Red has always been my favorite color – and red was a theme in many of Ingmar Bergman’s movies. Perhaps the color red is what connects me to his inner world. The color of the inside. The color of our hearts, the world underneath our skin and the color of our wildest desire – the desire to connect, to bleed into each other’s existence.
Today my interview in the French online magazine Konbini was published – beautifully written and with brilliant questions by Alice Gautreau. You can read it in French here and the English translation below:
First, can you tell me your age and location:I am 38 years old and I live and work in Norrköping – a middle sized city on the east coast of Sweden. I am not that social and I feel like an outsider here, so I could basically be located anywhere in the world or in outer space for that matter – because I am mostly isolated and working in my studio, so I am not that integrated in society. The art genres I belong to are not very common in Sweden so I am definitely a ‘strange bird’ in the art world here.
How would you define or describe your art?
I usually try not to describe it but if I have to, I would call it “primitive-expressive surrealism”. Some people label my style as ‘lowbrow’, others call it ‘horror art’ but I think my art has more dimensions to it than that. I would describe it as very personal, intimate and raw. I am always looking for balance between dark and light, horror and humor, beauty and disgust, dream and nightmare, shame and lust, reality and fantasy. What defines my art is how I capture raw emotions without holding anything back – but never without elements that gives it a tension, otherwise it would look quite one dimensional.
What is or what are the medium(s) you use?
I am working with many different creative expressions (visual art, writing, photography) – but mostly with digital art and painting. My recent work is mostly digital. I have been developing my own technique in PhotoShop for more than 10 years and it allows me to “paint with images” instead of traditional paint. However, I have not abandoned painting, it is still a passion, but I find complete artistic freedom in the digital expression since it is a such a flexible and direct media.
What are your influences?
I am inspired by many things, many artistic expressions and styles – outsider art, primitive art, the surrealists such as Frida Kahlo and Henri Magritte, by Disney and pop culture, by movie directors such as David Lynch, Ingmar Bergman, Tim Burton and Alfred Hitchcock and photographers like Roger Ballen and Cindy Sherman. I love folk art – especially Mexican folk art and their votive paintings (prayer paintings) and American Colonial Folk art portraits and I think my style is influenced by the simple and direct expressions of amateur painters. I love everything that feels genuine and honest and I hope that my art reflects that as well.
Which subjects inspire you the most? Why?
I am working with subjects that are found in the human soul, psyche and heart – like pain (emotional and physical), lust, shame, fear, rage, self-protection, longing and disgust. I think I love the intimacy between people, intimacy in the sense that there are no barriers or walls to hide the real emotions, the naked truth about our inner core. Our private and secret hearts within our beating hearts. I am inspired by the way we suppress important emotions and replace them with masks and attitudes that are far from who we really are. We are all honest with ourselves as children but somewhere along the way, we start to mask and hide ourselves and many people lose connection to their ‘inner child’. I have lost the connection to myself many times, but I am always struggling to make my inner child stay alive. That child is the real me and will always be so even if my skin is old and wrinkled. This is also visible in my art. I call them “core dolls” – children of our souls.
Who are the actual artists that seem close to your work?
I try not to compare my style with other artists, I am self-taught and I have my own personal mythology so it feels strange for me to look for artists who are like me because it is such a personal thing.
Who are the actual artists that impress you?
When it comes to painters, I look up to American art brut artist Gregory Jacobsen. I love the way he uses bright or pastel colors even if the subjects in his paintings are grotesque or gross. I am impressed by that juxtaposition between beauty and the repulsive. I am also impressed by the early renaissance painters, Like Pieter Brueghel and Hieronymus Bosch and the way they illustrate human madness and a multi layered psychological chaos – which is both enchanting and creepy. Frida Kahlo impresses me in the way she used her pain and vulnerability in her art and made into her strength and beauty. I am impressed by Lars Von Trier and the way he uses his movies to illustrate his own periods of depression. I guess what impresses me most about other artists is an honest approach to expose other dimensions of life than the flattering and perfect illusion that most people prefer to consume. I love artists who deal with vulnerability in their work and being absolutely unapologetic about it – there is no shame in the way vulnerability is exposed as both fragile and raw.
Can you tell us about your main series?
I started making dark artistic expressions during a time of deep depression after a trauma in 2006 and if you follow the development since then, in a chronological order, you can see the healing process and how I am slowly leaving the darkness behind. I am currently working on two new collections of works – one about finding a sense of home (in myself, in the world, in life in general – and in love), hence all the houses in my latest works, and another about destroying distorted self-images. I use my Lolita demons as a symbol for those destructive self-images and in this body of work, I am killing her to make room for a new self-image. That is why the collection is called “Post Mortem Lolita”. My Lolita demons demonstrate dark sexual themes like humiliation, shame and pain, but also rage and self-protection. They have been forced into a submissive position but are now being loud and dominant about their feelings and wounds. They are now demanding space and attention instead of accepting rejection and humiliation. I guess it is also a way to find a sense of ‘home’ – to be home in a loud voice that speaks up instead of being neglected and gagged.
