Meeting the American artist Jenn Porreca in Stockholm, 2012.
I haven’t heard from Jenn in a few years now. In fact, it seems like nobody knows where she is at the moment. I hope she’s fine. Jenn Porreca is a great painter and her strength is in the way she portrays vulnerability with confidence and style.
Exciting inner creative processes are in motion. I know what I want to accomplish next in my art career – with a future art show and it’s gonna be different from anything I’ve done before. Less shocking perhaps but more personal and poetic. It is so god damn hard to let go of my old career because it was everything I had ever dreamed about, but at the same time I couldn’t take the pressure that came with it – and it was killing my creativity. And when you think about it, it’s not a difficult choice; to choose creativity over past achievements. It’s not about looking backwards anyway – and what really kills creativity is any form of comparison, even if the comparison is to your own past achievements.
My art in the “UPSET” art book of contemporary lowbrow artists, 2010
I need a clean slate, a fresh start and a new place in the art world. I’m letting go of my old artistic position as part of a movement or style – I am my own genre and I am flexible in both expression and style. It was very tempting and very flattering to be part of the lowbrow art movement and the pop-surrealist community, because I’ve never felt at home anywhere, socially. It was like I found my people, but at the same time it was holding me back and I started to adjust my style and the motifs to fit the movement or the group shows. I won’t do that again. I’m ok with being an outsider or at least not part of any group. The struggle will be harder when I walk alone but without compromising my artistic integrity and my genuine expression.
Although I am very proud to be one of the pioneers of the digital art movement – what I like to call “the digi wave”. I have many friends and colleagues surfing the digi wave in the art world. Their digital techniques and expressions vary a lot. Here are some of them;
Digital art by Mats Tusenfot
I’ve spent an amazing afternoon with my artist friend Mats Tusenfot (Mats Centipede) today. We are talking about making an art show together, somewhere, someday. It just feels like the most natural thing since our art is a little related, not only because of the digital media. I feel so inspired and full of energy! I don’t know many Swedish artists and I certainly don’t know many digital artists, so for me it’s important and wonderful to meet other digital artists who are familiar with my world and all the little details inside it (like hi res images of cocks, fruit, nipples, dead animals etc). Mats is a very inspiring artist with a lot of integrity and a clear layer of philosophy wrapped around his artistry (like the rings of Saturn) – something that really challenges my own way of looking at creativity and its purpose. I love that. It’s beautiful. And refreshing.
Photos from today
Yesterday it was decided that I’ll be working with the French artist/sculptor/designer Candice Angelini in an upcoming art collaboration – and I totally am over the moon about this! Our inner worlds seem to be related with the elements of innocence and horror expressed through our art. I will use some of her masks and sculptures and create a whole world for them through my digital art. I am sure we will make an art show too, however I’m still too broke to invest money in art projects – but working with my art and being creative is all I need now anyway, the rest will follow. I will keep you updated about the collaboration, can’t wait to get started!
The pollen season is here and I am so damn allergic. I feel fatigue all the time. It makes me less focused and self-disciplined. But it gives me time to plan my career a little. What do I want to achieve with it? What am I all about, as an artist? What is the core to my art and how can I use it to change the world a little bit?
I used to define myself as an artist by thinking that ‘I will show all those girls who bullied me in school that they were wrong, I’m not a loser nor a freak – I am amazing and I can be whatever I want to be!’. But that’s not who I am – I am not driven by revenge or any negative energies. I am beyond that now. I don’t need to prove myself to anyone. I want to get the negativity OUT of me – through my art; all the traumas, the pain, the rage and the humiliation. I don’t want it inside of me. It doesn’t fit. To be forced into being a victim never suited me. I hated it. I never asked for other people’s negative energy. So it doesn’t belong to me, that’s why I need to get it all out. Some people might look at my art and think that ‘the artist who made this must be a very angry or depressed person’. Yeah, I used to be, when I was still living inside the traumas. But as a person I am very vital and happy in my nature.
Many people think I love horror movies, dark music and horror literature. But I think it’s dull. One dimensional. I need more than that. Although I do enjoy Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Interview with the Vampire, The Ring (American version) and old horror classics like The Changeling, The Haunting and The Innocents. But that’s about it. To me – Haneke is true horror. Especially the realistic elements of Benny’s Video and Funny Games (Austrian version). Reality is far more scary than any horror movie could ever be. Perhaps that’s why I am so drawn to the whole true crime documentary genre.
My art is often called “horror art” and I am described as a “horror artist”, which is fine by me but it’s not really true.
My art is full of horror elements. Sharp teeth, hungry jaws, bloody lips, crazy eyes, rawness and aggression. But they are also playful. Colorful. Full of absurdities and humor. Full of life. And sexual curiosity.
