Driven by a sense of fun and curiosity, Norwegian artist Constance Tenvik has a lot of strings to her bow. Her practice spans painting, sculpture, textiles and performance, with past projects including curating an exhibition inspired by the archive of artist Moki Cherry and a re-enactment of a medieval tournament with knights clad in pastel armour and heart-shaped underpants.
“My style is direct, colourful, all encompassing, winking at the theatrical, with saturated colours and exaggerated figures, but there are contradictions too,” Constance tells It’s Nice That. “Like being very much into dusty dandies from hundreds of years ago, while having grown up in the 90s with things like Draco Heads and Spice Girls CDs.”
Given this mix of interests and disciplines, a recent commission to develop a series of live portraits while sitters ate at Stockholm restaurant Riche was a perfect fit. While the great and the good of the Swedish art world tucked into their delicious meals, Constance would chat to them and make their portrait. “It made so much sense for my performative way of going about things to disrupt the restaurant experience a bit, and to mix in my interest for people, painting and gastronomy,” she explains.
Picked for a certain ’je ne sais quoi’, among those captured in the series are art collector Lena Josefsson, restaurant owner Calle Carboni, Martin Luuk (a “hilarious, great writer and a very open person”), “genius” theatre director Angelina Stojčevska and podcaster Kakan Hermansson (“She’s totally iconic and has real opinions”).
Making a rule that she had to finish the painting during the lunch (rather than complete it at home), Constance needed to be quick about her work. “In a way a lot is at stake,” she says. “The first couple of strokes will affect the rest and there isn’t time to tweak or perfect. Also the person opposite of me will see whatever happened over that time and we will both just have to accept what that moment was and how it turned out.”
When Constance first started doing portraits she painted friends, eventually lovers, some family, but it was at Riche that she first painted people she’d never met before. “And in a room full of people I didn’t know,” she says. “Drawing in public like that is kind of what a salon artist would do a hundred years ago, isn’t it? The Riche Sessions expanded my horizon of who I can paint and where.” Now Constance feels comfortable making her practice portable, visiting people in their homes to make portraits – a happy result of this commission. “It’s a lovely way to have an encounter,” she adds.