Did you study art or something else? Where?
No, I am self taught in every creative area (painting, digital art, writing, photography). I learn by studying the works of other artists and by learning by making mistakes and finding new approaches to the media I am working with, be it painting, making collages or working in PhotoShop. My method is basically learning by trial and errors.
Does drawing/painting have therapeutic or cathartic virtues on you?
Oh yes, absolutely. My art and my creativity has saved my life many times. It is the way my soul is breathing.
What drives you to create?
To express myself in a way that feels absolutely true to my inner voice – to me that is a spiritual freedom. Many times in my life, I have been forced to be something I am not in order to fit into this society, into social contexts or to fit other people’s expectations of who I should or could be for their benefit – especially as a woman. I am constantly struggling to keep the connection to myself intact, because it is so easy to lose it to the mainstream, pre-made ideas of how life should be lived, how a woman should behave or should not behave etc. That is why I am trying not to watch TV, read magazines or learn about trends. I want to create my own world where I feel free to be myself without being ‘contaminated’ by trends or preconceived ideas of how I ought to act or feel about myself or my life (and Death).
Do you feel like your art is a fruit of our time and society? Why?
Yes, because I am dealing with reactions to what is expected of me and I think those expectations are products of these times and the way society is centered around the wrong things (money, power and conformity). Although, I am happy I didn’t live in past times or in societies which are even more strict and heartless. I am grateful for living in a time and place where I am free to explore alternative ways of looking at life, myself and the world without the possibility of being censored – or killed, for having an open and private perspective on things. I could not imagine living in such a society, I would probably not survive in such a place.
What is the message about your art, if any?
The message in my art is to be true to our inner voice. To ‘face our demons’ and try to make friends with them instead of hiding them or to let them rule our lives. If we try to hide our demons, they will haunt us in the most excruciating way and if we let them control our lives, we will never be free. Our demons can’t leave our spirit, they are part of us, they are indestructible. But they can destroy us. That is why it’s better to make peace with them, to get to know them and give them room to exist. I try to have fun with them. To give them a party hat and make them look cute so I can bare sharing my life with them!
Could you tell us about your relationship with skin? I mean, skin seems to be an important subject in your work: you mistreat it, often paint it damaged, bloated, with sores and scars.
Ever since childhood I’ve had a serious case of eczema and in periods of stress or anxiety, I tend to break out with horrible rashes and hives. My childhood was filled with periods of physical pain and shame – and I think that has shaped my personal mythology a lot. I use a lot of polka dots, melting or rotting flesh, exposed nerves and scars in my art – all which are linked to my childhood trauma of being ill with eczema. But there is also another dimension to the naked and raw skin in my work – I am looking for the world underneath our skin, our inner world. The metaphysical world. Then, the skin is a barrier that I have to break through in order to go deeper.
How did your career take off?
When I was invited to be part of the European Lowbrow art movement 10 years ago, I finally found an artistic context that felt like home to me. Being part of an underground art genre gave my art a playground where it suddenly made more sense. I felt appreciated and loved by an audience that could connect and identity with my inner Universe. It meant so much to me, it still does. That was when my career took off and I got a lot of attention, but here in Sweden and abroad. I feel very grateful for the way I got more successful – it was through the love and acceptance of the audience.
Do you have upcoming shows or publications?
The two collections of works I am currently working on will be my comeback as an artist, after the years of not being creative or active as an artist. It will be very powerful. I can’t wait to get the new stuff out there in new art show for the world to see – where it belongs.
I had a wonderful day out with my artist friend Mats Tusenfot the other day and got really great photos. Mats has these amazing light blue eyes that really draws you in, that’s what I wanted to capture, but in black and white.
“Mats Tusenfot” – photography by Mia Makila, May 2017
click images to enlarge.
© 2017 MIA MAKILA
photography by mia makila
En konstnär har tre hjärtan som klämtar i samma takt; det som sitter i kroppen, det som sitter längst inne i själen och så ögats hjärta. Dessa hjärtan älskar både ömsint och vilt. Inget är så älskvärt som skönheten i alla sår och sprickor som verkligheten förtvivlat försöker dölja bakom sina tunga ridåer.
Yesterday I was approached by a French student who wanted to interview me about the Swedish far right and the rise of our racist party (SD) and how it affects me as an artist. Here is the interview (slightly edited to fit this blog).
I have seen the interview about you in Fier Panda, and I have seen (or I suppose) that you are against the far right, is that true?