I am trying to use both the horror of my traumas and the playful core of who I am to create something that is both comfortable and uncomfortable to look at. If my art was just about the horror, people would feel too uncomfortable to take in all the heavy themes I’m dealing with in my art. And if I would just be funny and cute about it, it would create a distance and take away from the seriousness of what I am trying to say. It wouldn’t be as sincere and raw – which is my thing. With the perfect balance of horror and humor – the dark and the light, I can make people stay in front of my artworks and let them FEEL things instead of trivializing important and forgotten things about the human mind, soul, heart – or make them so uncomfortable that they would leave.
And sometimes, I get messages like this in my inbox: “Like you, I suffered from a long abusive marriage. Never thought a second it was possible for me to go through all the bad things. But your experience gives hope to all of us. Thank you Mia, you are an amazing Human Being and a gifted Artist.”
When you create a space for people where they can feel safe and be free to think and feel whatever they want – they will open their hearts and minds – and perhaps look at themselves through my artworks and discover new things or rediscover things they forgot about themselves. Or to know that their painful experiences as a human being doesn’t make them a freak but that it makes them beautiful. To know that their pain, loneliness, sadness, sexual nature and perversions, their shame, their rage and their traumas doesn’t make them less of a person. That they’re not alone.
That’s what I want to accomplish with my art. That’s who I am as an artist. To make the world a more open and honest place. To create a space where people are allowed to FEEL instead of just judging, numbing, closing off, shutting down and ignoring who they really are. What a challenge.
What a fun challenge.
My body is all tingly. To paint is to create new life. It excites me. Brushstrokes are like colored breaths. Dipping a dirty brush in the water – see how the paint dissolves like smoke just beneath the surface. Dancing with lines. Hiding in the space between them. Messy hands, covered in paint. White. Pink. Prussian blue. Skin. The scent of nuances without a name. Shadow-less time. The stillness of the studio. Rough strokes with the brush like scratching, wanting to tear into the life inside the canvas. I am soon there. Inside it – but bringing it out. Exposing it. My nature, in a thousand layers of paint.
I have been looking back at my own private ‘art history’ as an artist, to see what my artistic voice has been throughout my career. I can see how my art has been influenced by my own life and the things I’ve gone through; pain, sorrow, love, sensuality, illnesses, anxiety, rage, trauma, spirituality and dreams. But I can also detect traces of other artists that has meant a lot to me and my creativity. These artists and their work have opened up my mind – inspired me try new things, to see new possibilities in my creativity and the way I choose to express myself through my paintings, drawings and digital art. Since I am self-taught, I learn by studying other artists and art history.
I remember my first real ‘art crush’ – that type of infatuation and passionate interest in an another artist – it was when I first saw the works of Frida Kahlo. I was 16 at the time. It was then I knew that I could use my inner world as an expression in my art. I started to paint self-portraits, inspired by her as a person and the surreal worlds in her paintings.
My love for Frida’s art was the starting point for my own true artistic expression. There has been so many art crushes since then; the Pre-Raphaelites, late gothic and early renaissance art (I even specialized in renaissance art in my academic studies), Swedish artists Ivar Arosenius, Sigrid Hjertén, Isaac Grünewald, Rita Lundqvist and Lena Cronqvist – the haunting portrait “The Mother” by Cronqvist (in the photo gallery below) is to be found at the art museum of my hometown – and it has been a big influence on the way I express my Lolita demons with their ‘core dolls’, just like in the painting I am working on right now. But also Picasso, Basquiat, Edvard Munch, Cindy Sherman, Magritte, Tamara de Lempicka, Goya, Ingmar Bergman and David Lynch.
When german artist Heiko Müller approached me in 2007 and invited me be part of the European lowbrow art movement (now called popsurrealism) and the annual “Don’t Wake Daddy” group show in Hamburg the same year, my artistic voice changed a lot. I was totally into horror art at the time – but the pastels and the ‘creepy-cute’ elements of popsurrealism was a big influence on my idea of horror and pain. It was like the missing link between the pain I was dealing with in my art – and the softness and humor I still kept alive inside. That’s when I started to grow as an artist – but also when I was dealing with the blockages and the self-doubts. Changing skin and growing can be a very long and painful process.
The first digital artworks I made, in 2007-2008 was very influenced by the music videos of Chris Cunningham and digital artist Aeron Alfrey.
A commercial video for Playstation, directed by Chris Cunningham
Here are some of the artworks and artists that has been the biggest influences on my artistic expression:
Some of my favourite role models: Anne Shirley (the main character in L.M Montgomery’s novel Anne of Green Gables), Ingmar Bergman, J.K Rowling, Pippi Longstocking, Frida Kahlo and Edvard Munch.
Last week I made a list of my role models, to see if they have anything in common – and what that would say about me. What I found was actually quite surprising. My role models are a mix of artists, fictitious characters and creative personalities (I also included some scientists like Stephen Hawking and the whole institution of NASA. The Weta Workshop in New Zealand is the perfect example of the meeting point –where creativity, imagination, absolute dedication and respect for make-believe worlds come together) but they did have a great deal in common.
