The truth about how I feel about Julia Selin's stunning canvases is that if I were standing in front of them, it would be nearly impossible not to want to reach out and run my fingers along the textures and paths she has created in the paint. Using a lot of red and darker colors, she lightens up the compositions by removing paint with linseed oil, exposing the lighter ground color. And the paint is often applied thick (in the image just above, I'm as in love with the messy edge of the canvas as with any other part of the work!) and the overall effect is a rich, slightly unsettlingly beauty. She shares some thoughts about her process with me here!
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Tell me about yourself! I know you're based in Sweden; are you from there originally? Where did you study? What first interested you in painting?
I was born 1986 in Trollhättan Sweden. In high school my art teacher encouraged me to study in an art school, and so I did, since I had nothing better to do. I studied at the Nordic Art School in Finland and later I took my MFA at Umeå Art Academy, Sweden. I started painting in my fourth year at the Academy. Before that I worked with installation, but I was wanted something with a more direct process. I took a summer course in painting and was stuck since then.
What has your art education been like, whether formal or informal?
I have a MFA degree. I studied in Umeå in the north of Sweden. It was very dark and very cold during the winter time, which made it very easy to concentrate in the studio. I loved it there. Great professors and students and really nice natural surroundings.
You work largely in abstract compositions with a darker color palette. Can you tell me more about your work?
I search for lines and motifs that will force the paint in to different directions. Once I saw a nature documentary of a snake crawling in the desert. I was fascinated by the marks in the sand, made by the snake. Just by seeing the tracks you could know what had happened, what had been crawling there. I think of it when I work, when the brush is going across the canvas leaving traces. The texture of the paint is more important than the color. It should be fat and transparent.
I never use white. To bring light I remove the paint so the white primer of the canvas shines through. I press gently with my fingertip to get a white point or dilute the paint with copious amounts of linseed oil. I push the paint around until it is in the right place. I search, literally feeling my way forward with my hands, much like how you would get through a tangled undergrowth. That's what I'm interested in: the landscape, the forest. But I'm not so interested in portraying the visuals, my input is a more sensual kind; the sounds, the smells, how it feels and how it moves. Different surfaces and their resonance, it is thick and rough, the shiny, thin, fragile, and the deep dark. The body and its movements traced on the canvas. There is a pace and a beat and a tone that winds through a thick, dark base.
What is your process like? How do you get started on a piece, or how long does a painting take you to complete?
Sometimes I sketch, but I usually just have an idea or an image in my mind. I usually mix the paint directly on the canvas, then push it around until it ends up in the right place. Usually I paint with the canvas lying on the floor, walking and sitting upon it. I make a lot of paintings, quite fast. Some I throw away, others go on to the next step, where I stretch them up and paint some more. I like to work in only one layer so I have to work fast while the paint is wet. Usually one or two days per painting. Then fixing some small details afterwards.
What is your studio space like?
I work in an old ketchup factory that I share with 5 other artists. It's the best place, loads of space, a lots of windows and 4,5 meter ceiling height. But I'm a very messy person so all that space seems to fill up quite easily.
What is your favorite tool or medium in your studio?
I use a lot of linseed oil, and a lot of rubber gloves. Apart from that I use old clothing for removing paint. Those clothes end up looking quite disturbing, I use a lot of red paint..
Is there any advice you've received over the years that you have come to rely on? Is there any advice you've been glad that you ignored?
To do what truly interests you, instead of trying to guess what others may like. To really focus on the practice. You can't control those other things anyways. I will have my works, no matter what. That is the most important thing.
What do you consider to be the most challenging aspect of pursuing art seriously?
To have trust that what you do is important. To pursue your work even when doubt takes over.
What do you feel that you need most as an artist?
Time. There is so much to try out, I wish I was an immortal vampire so I could pursue for 400 years or so...
What is the most rewarding or fulfilling part of being an artist?
When you discover something new. When it's all going your way and you are in "the zone." For long periods of time it can be so devastating, painting after painting all going to the trash bin. But then one day it is there, what you've been looking for. It can be a complete painting, or just a stain on the floor that sets you off and shows you in what direction you should go. You have to be sensitive and really listen.
Do you have any upcoming exhibitions or current projects?
I have a few upcoming projects but nothing in the nearest future. I just had a year with many exhibitions. So now I'm happy I have a lot of time to experiment and try out new stuff in the studio.
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