To me it’s not even a question whether I am for or against the far right movement; if you have a sense of common decency, if you are empathetic and have a conscience, it is not an issue of “for or against”, you are automatically on the side against oppression and inhumane values. I never took a stand, it just comes natural for me to feel empathy for people in need. However I belong to no political party and I wish to be free to think outside the political palette.
We do have problems in Sweden which are sadly abandoned by our leading politicians and instead hijacked by our far right party (SD). The silence of the ruling (humane) political parties is unfortunately a highway for the far right movement and their extreme opinions. They are being loud about all the issues which are neglected by the sitting politicians and manipulate the people to think that they have all the answers. Of course they don’t.
The present situation of refugees and immigrants, the shortage of available apartments in our the bigger cities, the decline of our health care system, crime and violence in areas where there are a lot of immigrants are all very complex and difficult to solve. But I am sure the solution is not found in the narrow minds of the far right. It is not “we against them”, it is about adjustment, knowledge and finding a balance where we can help people in need, without feeling overwhelmed. To save people in a lifeboat you can’t help more than the boat allows.
I don’t have any answers, because I am not a politician, but I have an idea of how to start solving our issues. Simply by acknowledging them without being scared of sounding like we share the values of the far right. Life is not colored in black or white – but found in the complexities of the grey-scale. To walk on any extreme political path will get you nowhere, unless you want history to repeat itself.
Has Sweden had a climb of racism these last years like in other countries of Europe – for example France or in Germany?
People feel intimidated and threatened by whatever they feel is invading their sense of identity and security. I think it’s a natural instinct from a very primitive part of our brain. Fear will always make you defensive and reactive instead of being open minded and focused on making smart solutions. SD and the far right are using this fear to attract people’s attention to their (shady) agendas. They reinforce fear in people to get their selfish values normalized.
It is very difficult to talk about the real problems Sweden are facing right now, without sounding like a racist. It is, once again, the dangerous nature of thinking in terms of black and white, or in extremes. Then there are no middle ground where people can meet and unite.
We DO have big problems with unfamiliar and hard-to-handle elements of immigrated cultures (child brides, genital mutilation of young girls, gang violence etc), we DO have issues with a declining health care system, we DO have problems with a higher rate of rapes (especially gang rapes). The question is how to approach these issues.
We have to stop censoring ourselves and each other. We need to be open and honest about difficult matters, without being labeled as “racist” or blaming an entire religion or race, as soon as we are trying to approach uncomfortable topics. Sharing knowledge and being open-minded to new approaches should be considered as healthy and productive, but it is only possible without censorship. Political correctness is a nice concept but works like a straightjacket in a fruitful discussion.
Being racist won’t ever lead to any good results, this goes without saying in my opinion. Being racist might feel good because it justifies your fear, rage and frustration – but it is a mental cul-de-sac. It will get you nowhere if you want to come up with a lasting solution. Short term solutions, sure – just look at Hitler’s Germany. But for solutions of quality, you have to add more dimensions to your motivation than only fear and frustration.
Swedish racists are talking about the problem of segregation between immigrants and Swedes, but the real problem is in the segregation between the values of Swedes themselves., just like the Americans. A divided people.
Have you made artworks to attest of your political position?
Yes, last summer there was a wave of gang rapes in Sweden, especially at music festivals around the country. Being a victim of domestic abuse and sexual trauma, I made a few pieces about rape. I feel like the politicians are betraying women when they keep silent about these issues. I don’t care if the sexual predators are Swedes or immigrants, it is a big problem and the politicians are being too quiet about it. I feel like our politicians have let us down. And I feel powerless when I think about these matters.
I do have a problem with the “self-proclaimed victim and enraged, emotionless and indifferent male” whether he’s white, brown, yellow, black, purple, a Christian, Muslim, Jew or if he’s a freaking trekkie. That is a problem we REALLY should discuss. Why are these men so angry? Why do they feel like victims? How can we prevent this phenomena to go on? If we find a good solution to this issue, I think we wouldn’t have many problems in the world. But I think it is a very difficult question to answer. I would want to deal with it more in my art though. To dig deeper.
Has many Sweden artists reacted to the growth of SD? And the rest of the population?
I think the political cartoonists have had a distinct upswing these last few years, but I don’t know about the artists in general. I am sure it has colored the art world in some way. People are scared of the development in the world. What is going to happen? Is this only the beginning of something much worse? What will happen in the upcoming election (next year) and how would Sweden become if SD turns out to be the predominant party? We are making fun of Trump’s administration, but I am not sure it is as funny as we think it is. I am deeply concerned. I think many people are. The SD followers and the racists are having their moment in the sun, with all the far right politicians coming out in the arena in both Europe and in the US.
And the last question, do you think the ideas of the far right and the ideas of artists can be compatible?
No. Never. And they shouldn’t be. Art is for unifying people. Far right ideas are about distancing, isolation and separation. Art and far right ideas are like oil and water. I see it as a positive thing. We need artists now more than ever. Art can present solutions and ideas not found in words or thoughts. Art can work as ice breakers and get people together to start talking in a constructive way. And I think we are all dying to do that.
