Swedish artist and illustrator Pia Simensen beautifully captures her favourite music on paper. She recently released her first physical compilation as a celebration to the music she loves in the shape of a format she misses, the fanzine. The acclaimed collection of original artwork consists of drawings and embroideries of people behind music she adores, such as members from rock bands Pentagram, In Solitude, Watain and Nifelheim. It also features a text by former Scandinavian VICE editor, Elin Unnes. All subjects in the fanzine have answered the question, what are your feelings about music?
Even though I've heard about plenty of people admiring Pia, I don't really know much about her work other than what is available to view on her blog. So I figured it was about time to actually talk to the talent who’s behind some of the most beautiful illustrations to come out of Sweden in a long time.
VICE: Flipping through your work, it seems that rock music is a major source for inspiration. How come you started drawing that sort of thing?
Pia Simensen: The thing is that I draw stuff that inspires me. And music is the most important thing in my life. I feel inspired every time I listen to music and I wanted to give it all back to the music in a way. Do you know what I mean?
I think so.
Well, music gives me so much and I wanted to show that it's from there everything comes.
Have you met all the guys you've portrayed in your art? I mean do they know that you've put a lot of work into giving it all back to them?
I've met pretty much all of the guys in the fanzine. I met those who it's actually possible to meet and photographed them. I think it's more fun to do things when I'm behind the structure of the portraits on my own. But sometimes it's impossible. In some cases I've taken live footage when I've attended some concert and in other cases I've been baiting them about in plenty of emails.
Did you ever feel as if you were a stalker?
No, not at all. I'm just a genuine fan.
What have your subjects' reactions been? Do they know that they're part of your art?
Yeah. All of them knew that they were going to be in my fanzine. So I haven't done anything without their consent. I mean all of them had to answer my question, "what are your feelings about music," and they all answered it. So they were fully aware that they were going to be part of this thing. And I gave them all their original portraits and a copy of the zine.
Had anyone's answer to the question a bigger impact on you than others?
I love all answers. But Hornper from In Solitude’s answer was magnificent.
What did he say?
It's a long text, but he explained different kinds of experiences and feelings about music, form the beginning until now. And how he has experienced it all... It's very long and very beautiful. A bit dazed in a way. But it's wonderful!
I feel bad because I haven't had the chance to see the whole thing yet. So I have to ask if you, too, answered the question?
No, I didn't answer it myself. My answer is their answers because I made the fanzine. It all became like a self-portrait of me because I love them all so much and they managed to answer my question. Does that make sense?
Yeah. These are all people that represent how you feel about music, so their feelings are your feelings in some twisted way.
Yes in a way. Since I find my inspiration in their music it all becomes a bit like a chain reaction. But then again, the answers in the fanzine are all the personal answers of the people featured in it. And together, in the final result, it all becomes their answers from my perspective in a way. I didn't answer the question because their answers are the answer.
So I guess there's no point for me to ask you, what are your feelings about music?
No. But I don't think I am able to answer that question. I'm really impressed by those who managed to answer the question. I guess I would say that music is everything for me. Everything. Just like that.
That makes sense. Considering that your drawings and illustrations are pretty dark, how important is darkness to you?
I don't know. I mean everyone has a dark side in a way. Darkness is just there. Even though my drawings are dark, it's not something that I think about or reflect upon. I'm probably pretty wistful and dark in a way. But I'm happy at the same time. I guess my drawings are more me than I am me.
Where did the idea of a fanzine come?
I wanted to pay homage to that kind of art form. People used to make fanzines a lot before. You know, copy stuff and cut and paste things. But I think that has kind of disappeared now. So I wanted to do it in an exclusive way that could fit into the art world. Pretty much everything inside the zines are original drawings. And this isn't something that I had made before. It was pretty hard work to make. It's 80 copies and 50 per cent of all this is original stuff. I've been drawing inside and embroidered and hand printed and stuff like that.
Sounds like it took pretty long time to make.
Yes, it took me some time. In total, it's been one year ever since I started collecting the musicians that I wanted to feature inside. And I spent all summer assembling it all. I finished them the day before my exhibition.
Wow. It must have been a great relief when you got it all out.
It's all about celebrating the people featured in the fanzine, and they are worth everything. So I could definitely make it better in some ways. It felt pretty tough to showcase the portraits and the whole thing, really. I feel done but in the same way I'm not. There's plenty of stuff that I could change, remove and add. But that's the thing with processes. You have to make them stop at some point. It's good when it takes a long time. I've changed my mind about some stuff plenty of times. I made ten portraits of some of the guys and it was really difficult to choose which one to use. It's about capturing the right feeling as well.
Can we expect a second issue of your fanzine?
Maybe. I haven't really thought about that yet. There are still plenty of musicians that I would like to get a hold of. I'm not entirely done yet. But that depends on a lot of things. This was pretty hard work. I might do one more for myself and then we'll see. I will continue draw and paint for sure. That's what I do. I just don't know in what shape I will show my work next time. But it's always about music in some way, anyway.
Is there any musician that you really would like to get in contact with but that you haven't managed to yet?
There are plenty. But I don't have one person that I dream of in particular. I'm so incredibly satisfied with those who participated in this already. I guess I'll have to get back to you on that one, when I've figured out the ultimate person.
That sounds like a plan. Thanks a lot, Pia!
There are still a few copies of What Are Your Feelings About Music? available at Gallery Steinsland Berliner in Stockholm, or via Pia's blog.
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