Elly Prestegård is a multimedia artist based in Bregen, Norway whose practice spans photography, painting, monoprints, and pulp painting, large and small scale. Prestegård’s work is inspired by nature, and natural phenomena featuring vivid colors, and lush dynamic shapes and images. Her residency at Zea Mays was during the fall of 2015, where she spent one month working in the Annex space on dry and wet monoprints and monotypes. Her work often utilizes papermaking and the practice of pulp painting, in combination with other mediums including printmaking.
After making paper for the first time in 1991 in Seattle, Prestegård brought the practice back with her to the Bergen Academy of Art and Design, where she was a professor, teaching students in a papermaking studio she started. Her exploration of washi paper in her work led her to further papermaking and printmaking. She explains, “Washi was both the base paper, and the material for layers of chine collé. My focus soon changed from printing on paper, to printmaking and paper, searching for new ways to combine the two by printing on folded, curled, burnt paper etc. Everything that can be built up can be broken down.”
After many years handling toxic materials, Prestegård said that her body could no longer tolerate the use of old techniques, and her work steered away from printmaking. With the development of new and more sustainable techniques she began to experiment again, finding the guidance she sought at Zea Mays. Inspired by the work of Lynn Peterfreund and Joyce Silverstone, she dove into learning water-based AKUA inks and creating monoprints. She brushed up on new etching techniques, and even delved into tabletop lithography. At Zea Mays Prestegård felt she was able to reconnect with printmaking, saying, “The month at Zea Mays made it clear for me that catching up with printmaking was the right thing to do. I was inspired by the community and by the systematic research I had access to. It was a fresh restart.” Her time at the studio also led her to continue to learn new tools and techniques. “After Zea May in 2015 I decided to go somewhere in the world to catch up with new challenges – every year. In 2016 I went to Iceland, invited by a group of German artists to work with land art. In 2017 it was Barcelona, at ArtPrint Residence where I learned mokulito / wooden plate lithography.”
The pandemic found Prestegård in Awagami Factory in Tokushima, Japan, during a one month stay as a visiting artist, for the third year in a row. She spent her time there productively despite the global turbulence. Prestegård remembers, “I knew there was a risk concerning covid-19, and threw myself into the work process from day one, six days a week from 8am to 5-6pm, when the factory closed. Looking back, I can hardly believe how much work I was able to create.” But inevitably her time abroad came to a close as things intensified and she returned to Norway. Leaving in the middle of her work was challenging. She recalls, “Then came the message from the Norwegian government to get back home, airports would be closed. It was tempting to get corona stuck in Japan, but finally I gave in and went home after two weeks, only half way in my stay. It was a hard decision, and it tore my heart out having to stop the flow when it was on top. My pulp was forwarded, so I could continue the missing links back home.” Once home she continued to focus on her work.
Prestegård is sad to have so many plans for the coming year cancelled but remains hopeful for those that may still come, saying she waits eagerly for the pandemic to come under control. She describes one of her current focuses, PlanteLiv, “Meanwhile I work with my project “PlanteLiv” (PlantLife) which I established a year ago, cooperating with the Botanic garden in Bergen /University of Bergen. A group of botanists, gardeners and artists come together to explore the possibilities of making paper from local plants. We run courses for the group, and the group run courses for the public. The project is supported by The Norwegian cultural council under the theme ‘Art – Culture and Climate Crises,’ focusing on the fine line between harvesting and harming nature.” While PlanteLiv was forced to cancel many workshops, and the arrival of a visiting teacher due to the pandemic, they are beginning to start up again. Prestegård hopes they can run workshops during the fall without further interruptions.
See more of Elly Prestegård’s work at her website http://ellyp.com
And follow her on Instagram at @ellyprestegard
As well as the work she does with PlanteLiv here https://www.facebook.com/papirmaker