Art is the language of tolerance. Far right people use the language of intolerance.
I just woke up from a strange dream. I was in an old and abandoned SPA facility with a friend. It looked like a tiled circus tent with bright colors. We looked around and found a staircase to another floor, where an old lady had a dusty record store. There was a door to a garden in the store. I was carrying a naked wax doll into the garden and put it on the grass. Suddenly she came alive and her body became warm and she looked at me with her eyes wide open. She started to scream. I picked her up and held her in my arms. She made resistance. She wanted to escape but I wouldn’t let her. Her heart was beating so fast. She was strong, but I had her locked in my arms. I tried to soothe her and hush her while sitting on the grass with her facing the garden. I could feel it working. Her heartbeats were finally slowing down. “Good girl. Your name is Echo”. I said. Then I woke up. I could write a story based on this dream, it was like a seed to something creative.
Yesterday I spent the whole day in PhotoShop. My wrist is a little sore today. But I am having so much fun. At the moment I am working on two pieces about houses and they will be the last ones. I need one house where my story begins – where my trauma started, The working title is “Genesis”. And then I need one last piece where the story ends. It will be a love tribute to my home with Johnny.
I think I am done with the houses now. I started making them in 2014, right after I had left the man and the house in Stockholm. When I became ‘homeless’ in so many ways. I don’t feel homeless anymore. Not in any way. So it’s time to wrap up the digital suite about houses.
I feel like I am entering a new phase in my creativity. My skills are improving so fast and my ideas are bolder and more complex. I am also using more contrasts in my work. It highlights the rawness of my style.
Today is International Women’s Day and I am celebrating it by refusing to be held back by anything or anyone. Not by my critics, not by my fear and not by my own past. When I was living in that house in Stockholm, I felt censored and I held back so much of what was me. It’s very uncomfortable for me to look at my art from that time. They are ridiculously foggy and submissive to the viewer. You can hardly see anything more than a pastel colored mist.
Here is “Tess” from 2012. You can see how I’ve worked up the contrasts in the first version and the original, foggy version:
More foggy works from 2012:
You can almost follow my journey through confidence and bad self-esteem just by looking at the palette in my art. It went from fiery to foggy and now I am all about contrasts.
Work from 2006:
I will rest my wrist today and spend the day doing other things. I just can’t seem to shake off that dream. Echo is hauting my mind.
I have spent the day with old episodes of Frasier and writing poetry that I will add to my digital art. I’m feeling a bit drained from yesterday’s experience. But I had so much fun up on that stage.
The discussion went smoothly and I made the audience laugh many times. I like making people laugh – even if I am talking about serious matters.
Before the discussion started, some of my horror sisters were swapping recipes of the perfect fake blood and how to stuff animal intestines to make it look even more gross and fabulous. I found it very amusing. “What is the best ‘base blood?'” they asked. And ‘You’ve got to add some Burnt umbra to the Crimson to make the perfect shade of blood when you are painting, otherwise it will just look like ketchup.”
When we were asked about what we consider to more frightening – reality or fantasy, there were no hesitation to state that reality is far more frightening than any horror movie or artistic expression – and that life itself is a very scary concept. Some of us create horror to deal with dark themes found within ourselves – others are celebrating certain aesthetics associated with horror.
When the question about artistic influences came up, I mentioned early renaissance artists like Bosch and Bruegel but also David Lynch and my art crush Edvard Munch. Other girls were inspired by Mary Shelley, Hitchcock, Kubrick, Tim Burton, the symbolists and the PreRaphaelites.
Then we went on discussing the worst horror clichés – I said I can’t stand the asian horror cliché of creepy women with long, black hair – I find hair beautiful and sensual” I said and added: “Perhaps that’s why I make my demons bald”. A few of the girls hated the cliché of the slutty blonde who gets killed early in horror movies and typical scream queens.
When asked whether being a woman in the horror business gives us an advantage or if we experience difficulties because of our gender, I talked about how I feel free to explore raw sexual themes (especially the sexuality of young girls) and perversions without being questioned. I definitely think a man who would do what I do, would have a tougher time. I am not judged as “perverted” or “insane” but rather considered to be “exotic” and “daring”. I love being a woman. And I love exploring the world of horror from a woman’s point of view. So much of my horror is about fear, shame and pain – whilst many male horror artists deal with subjects like rage, violence and intimidation. I think there is a difference between how men and women work with darker themes, but of course there are many exceptions. Some women celebrate vengeance in their horror expressions and aggressive energies – the only aggressive quality to my work is the way I let my vulnerable lolita demons take up space and flaunt their wounds and their pain. I have been censored and suppressed by many men in my life – and through my art I am able to break free and to be loud and say “fuck you!” without being aggressive as a person. It liberates me. I am able to turn my shame into artistic expressions of vulnerability and then it’s easier for me to accept myself and feel more empathetic towards myself. It is my way of healing and recovering from humiliation and submission.
