As an artist, Unni Askeland belongs to an expressionist tradition. More specifically, her starting point was the neo-expressionist tradition of the 1980s. Unni Askeland (born 1964) graduated from the National Academy of Art, Oslo in 1991.
Her earliest paintings were distinctly figurative and dealt with personal experience – of a physical, emotional and certainly female character. Then Askeland turned her attention to death: A series of paintings named Coffins from the 1990s showed dead bodies, painted on coffin-sized canvases. Eventually, the coffins were turned into a series of abstract monochromes, in the so-called Obituaries project. The artist continued with the monochromes in a series of paintings that, though visually abstract, cast a narrative dimension through titles like Ejaculation and Only Red Wine My Dear And A Little Bit More. After a series of paintings called Cover Up, that could be classed as abstract expressionism, the artist returned to art history.
Her project Munch Adoptions, a series of paraphrases or “adoptions” of Edvard Munch’s famous “soul paintings” from the 1890s, started in 2002. A few paintings were shown together with a life size cast of the artist herself in marzipan – with the significant title Eat me. In 2004, a large exhibition in Oslo of Munch Adoptions caused a bit of a scandal. But Askeland’s pictures were not copies, but reinterpretations of Munch’s motives. The project represented a sincere wish to express some of the same themes as Munch had done more than one hundred years ago: agony and despair, love and sex – in short, human life.