Thoroughly tattooed Lights, Camera, Action art star Gardar Eide Einarsson is the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fighting, skateboarding, snowboarding Norwegian native who spends the bulk of his time making big graphic art installations.
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Now living between Tokyo and NYC, Gardar spent his childhood in Norway, gazing up at America and fantasising about the West Coast while waiting for mail-order magazines and rolling around on his skateboard. After a mildly rebellious adolescence, at 18 he decided to enter the art world, inspired by an exhibition of 60s pop art. A prolific artist by now, Gardar makes multimedia works, ranging from graphic black on white stencil paintings to expletive light installations reading ’49% Motherf*cker, 51% Son of a B*tch’. Photographed by Norbert Scherner and i-D Fashion Director, Charlotte Stockdale in The Lights, Camera, Action Issue alongside Melissa and Magda playing non-Olympic sports, Gardar swapped his skateboard for a dart, and black belt for a rope in tug of war. Here, he tells i-D online a bit about music, art, Jiu-Jitsu, skateboarding, growing-up, tattoos, the American Dream, and a bit more.
The theme of the shoot for i-D was non-Olympic sports, do you play any sports yourself? I started doing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu about a year ago and am now fully addicted to that. The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu crowd has a few overlaps with other “sports” that I’ve been involved with in the past, like skateboarding and snowboarding and it feels like an interesting and creative mix of people are involved in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, just like with boardsports.
What was it like growing up in Norway? Were you a rebellious teen? Growing up in Norway was perhaps a bit boring and I felt pretty far away from what I was interested in. I spent all my time skateboarding and almost everything I liked came out of the west coast of the US. Since this was before the internet that meant a lot of waiting for mail order magazines and music. I wasn’t so extremely rebellious (perhaps a bit more than average) but did definitely feel disconnected from my surroundings.
When and why did you decide to become an artist? I was not one of those people who knew from a very early age that I wanted to be an artist. It kind of happened around 18 or so and I’m actually not really sure how it did, although I remember being very impressed by a survey show of 60s conceptual art and I think that played a part in me wanting to work with contemporary art.
How many tattoos do you have? Could you tell me what some of them mean? I don’t really have a number any more. Some merge into others and I see it more as one big one waiting to connect. I have tattoos that mean all different kinds of things, some sentimental, some funny, most hyperbolic. I get my tattoos in Yokohama in Japan now by the great tattoo artist Horiyoshi III and he was pretty unimpressed by what he called my “too impulsive” tattoos.
A lot of your work deals with American culture, yet you’re from Norway… America was interesting to me to some extent because it was so different from what I had grown up with in Norway. Much of my work is involved with relationships between individuals and the societies that surround them and how one negotiates individual freedom within the complexity of modern states. The United States has functioned in my work in a way as case study of this because the idea of individual freedom is so present in the political discourse and is so noticeable as an aspiration.
If you could live in America, during any decade, which would you choose? I moved to New York on September 10th 2001 and have been there since then, splitting my time now between there and Tokyo, so I feel like the decade that I’ve experienced which started on that day and probably ended when Obama became president has been a pretty eventful and interesting decade. I feel like someone might have put that chinese curse ‘May you live in interesting times!’ on me.
What kind of music are you into? I have sadly become one of those old people who don’t really know what goes on in music anymore and when I’m working I usually prefer it to be completely quiet. On my iTunes right now as I’m writing this is Gallhammer, oOoOO, Darkthrone, Jodie Foster’s Army, Death In June, Bauhaus and some classical music (Sibelius, Schoenberg, Mahler) that I listen to while I paint sometimes.
When you’re not working, where do you like hanging out and what do you like doing? These days I live rudely healthy and when not working I’ll either be training Jiu Jitsu or hanging out at my house in Tokyo. When in New York I also go out for dinner with friends a lot.
What’s your favourite slogan that you’ve featured in your work? Or a few if you can’t choose… I think “49% Motherfucker 51% Son of a Bitch” is pretty good. I’m also doing a painting right now of that T-shirt “The Man (arrow up); The Legend (arrow down)” and I have always liked the bumper sticker “Drive It Like You Stole It” which I’m doing a lightbox of.
What are your friends like? I have a good group of friends, some artists, collectors, a carpenter, a hedge fund guy, some professional jiu jitsu fighters, some lawyers, some tattooers and some who are combinations of many of the above.
Do you have a muse? Not really but if I did I guess it’d be a draw between Al Swearengen from Deadwood and Boyd Crawder from Justified.
What’s in your pocket? A banana.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given? One of the first days after I moved to New York I met some drunk at a party who gave me the following two pieces of unsolicited advice: “You have to always treat your woman well, otherwise she will love you too much” and “When two losers are competing the winner is he who loses the most”.
Have you got any shows coming up? My next solo shows are with Team Gallery in New York, Yvon Lambert in Paris and Standard in Oslo.