I am happy that I got the opportunity to talk about these things in public – and now I am hungry for more public adventures. This was the starting point in the second chapter of my art career and I finally broke through the wall that’s been standing between me and life outside my studio. From here, anything is possible. And I mean it.
The panel discussion about WOMEN IN HORROR was amazing! I felt a sisterhood to my fellow horror creators and I could have stayed on that stage longer because it was such an inspiring discussion! I also took pictures of other things which inspired me during my two days in Stockholm, I will post them later.
The women in horror included (from left to right): Aurora Walderhaug (horror art, horror comics), me, Ella Moe (horror creator in music, film and art), Valentina Chamorro Westergårdh (horror movie director), Annika Algrot-Andersson (horror photographer and costumer designer) and Sarah Giercksky (horror movie director and enthusiast).
I will write a longer post about what we discussed tomorrow, now I’m just ready to knock out – but I’m feeling happy and proud of myself. (You can find the new post here)
They introduced us as “the finest of female horror artists in Sweden”.
I ett nummer av Amelia från 2013, var jag med och svarade på frågor om mina TV-vanor. Jag hittade originalsvaren bland en massa anteckningar på datorn och finns att läsa här nedan.
1. Då stänger jag av:
Värst är nog “Fråga doktorn” eftersom jag är alldeles för hypokondrisk för att kunna titta på det utan att känna hur jag plötsligt drabbas av bältros, gråstarr och hemorrojder och allt annat folk ringer in och ojar sig över. “Fråga Doktorn” är läskigaste man kan se på TV. Ibland tittar jag, lite skärrat med ett öga bara för att se vad Doktorn säger om “irriterade slemhinnor” och underlivshygien. Bara efter 5 minuter av Fråga Doktorn känner jag mig mer ångestfylld (och lite perverst medveten om min egen underlivshygien) än efter att ha sett Von Trier’s “Antichrist”.
2. Det är tv-lycka:
Tänk dig följande scenario: ett fotbad, kaksmet från ett muffinsbak, tända ljus och nån slags TV -marathon med “The Housewives of Beverly Hills” klockan två på eftermiddagen. Det är din secret-pleasure-stund och ingen behöver veta hur tacky du är när du sitter där och myser av alla bitch-fights med kaksmet på kinden. Tv-lycka är också såklart en riktigt bra TV-serie med gediget manus och trovärdiga och underhållande karaktärer, som Twin Peaks, Lost, Six Feet Under, Big Love, Seinfeld, Fringe och jag är galen i allt som David E. Kelley skapat, som Ally McBeal, Boston Legal etc.
3. Min favorit-soffpotatisvän:
Jag är ett stort fan av Filip & Fredrik, så jag tror jag har med mig dem i mitt huvud när jag kollar på TV, typ “vad skulle Filip & Fredrik säga om det här?” och höra deras sarkastiska kommentarer och fullständigt mala sönder alla detaljer (som bara de kan) i programmet jag tittar på. Fast nu när jag skriver detta så är jag lite osäker på om rösterna kanske mer är för att jag håller på att bli tokig?
I am taking a couple of days off to just focus on my meditation and making preparations for the panel discussion on Saturday. I have so many thoughts about the horror genre and about why I am making horror art in the first place. It’s funny, because I am not that into the genre in general. I don’t listen to dark music (if you don’t count Bach and Mozart as dark composers), I am not a big fan of horror movies and have never read any horror novels. Although when it comes to visual art, I prefer darker expressions, but it doesn’t have to be horror art. Is Swedish artist Lena Cronqvist making horror art? Roger Ballen? Are the films of David Lynch expressions of horror? Or Bergman movies? Does horror have to be a negative energy? There are so many questions in my head right now.
I am definitely bursting my own comfort zone by stepping into the arena again. It is both scary and wonderful. I made a new year’s resolution to “find the pulse of life” in 2017 – and I had no idea it would only take a couple of months to find it. Funny how life works.
Even if there are so many good things happening right now, I’m feeling a little overwhelmed. To be an artist and to make art is a to make a contract with the world – the art doesn’t only belong to the artist but also to the world outside the studio. The art is in a way, its own thing with its own integrity. I am just the birth mother. With this unspoken contract it is understood that I, as an artist, am in the arena, a public figure with a voice. It is both a responsibility and a privilege.
As I am entering the arena with my art once again, many people want my attention and participation. I love it. But this new tempo makes me feel a little out of my depth. I know it’s just a matter of time before I get used to it again. It is, after all, a very positive thing. I’m feeling very loved and appreciated.
