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On Thomas Øvlisen, 2023


Thomas Øvlisen's artistic practice incorporates a juxtaposition of traditionally valued materials and processes with found objects and unconventional materials such as pet plastic, shopping bags, and table tennis table tops. This unique approach creates a platform that challenges established notions of material value and highlights the artist's engagement with contemporary consumer culture and sustainability concerns.


For potential clients, Øvlisen's platform offers an opportunity to engage with art that provokes thought and conversation. His work prompts viewers to question the hierarchy of materials and the cultural associations attached to them. By repurposing everyday objects and materials that are often overlooked or discarded, Øvlisen invites his audience to reconsider their relationship with materiality, consumption, and environmental impact.


People who resonate with Øvlisen's platform are likely to be individuals interested in contemporary art that pushes boundaries and explores social and environmental themes. They may appreciate the artist's ability to challenge preconceived notions and find beauty and meaning in unexpected places. Art lovers who value conceptual depth, material experimentation, and thought-provoking artistic practices may be drawn to Øvlisen's work.


Ultimately, Øvlisen's platform offers an opportunity to engage with art that stimulates critical thinking, challenges conventional norms, and contributes to ongoing discussions about sustainability and consumer culture.



Trophies I never Won


One of the notable works in Thomas Øvlisen's artistic repertoire is the series of silver-plated PETE plastic DIY rain gauges, aptly titled "Trophies I Never Won." These sculptures take the mixed form of DIY rain gauges and trophies made by assembling everyday plastic materials, which are then transformed into trophy-like objects through the process of silver plating. This juxtaposition between the mundane and the prestigious, between trash and the bourgeois creates a thought-provoking commentary on our relationship with the climate crisis and the choices we make in our daily lives.


The silver-plated PETE plastic rain gauges serve as poignant reminders of our collective negligence and inaction regarding the climate crisis. They symbolize the trophies we never earned because we failed to act responsibly and take decisive steps to address environmental concerns. Through these sculptures, Øvlisen invites viewers to reflect on their own behaviors and the choices they make in their everyday lives, highlighting the dissonance between our romanticized notions of a pristine natural world and the stark reality of our impact on the environment.



Through DIY Surfboards to PETE plastic


Thomas Øvlisen's artistic journey took a significant turn with his 2012 series of board paintings or logs( surf vernacular for long board) - paintings made in the process of DIY surf boards. He invited the spectator to handle his paintings, move them around, participate in the exhibition. Not as a maker, but perhaps a curator moving the entire exhibition around the gallery space. 


These works marked a significant change from his previous pursuit of merely erasing the artist's mark using the process of the auto body shop to sand away the author, a simulacrum emulating the elements wear on the man made. By appropriating labor based techniques and processes, he challenges the traditional boundaries and hierarchies within the art world. The use of sanding as a metaphor for weathering and erosion serves as a critique of the artificial structures in our society that often function as human "ponzi schemes," where value and meaning are manufactured and sustained through artifice and speculation.


Through his explorations Øvlisen invites viewers to reflect on the complexities of our constructed reality and the mechanisms that uphold it. He prompts us to question the narratives and structures that shape our perception of value and authenticity, urging us to critically examine the systems that perpetuate inequality and exploitation.


Inspired by the shapes of PETE plastic bottles, Øvlisen embarked on yet a new direction in his artistic practice. He began creating smaller sculptures that resembled miniature versions of ancient Greek amphoras, using repurposed plastic bottles. This shift in scale and materiality added layers of complexity to his work, inviting viewers to contemplate the juxtaposition between ancient forms and the throwaway nature of modern consumerism.


These PETE plastic-informed sculptures became symbolic representations of our disposable society, shedding light on the environmental impact of single-use plastics and the cyclical nature of consumption. By transforming these everyday objects into artworks, Øvlisen challenged viewers to reassess their relationship with consumerism, waste, and the preservation of our natural world.


Through his continued exploration of auto lacquer and now the transformation of plastic bottles into sculptural forms, Øvlisen's deepens his critique of the values and choices embedded within consumer culture. The PETE plastic sculptures become vehicles for contemplation, challenging us to examine our own relationship with material culture, the environment, and our shared responsibility in shaping a more sustainable future.


Øvlisen's artistic process serves as a poignant reminder of our society's inclination towards disposable goods. From plastic bottles to smartphones, contemporary consumer culture often encourages us to discard and replace items instead of valuing their longevity or repairability. Through his deliberate exploration of materials and their vulnerabilities, Øvlisen prompts viewers to reflect upon the transience and fragility of the objects that surround us, challenging our perspectives on consumption and sustainability.



Additionally, as part of his commitment to sustainability and raising awareness about the impact of plastic pollution on our oceans, Øvlisen took a proactive approach to further the sustainability of his artistic practice. He began collecting and encapsulating all the microfiber washcloths used in his studio with his remaining epoxy, transforming them into a series of paintings. By repurposing these discarded materials, Øvlisen not only brought attention to the issue of microplastics in our waterways but also created artworks that showcased the inherent value of art and not the value accrued or accumulated through social or monetary speculation.

Each painting in the series bore a title ending in '-er,' signifying the main color of the work, such as "Greener," "Purpler," and so on. This linguistic playfulness added depth to the artworks, inviting viewers to contemplate the paradoxical relationship between environmental concerns and socially dependent value of art. By repurposing materials and addressing environmental issues through his art, Øvlisen demonstrated his dedication to promoting change and inspiring others to take action. His work served as a powerful reminder that art has the potential to transcend aesthetics and become a catalyst for environmental consciousness, reminding us of the interconnectedness between artistic expression and the preservation of our natural world.





In addition to his exploration of personal experiences and interconnectedness, Øvlisen places great importance on finding beauty and power within our close, mundane encounters. He believes that these everyday moments possess a unique potential to evoke profound emotions and transformative experiences, rivaling or even surpassing the impact of major life events.


By shining a spotlight on the seemingly ordinary aspects of life, Øvlisen challenges the notion that significance and beauty are solely reserved for grandiose or extraordinary occurrences. He seeks to unveil the hidden enchantment within the fabric of our daily lives, encouraging us to recognize the depth and richness of our immediate surroundings.


Through his artistic practice, Øvlisen invites viewers to reframe their perception of the world and find awe-inspiring moments in the seemingly insignificant. Øvlisen's work celebrates the power of these small, intimate experiences. By highlighting the significance of these close, everyday experiences, he challenges us to cultivate a sense of presence and reverence for the simple moments that shape our lives. In this way, he encourages us to embrace the full spectrum of human existence, finding beauty, power, and meaning in both the extraordinary and the seemingly unremarkable aspects of our journey.

Bronze and oil paint

In a reflection of life’s passing on their children growing up, Øvlisen, made a series of direct bronze castings of the remnants of their childhood. Floaties, slippers, a beach ball - plastic detritus of a beautiful time passed. More than merely documenting by photography or drawings, he wanted to emphasize the massive impact of this personal shift in existence by utilizing that exact historical and cultural value embued in bronze as a medium.

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