One of the things that come to mind when thinking of Sweden is the vast untouched nature, crisp bright snow and extremely long or extremely short days. What comes to mind when looking at the work of Pär Strömberg is that nature translated onto canvas.
The work of the Swedish artist Pär Strömberg (1972) breathes the eerie and mystic air of the landscapes from his childhood. So much so, that the long winters, a shortage of natural light and the snow reflecting moonlight are still a major influence on his work.
Next month, September 10th, Pär will be exhibiting at Ron Mandos in Amsterdam, together with the Belgium sculptor Stief Desmet. Besides showing work from his last series Darkness Visible Pär will be showing his first works in watercolors. A drastic step from oil that forces him to slightly change is focus.
I was never really into landscape art, but there’s something about Sweden that triggers a creative way of dealing with that mass of nature. So I met up with Pär to talk about Sweden, landscapes and traditions.
Can you describe your style in three words?
Oh, that’s a tough question. My work revolves around light and darkness, which would be the first two words to describe them. I guess the third one then should be twilight.
How did you start your career?
When I was thirteen or fourteen I was very much involved in the local music scene. Most of my friends were in bands and I started designing their posters and record sleeves. In 1994 I went to art college in Örebro, Sweden and later to the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam, where I finished my bachelors degree.
In some sense I was lucky and got off to a flying start. After the exhibition of the final exams of the Rietveld I was invited to For Real at the Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art; a group show for young talents. That gave me an excellent start and I went straight into working as an artist.
What were your first project and ideas?
During my final exam at the Rietveld I started looking back on he Swedish landscape. Back in the days I was a sponsored snowboarder, just not on the professional level it can be now, since the scene was just starting. I remembered the intensity of the light in the snow, the landscape, and the physicality of it. While exploring my memories I also explored materials, colors and non-figurative shapes, as you do when you’re a young artist.
How did it develop to what you do now?
After a while I got more intrigued by the idea of the mental landscape, the metaphysical. I started exploring the inner landscape of the landscape of my past, as you will, and integrated dark stories from my childhood.
A lot your work is inspired by the pagan heritage and myths of your culture. What are your thoughts about that?
I remember being told many myths of elves, trolls and ghosts when I was young. They are part of the Swedish culture. Lord of the Rings also had a big impact on me, because in the gloomy natural surroundings it is almost like reality.
Light feels much like a life source in Sweden. When you sit through the long dark winters and you have nothing else to do you start creating your own world.
What drives you to create?
I don’t think that I have a choice to be honest. It is part of my life and a way to communicate; to share experience. One of the reasons why I chose to teach at art schools is to show people how to create. I want to show them that it is possible to make a living of art and that it can enrich your life.
What are your aspirations in life?
I don’t have a master plan, but I notice that the stakes rise with every accomplishment. I will now start study graphic printing techniques at the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm this fall and who knows what that will lead to.
I also write and a next step would be to tap into that more.
I prefer letting it grow naturally over chasing a big dream. My drive is to paint and to teach and what comes from it. We’ll see.
What tradition do you see yourself in?
I consider myself to be a painter. A non-traditional traditional painter. In my work I flirt with national romanticism, but I see it more as a source of inspiration.