This week I’ll be busy with preparations for the “Women in Horror” panel discussion in Stockholm on Saturday. I wrote to the discussion moderator and suggested we could call her “the murderator” instead. She loved it.
I am featured in French cultural magazine Fier Panda with a new interview!
Read it HERE in French or the English version below:
I would really like you to tell us a story, if you do not mind : the one about pink in your art. I believe i remember you posting something about a disease you experienced years ago… Am I right ?
I was born with a serious case of atopic eczema and various allergies which would make my skin break out in violent rashes. My skin was always sensitive and in intense periods I would scratch myself until I was without any skin on my hands, and I had to wear bandages. This physical childhood trauma is visible in my art and I am dealing with the ‘pinkness’ of my skin and the world I can see and feel underneath it. The raw, the meat, the fleshy truth of my existence all exposed for the world to see. It still happens that I get sick and have to take surreal bath treatments at the hospital. The baths are, for some reason, colored in neon pink. I use more pink during the periods when I am sick.
But the pink color in my art has other explanations as well. I discovered my teen sexuality and had my first orgasm in a pink bed. When I think about it, everything in my childhood room was pink. I also use the color because it represents femininity to me. I am always creating artistic expressions based on my own experiences and feelings and I happen to be a female artist and it’s reflected in my palette. Even my depictions of Hell are pink and girlie. I had an art show some years ago called “My Pink Hell”.
I try to keep up with you creations and I feel like your art has encountered several stops along the years. Has your painting always been related to the bumps in your life ? Unemployement… Romance issues… Violence… Family troubles… I feel like you are the blueswoman of swedish painting (yes, I know – ‘jeeez Louise’- right?)
I am always changing and evolving both as a person and as an artist. When I change, my art changes too. I have been struggling with post trauma stress for many years and you can follow my trauma recovery in my art by looking at it in a chronological timeline. And I have gone through many psychological processes in therapy during this time and it has helped me create a very personal mythology in my art. I use a lot of symbols but for me they have a different meaning. I use upside-down crosses but to me it’s not a Satanic thing, I use the Eye of Providence, cats with eyes on the body, bodily fluids like piss, poop, drool and blood – and fireworks. All of these things are part of my personal mythology and have a deeper meaning.
My creativity (my visual art and my writing) has helped me survive many hard times. I use a lot of humor to deal with the horror, the fear and the rage. So even if I am ‘a blueswoman’ of Swedish art, I am also playing some polka melodies to have some fun with it. Playing the polka blues – yeah, that’s what I am doing! This way I am not only surviving the painful things – I am also adding humor to it so I can laugh at it. It’s such a relief. Without using humor, I would play the blues from a grave right now. For real. My art has saved my life many times. And watching Seinfeld and Frasier helps too. I need to make art and to laugh. A lot. That’s how I have survived 20 years of suffering. But I am feeling happier than ever right now. I have punched many demons in the face while dealing with them in my art. They all deserve it.
At times I haven’t been able to make art and that’s when it’s been really tough. But it only happens when I stop believing in myself. So when it happens now, I know that it’s not about my art, it’s about how I am feeling about myself.
Do you have hope you’ll ever find yourself through all the process of creating? Like your voice is singing somewhere and you’d really like to find the tune.
I am slowly on my way there. I had a big creativity blockage and got all burned out a few years ago so I have been away from the art world for a while. Now I am working on a new collection of artworks. I want this new collection of works to be bolder, more experimental and more ‘me’. More of everything! I have only just begun to explore the new me in my art. I know I have a lot to discover and I do feel like I have to learn a new language because I am moving away from my old artistic language to make room for another. It’s exciting and a little scary because I don’t know where the journey will take me – but that’s the nature of a journey. They should be a little scary because that’s when you know that you are pushing your boundaries enough to grow and flourish.
Could you please tell me a bit about your experience with meditation and how it influenced your life ? Your art ?
Meditation is a great tool to ‘clean your emotional palette’ and to find the right focus. I used to believe it was new age-ish and a only something for hippies and that’s not my style but I have found the perfect style of meditation: guided NLP meditation (Neuro Lingvistic Programming) which focuses on stress relief rather than transcendence and all that creepy out-of-body stuff. In the trauma I separated my mind from my body to be able to survive, so I don’t want to have an out-of-body experience again. I want to do the opposite – to reconnect.
The meditation has helped me stay more focused while I am working and I’m also finding more details in my ‘meditation dream state’ to add to my artistic mythology. Since I started with meditation, my art has become more airy, more spatial and ‘clean’. The expression is captured with simplicity now.
