Asking about the future with artist Arne Ohlsen

‘Untitled’ by Bäby

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of working with Arne Ohlsen to establish an online presence for his art that goes under the name ‘Bäby’. Whilst I had him, I took the opportunity to sit down and chat with him about the future, both for himself and for society at large. This was an amazing opportunity for me because his art touches on many powerful societal messages that contribute to future social and cultural change.

Arne Ohlsen is a German painter based in Byron Bay, Australia who has a passion for expressing confronting messages through a mixed medium form. Soon after he moved to Australia two years ago, he began to reconsider what he thought to be true about life. He now uses large canvases, free lines and pastel smudges to express these emotions in a unique way.

Arne Ohlsen during this interview

Erin: “How does your art express your concerns about the future?”

Arne: “I’m a person who thinks a lot and art is a way I can transform those thoughts into a physical thing. I am very observant of the way society moves and where I think certain innovations will take us in the future. I work as a carpenter full time as well as doing my art, so I will have ideas for my art at any random point of my day. Many of my concerns about the future revolve around the environment and technology use. After helping clean up after the Lismore floods, I found this artwork in a house that had been flooded and the owner said I could take it home to paint on. After you (Erin) suggested a fundraiser piece, I created a work that expresses my concerns about climate change and then I auctioned it off as donation. Also, in my new collection ‘Times New Romans’, I use historical symbols such as roman helmets and old axes to symbolise the future. For example, my piece called ‘Clashing Cultures’ is my take on a never ending division between races. Although our battles today don’t look as graphic as they used to, with the development of technology that are actually becoming more violent.”

‘No Relief’ – Bäby
‘Clash of Cultures’ – Bäby

Erin: “How do you wish to influence your audience through your art?”

Arne: “I paint mainly because I love it and because it’s a huge form of expression for me, however throughout my practice there is always many layers of meaning that I wish to get across to my audience. It sounds weird but I want to evoke shock when people look at my art. I want my work to trigger thought and enquiry. Many people within society today don’t give the future much thought and as someone who pretty much only thinks about the future, that concerns me. I get that living in the present is important, however I do wish for a culture that is worried about the very real issues concerning our future.”

Erin: “Where do you see your art in five years?”

Arne: “Ah great question, I visualise this a lot. I see myself transitioning from being a full time tradie to a full time artist. I see myself with a bigger studio in Byron and with more time and energy to put into the conceptual development of my works. I have the passion and the skills, however without time, it’s hard to become inspired for new messages. I also hope to have at least three exhibitions within the next five years, first of all in Byron and then hopefully in some major Australian cities as well.”

Erin: “Where do you see society in five years?”

Arne: “To be honest, although climate changes are going to be huge, I think technology will be the root of most of our change. Although the innovation of technology is doing many great things, it is also brainwashing our society in my opinion. I think we are all becoming very susceptible to control and are becoming a lot more blaśe about things that actually impact us. Something I’m also super concerned about is how technology (in particular social media) provides a lot of our serotonin and dopamine these days. The main (and quite morbid) thing that I want to express in my art is that I don’t think there is any going back either. I feel like I’m just sitting here and watching these impacts before my eyes.”

If you enjoyed this interview with Arne Ohlsen, be sure to check out his art page on Instagram:

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