The patterns in Stockholm-based painter Frida Johansson's canvases are just marvelous; she's got a knack for color and for drawing the viewer into quiet, contemplative, domestic scenes that explore the idea of relationships and our place in the world. Much more where that came from in the interview here, and more information on her work at the links below!
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First, I'd love to know more about you! Where are you from, and where are you based now?
I am from Falkenberg, a small town in the south of Sweden. Now I live and work in Stockholm.
What first interested you in painting?
I started going to an art school for children when I was seven years old. So I do not really remember what the first thing was. At the art school, we were introduced to the work of Impressionists, Expressionists, and Colourists. I found the pictures and all the colours so beautiful.
I have always felt an urge to express myself through painting. I have a desire to create; I need to do it. For me, it is a way to understand and process what is happening.
Can you tell me about your work? Where do you derive your ideas from?
I take a lot of photos to start from, like sketching with the camera. I work serially; one picture leads to the other. After that, I start painting.
My motives are from places that belong to me in different ways, situations from everyday life, and my environment that is emotionally charged. The subjects of the paintings are often empty and in a quiet environment -- someone facing away from the viewer.
When I look back on my artistic work and my different projects, trying to get some distance from myself and an overview, I discover that what I do often revolves around my place in life. The projects have a basis in a rootlessness that I experience and somehow try to meet and confront. I work thus with stories through which I try to build my own history, my roots, and place in life in relationship with people and meetings around me. I try to understand the world around me and pay attention to different behavior and social patterns.
What is your studio space or workspace like?
I have been moving around a lot. I just got a new studio in Stockholm that I am moving into right now. And another one in an old house in Falkenberg.
In general, I prefer white walls in my studio. Earlier I had a green and brown mat in the studio, and after a while I noticed all my paintings where painted in those colours. So, you see, I need a clean and nondescript environment to not get caught up in.
Plants make me feel better, so I need to have at least one. I also put up pictures that inspire me.
Do you have any routines or rituals that you do in the studio to keep your creativity going?
I want it tidy. Otherwise, I find it hard to concentrate. I listen to music or something interesting on the radio while working. Coffee breaks are necessary energy boosts. When my power runs out, I start cutting corners and ruin the image.
For inspiration I sometimes check in art books and click around on Pinterest. But often I have planned the pictures beforehand, so once I am in the studio, I just go for it.
What do you like most about your medium?
I mainly work in acrylic. I like the characteristics of that the best; how you can get strong colours, that you can paint in layers or let the paint drain. I like painting patterns -- that, acrylic is ideal for -- and you can make clear sharp edges.
What has your art education been like (formally or informally)? Is there anything you particularly enjoyed about it? Anything you wish would have done a bit differently?
As I mentioned, I started painting in the afternoons in school when I was seven years old. It was the best time of the whole week! It was a very traditional education, and we were taught to see in a more observant way.
After high school, I went to a preparatory art school for a year. There, for the first time, I got my own studio! They had many different courses with invited artists as guest teachers. It suited me very well. But in the studio I felt a bit lost and alone.
When the year was over, I moved to Stockholm to study at Konstfack, the largest college of art and design in Sweden. I studied there for four and a half years. It was a very exciting and developmental time. But it also challenging in many ways. In my hometown, I had been the "art girl." Now I was surrounded by people with the same interest, and I got to think a lot about my identity. I had a great mentor who supported me and gave me a lot of wise words about communication through images.
Is there a piece of advice that you've received, which you find yourself coming back to?
When I was a teenager, my grandfather told me that if there is something I want, I should have it, and that I decide for myself. It was a joke about a jacket, but still it has followed me in different ways. I am stubborn and do not give up. You have to fight if you want to reach somewhere. We may never know what will happen. But what makes the difference is to fight for your goals.
What do you consider to be the most challenging or daunting thing about pursuing art seriously?
The sale. I always find it difficult to talk about prices and attract customers. Fortunately, there are the gallery owners that do that.
What is the most rewarding aspect?
The feeling I get when all focus lies on what I paint. When the world around disappears, a calm consciousness, like some kind of meditation. And the satisfaction when I have done something I am really proud of.
Do you have any upcoming exhibitions or projects you're currently working on?
I have just had an exhibition. After a project, all my power runs out for a while, feeling like I have poured out everything I had inside of me. So right now I am uploading my power and saving energy. But I have two exhibitions at the planning stage, and in May I will have open studio, an annual event where all the artists nearby opens up.
Anything else you would like to add?
Thank you for featuring my work!
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