Being a Swede and a woman, how do you feel about the new state of our world ? How do you feel about : Russian politics ? American politics ? Swedish politics and the far-right wing slowly creeping in your country? (Same in France by the way…)
It is a scary time, especially for us women. I get very affected and upset by what is going on in the world. There is just so much negative energy in the world and it’s hard to feel safe. There are an increasing number of rape, sexism and fascism have moved into the White House and in Russia it is now legal to abuse women. As a survivor of domestic violence, this makes me both sad and angry. But I am dealing with these issues in my art at the moment – it will be my way of commenting on all the crap that’s happening in the world since I can’t really do anything about it in any other way. I am not a political artist but I can’t help but wanting to contribute somehow.
I know you have tried several others media than painting, do you feel you need to explore some more ? Would you like to see more people painting in 2017?
I wish people could find the courage to be themselves and to use whatever talents and strengths they have. We all have some superpower but only a few acknowledge it. Most people like to ignore, numb and hide their true nature so they can go on living in their comfort zones. I have comfort zones too but at least I know they are ‘uncomfort zones’ because you can’t grow in them and there is no way for new ideas to grow there. To me that’s creepy. I try to stay away from my comfort zones but being financially broke right now forces me to be stuck in one at the moment. As soon as I have more money I will try new things and invest money in bigger art projects. I want to make sculptures (made out of junk), I want to curate a group show and I want to buy a professional camera so I can make new photography projects. I have so much I want to do but so little money! Do I sound like that bluesman now?
You have always been a big provider of oddities on the web and I first knew you via your blog. Do you feel like we should all drink to the Web source ? Is it a corrupting or inspiring feeling ?
It’s inspiring because you can connect to the oddities like finding little pieces of your ‘home planet’. But it can be a comfort zone too, to stay in places that feels like home, instead of looking for new zones somewhere else. I like the idea that you can find every sick and twisted thing you can search for on google. It is all there. Amputee porn, cats with strap-ons, dwarfs with redneck mullets, people fucking oatmeal, fingerfucking melons and licking statues for fun. Whatever the human mind can come up with – it’s all there. It’s a cyber ghetto wonderland.
Finally, what great things are you going to accomplish in 2017?
To continue working on my new collection of artworks and perhaps write short stories. I also want to learn how to not be so scared of the good things in life. Like love, happiness and success. “If you are at the top there is only one way to go – down.” This is a very disturbing way of looking at life and I need to change it (as fuck). So I have a lot to accomplish in 2017. Wish me luck!
Det är nu sju år sedan jag blev inbjuden att medverka med en artikel om Fantomen i en jubileumsbok om seriehjälten. Det roliga är att jag aldrig hade läst Fantomen och visste knappt någonting om honom. Så jag skrev om just det. Artikeln finns att läsa längre ned.
Fantomen – Från lila vålnad till blågul hjälte (2010) finns att köpa här
Här är min artikel:
Jag har aldrig läst en Fantomentidning i hela mitt liv. Jag vet väldigt lite om Fantomen. Trodde länge att Fantomen var samma person som Fantomen på Operan. Jag undrade då vad superhjälten gjorde i en grotta under en Operabyggnad i Paris. Jag tänkte att han kanske var på dekis, eller tagit time out i sitt hjältejobb. Flyttat från Dödskallegrottan till en mer sofistikerad grotta i Europa för att få lite nya perspektiv på livet. När jag tog reda på om dessa fantomer var en och samma, kände jag mig lite dum. Det fanns ju ingen likhet, mer än namnet såklart och faktum att de båda bär mask för ansiktet.
Men ju mer jag läser på om Fantomen, ju mer intresserad blir jag av Fantomens mystiska identitet. Och det finns speciellt en aspekt av Fantomen som lockar lite extra.
Som skräckkonstnär och allmänt fascinerad av mörka alternativ till vår värld, är jag självklart dragen till alla Fantomens referenser till Döden. Dödskallegrottan, Döskalleringen och hela den där grejen med att man dör en fasansfull död om man får se Fantomens ansikte utan mask. Vad är det om? Vad är det med Fantomens ansikte som är så läskigt att man dör om man får se det? Kommer det dödliga laserstrålar ur ögonen? Eller är han så groteskt ful med typ spetälska, variga blåsor, öppna köttsår och en massa andra deformiteter i ansiktet och Marty Feldman-ögon att man blir så chockad att man dör på kuppen? Något sådant måste det ju vara, för han är ju rätt sexig på övriga delar av kroppen. Det gör inte ont att titta på honom, om man så säger. Han döljer helt klart något hemskt under masken.
Hela dödskalle-temat är intressant. När serien först publicerades på 1930-talet, var dödskallen fortfarande en skrämmande symbol för Döden, såsom den varit sedan en lång tradition inom konsthistorien och flitigt använd inom ritualkonst, riter och föreställningar om vår dödlighet genom tiderna. På trettiotalet var dödskallen en laddad skräcksymbol, inte minst ett årtionde senare då man kunde se en ofattbar mängd mänskliga dödskallar vid massgravarna i Hitlers koncentrationsläger när de första journalfilmerna började rulla på biograferna runt om i världen. Dödskallen blev mer verklig än i den vackra vanitas-stilleben från barocken man var van att se den framställd med blommor och insekter.
