’t want to copy anyone. I do not look at people’s work on Instagram because I do not want to copy anyone because then, what is the point of painting?
What is your process from start to finish? Is there a certain mood that guides you when you create works?
I sometimes just put colours on the paper and then try and find things in the colours – weird figures, people, or eyes. People always ask me, ‘what does this painting mean?’ Most of the time, I don’t know. I don’t know what it means. I never have meaning in the beginning.
Have you heard of pareidolia?
Yes! I have photographed that a lot. I see people everywhere in stones, buildings and other stuff like that.
Would you consider your practice therapeutic or meditative?
Yes, because I have three diagnoses’ – bipolar, autism, and ADD. I also have a bit of OCD. You can see when I post something on Instagram, it is always symmetrical. It can’t be not symmetrical because that makes me crazy!
Lisette Knutsen has only exhibited her work once in a local café. I find this very hard to believe. To see more work follow Lisette on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/lisette.art/
(images were used with permission from the artist)