Most of them are survivors of both internal and external struggles; depression, anxiety, overcoming illnesses or some kind physical purgatory but also the struggle of maintaining their core beliefs and integrity in a society which doesn’t allow much space for that kind of genuine spiritual freedom. They refuse to victimize themselves although they are emotionally or physically crippled in some way – instead they embrace vulnerability and use it as a source of raw material to put into their work. Almost like a testimony of human nature – somewhere between the horror and supernaturalism of life itself.
My role models are ambitious, curious and focused and all that is woven into their creativity. They use it boldly to express themselves and to be seen in a world with closed eyes for whatever is painted outside the lines of conformity and any approved ideology. They are brave and courageous in that sense. As a teenager, I was obsessed with Madonna and her song Express Yourself was like my own private anthem of who I wanted to become and what I wanted to achieve in life; “Express yourself, so you can respect yourself”. My role models are individualists who are celebrating their true nature instead of hiding it behind mainstream ideals and ideas of appropriate decorum, perfectionism and conformity. They follow their own path. Uncompromisingly. They do things in unconventional ways and add humor and depth to it. Like Pippi and the way she goes about scrubbing her wooden floor. The boring task of house cleaning turns into a fun adventure. It is liberating.
The most striking feature my role models have in common – is their need to create magic. Reality can be harsh, raw and unforgivably hard at times – and the antidote is and has always been the product of human imagination. Religion, occultism and the fantasy worlds of artists, writers, musicians, dancers and actors have served as escapism and vicarious truth and realities since the dawn of humanity. Nietzsche claimed that “no artist tolerates reality”.
Anne Shirley in L.M Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables (1908) creates her own magical worlds which allows her to escape the painful reality of being an orphan – and the misfortune of being a misfit with a deeper intellect and more vivid imagination than society allowed for a young girl at the time (doomed with red hair and all).
The need for instant transcendence and transformation is translated in the artist’s imagination and creativity as a gateway to a higher level of living and existing. A ‘homemade’ space of total freedom and a place where magic is allowed to happen without any threatening consequences and the adamant qualities of real life.
The artist creates a Universe in which he/she is both God and the vulnerable mortal, but with a sense of control of his/her own destiny. Like Alexander in the opening scene of Ingmar Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander (1982) where he is seeking magic beyond his own boredom of passing time (and ultimately the waste of life).
The results of my research about role models really surprised me – I suddenly realized how much of them I can see in myself. I share a lot of qualities and strength that I admire and respect in these people. It kind of shocked me to see how much of them was reflected within myself. I am ambitious, brave, creative, I too am overcoming traumas and hard times without accepting the role of a permanent victim. I am searching for that spiritual freedom by following my own path. And I never thought I would discover just how important magic is to me. It made me think of the years of creativity blockages and mental paralysis – where I created my own worlds of magic at home – with interior decorating almost like backdrops or settings – where my imagination could run wild and free, until I was able to create art again (any moment now).
My “winter room” (which was featured in a local interior decorating magazine) in 2009:
and this is in my next home, a house in Stockholm, it’s the same room that I just kept transforming over and over again (2009-2014):
It is important to examine our role models and what they stand for – because it will expose something very vital about ourselves. They are there to remind us who we really are, beyond all the crap we are going through in life. They are our spiritual family where everything makes sense in the most comforting way.
And once in a while I get messages like this on Facebook:
When I am working with my art – or anything creative – I am only interested in finding powerful and strong expressions. I always start with the eyes – if there’s no genuine expression in the eyes or if they lack intensity, I won’t finish that piece and I just move on to another project. As soon as I start to compromise my vision, I end up feeling lost – and when the creativity turns into a struggle I lose the joy of being part of it. Sometimes it feels like starting a new painting on a blank canvas is like taming a beast (the canvas being the beast of ‘nothingness’ or something dead and empty).
I’ve always disliked a blank space – especially an empty white space. My desire is to fill the void, to make an expression, a statement, to tell a story and to create meaning where there seems to be no meaning at all. perhaps that’s why I like to fill the white canvas with a dark background. The darkness can hold all kinds of secrets within that black space – but something all white -without any hope of details inside, really creeps me out.
My art is extremely personal and even though I don’t use my own face in my Lolita demons, they are all part of me and my fears, my rage, my pain and my inner voice. They are all self portraits in a way.
Sperm Wounds is my rage, Scrollan is an expression of the helplessness I’ve felt in my past, Stigmata is about my physical hell.
The stories I share in my art, lays in the emotional expressions of my demons – especially visible in the eyes, smile and body language. The portraits are simple in the compositions, there aren’t many details in the background, if any at all. But if you make eye contact with the characters, you will find endless shades of emotions and details in there.
Through my stories and artistic expression, you get to share my emotions and the memories of humiliation, sadness and horror – and what it’s like to be a human soul in a world where heaven and hell are both centered inside our minds and hearts – and also outside ourselves.
In every corner of life.