Just love checking in with London-based Swedish artist Sally Kindberg, who currently has work in a show at White Conduit Projects in London through March 12! Her wonderful paintings touch on what she describes as the “tragicomic” perception of being in control in the world, and appreciating everyday awkwardness and experience.
What first interested you in making art?
I remember as a child making a highly detailed drawing of my own grave with a headstone saying Sally Kindberg 85 years. But the grave was the size of a child’s. I knew I had something going on already then, but it took a long time before I decided that I wanted to commit to art.
Your paintings are bright and abstracted, but also retain a bit of representational imagery, lately centered on food! Recent pieces have included salami, ham, or beef cuts, often juxtaposed with other textures and materials. Can you tell me a bit more about your practice?
I like to think about different human intellectual achievements in popular culture, such as sausage making, hairstyles, mundane patterns and objects, amongst other things. We are a highly sophisticated civilisation, yet we are tragicomic at the same time. We like to think that we are in control of everything, but we’re not. It fascinates me to see the way images are juxtaposed online in no particular order. I think my work reflects this awkwardness. Take processed meat for example: it is grotesque, but also strangely attractive. Mortadella has these square shaped bits of fat in it. Basically, it’s an abstract form of an animal. There are sausages out there with teddy bear faces. My images are not representing a window to the world as such; it’s just this surface with different substances, elements and marks which I keep moving around, but once congealed, it’s an illusion.
What inspires or influences you? Do you do any sort of research before beginning a new piece or series?
I saw Paul Nash recently, and that show blew me away. I feel very privileged to be in London and to have big shows on my door step. It is very important to see and experience paintings in real life, and as often as possible. I can hang out with Johannes Vermeer and Henri Rousseau as much as I like. I am also influenced by the black hole that is the internet as much as going to museums, the digital graphic landscape, the local shopping mall, sitting on a bus, eating a hot dog. Basically the highbrow and the lowbrow. In some of my projects, like the one with cheese or figurines, I did quite a lot of research around these topics.
What is your process like? Do you plan a piece ahead before you begin?
I take a lot of photographs, I scan surfaces with a little hand scanner, I collect images from Google and books — which I then cut and past from, or I freestyle. I usually have lots of rough ideas that I draw in a sketchbook, then I also use Photoshop. Even if I have a clear idea of how a painting should look, the outcome is always different. I often have to destroy something, or add something in order to create tension. I also have a growing list of titles. If I come up with a phrase — which usually happens just before I fall asleep, I have to write it down because otherwise it’s gone. I find the Urban Dictionary priceless.
How would you describe your studio or workspace? (feel free to send an image!)
I am in Acme Studios in Deptford, London. It is either very cold or very hot, because it’s an old industrial building, which used to be a factory where they made propellors for ships. The urge for making art is greater than experiencing comfort, so I am accepting of the harsh environment. My studio is semi-organised, I would say, with a book cage filled to the brim with art books, materials, and general stuff. I’ve got a large piece of glass that I use as a palette. I struggle with putting the caps on the oil paint tubes, which makes it messy. I do clean my brushes meticulously, and I have a big wall to hang paintings on. I also have a desk at home where I sit and make drawings and collages.
Do you have any routines or rituals in the studio that get you in the groove?
I need to have music; I like house. There are some great pirate radio stations out there. Then I like to make coffee and move stuff around before I get started. I avoid the sofa. Might open the window if it’s above 15C.
Now that you’ve been out of the university setting as an art student for a few years, when looking back, is there any advice you would give your younger self based on lessons you’ve picked up along the way?
University was like living in bubble. Life does exist outside it, and everything is going to be OK.
Is there any advice you’ve received that you’re grateful you didn’t follow?
Haha, yes, all the people who questioned me as to why I kept painting. It might be stupidity, but I still paint.
How would you define “success?”
Making art and surviving economically is really hard. Success for me is to have a practice and keep nourishing it. To be engaged with other artists and see as much art as possible. Success can be how to survive and deal with failure. Making art can be very embarrassing, and it’s filled with risk-taking, but it has to be that way in order for progress. This is a brave thing.
What do you feel is the most daunting or challenging thing about pursuing art, either creatively or professionally?
The ‘not knowing’ how things will go. Usually things work out one way or the other, but there are no guarantees. All you can trust in is making work that you can stand for.
What are you working on right now?
Yesterday I was working on a old painting that I struggled to resolve. It was two cherries, but then I had to destroy the image because it felt too kitsch. So now it looks like two balls drowning in a Renaissance-looking doodle… so much better! I also just bought 100 metres of bubble wrap, so that will be fun. I am planning a spring clean and to reorganise my storage.
I am a part of Michael Petry and Roberto Ekholm’s show Nature Morte which has travelled from Sweden, Bohusläns Art Museum to the Four Dome Pavilion in Wroclaw, Poland. This show will travel to Guildhall Art Gallery in London in September. I am also looking forward to an upcoming group show in May at ASC Gallery, London.
Anything else you would like to add?
Thank you Kate for a great website. I love reading about other artists and how they think about things. It keeps me going.
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