Idag är dödskallen en mainstream-ikon som kanske tappat lite av sitt laddade värde. Men vi är fortfarande medvetna om dess symbolik och vad den representerar i diverse sammanhang. Men om man skulle uppdatera Fantomen till idag, för att det skulle bli lika läskigt som det var menat från början, skulle Fantomen bo i en radioaktiv grotta och Dödskalleringen skulle kunna ersättas med en ring som sprutade Anthrax-pulver. Det skulle vara skitläskigt.
Att bli märkt av döskalleringen som straff eller avskräckande exempel, skulle inte funka idag. Det skulle bara bli en cool grej att ha Fantomens dödskallemärke på kroppen. Kanske skulle man till och med provocera Fantomen bara för att bli märkt – och sedan skryta om det framför sina polare och starta Facebookgrupper som ”Vi som är märkta av Fantomen” osv. Nej, det behövs betydligt mer avskräckande medel idag än en ofrivillig dödskalletatuering.
Skräck är en gemensam känsla som vi alla känner, det är en olustig känsla i själen, en rädsla inför något okänt, hotfullt eller dödligt. Men skräcken, i västvärlden, har skiftat identitet genom tiderna. Under medeltiden var det sjukdomar, svält och pesten som var mest fruktade men också den kristna föreställningen om synd och straff, om Djävulen och Helvetet. Under andra världskriget var skräcken av politisk karaktär. Och idag fruktar vi naturens hämnd, jordens undergång, klimathotet och människan själv är vårt största hot och fiende.
Jag undrar hur skräckinslagen i Fantomen skulle se ut om den hade publicerats först idag. Helt klart annorlunda. Skräckinslagen i Fantomen skulle tvingas uppdateras för att det ska bli riktigt läskigt 2.0. eftersom vår tids skräck ser annorlunda ut än den gjorde för 70 år sedan.
Since I started to scan my own handwriting for my digital works, I have been inspired by the idea of incorporating words, letters and written messages into my paintings as well.
My trauma is so much about language. Words. The lack of them. Repetition. The tone of them. The temperature. Linguistic warfare.
I have always been attracted to words in paintings. Basquiat used it a lot in his paintings. David Lynch as well. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why I am so into early renaissance art – there are a lot of writings in them. I also have a soft spot in my heart for Mexican ex voto paintings (prayer paintings).
Since I was a little girl, I’ve loved to write and make up stories. I got A+ on most my Swedish assignments in school. Writing has always played a big role in the way I express myself. But in my traumas there has been this underlying threat that I am not allowed to express myself through my writing. Especially not about the traumas. Using words in my art is a way for me to rebel against this threat – and a way to break free from the invisible chains I’ve been forced to carry for the last two decades. It is my statement of independence and a way of reclaiming my artistic freedom.
I am taking a day off, just relaxing and contemplating. The creative flow is amazing but I have to make sure it’s not adding stress to my life. I haven’t worked this hard in years. It is good to feel swept away by my creativity – and to feel a little out of control at times. To let my imagination and creativity lead me and not the other way around. This is the reason why I have never felt truly lonely in my life – because the creativity and my imagination has been my companions. The times of a deep sense of loneliness only comes when I am not creating.
Next month I will take part of a panel discussion in Stockholm about horror, but nothing is more scary than watching the Trump administration at work. I feel like I can’t add anything to the world of horror that is not already coming out of Washington at the moment.
My self-therapy work has shifted from dealing with themes of my past to solely dealing with plans and strategies for future challenges. I now have a step-by-step plan how to get out of my current situation of being broke to reaching a more successful place – and a list of necessary resources I have to use to be able to do it:
- stress reducing and finding balance within
- focus (eliminating distractions and negative energy)
- understanding my value as an artist
- no doubting or hesitating
Since I have a plan, a strategy and a list of must-have resources, I simply have no excuses left, to stay in my comfort zone of isolation. I am pushing myself out into the world like I am giving birth to my own life.
I am completely into the flow of my creativity and I am working on 10 digital pieces and paintings at the same time. But I am not stressed, I feel better than I have in a very long time. So many problems have been solved. I am free from distractions and fears at the moment. It’s just me and my creativity – and Johnny for one hour a day during the weekdays when he’s at lunch. It’s all I need to keep moving forward.
Jag kommer att medverka i en paneldiskussion om Skräck i konsten med andra skräcksystrar på Women In Horror under Monsters of Film-festivalen i Stockholm den 4 mars 2017. Här kan ni läsa mer om de andra deltagarna och beställa biljetter. Eventet äger rum på Klarabiografen i Kulturhuset i Stockholm lördagen den 4 mars 2017 kl 13. Jag återkommer med mer information vartefter.