Ekblad’s Kons, 2014. Courtesy of the artist and Gavin Brown's Enterprise.
Ekblad’s Kons, 2014. Courtesy of the artist and Gavin Brown's Enterprise.

Abstract painting can feel safe and reductive, but in the hands of Ida Ekblad, it acquires a rare virtue: fearlessness. Ekblad’s canvases combine churning fields of color withboldly drawn alien characters or graffiti-style lettering. “I always thought it was so stupid to do graffiti on painting,”she admits. “But maybe because it was so stupid, it was tempting.” Ekblad, 34, is among the best known artistsin her native Oslo—the Norwegian capital has matured into an art world powerhouse over the past decade, thanks to a first-rate art school and generous government funding. Though she’s lived in London, Berlin, Los Angeles,and Italy (where she was a highlight of the 2011 Venice Biennale), she’s now back in her hometown, along with her3-year-old daughter, Lilja. “I have a huge studio by the fjord,” says Ekblad, who also welds coarse sculptures from salvaged metal and writes poetry. “Sometimes, even when it’s cold, I go down to the water. When I got pregnant, my whole body wanted to go back to Norway. It was a force. And I haven’t complained one second.”

Ida Ekblad. Photograph by Simon Skreddernes.