TEXT & PHOTOS BY KRISTIAN BENGTSSON
Images courtesy of Galleri Magnus Karlsson, Stockholm
Sara-Vide Ericson graduated from Sweden’s Royal Institute of Art last year and has already been picked up by the prestigious Galleri Magnus Karlsson, where she recently exhibited her first solo show. Seeing as how it sold out before even opening, she has a promising career ahead of her, to say the least. Funny themes characterize all her series of work, like
, consisting of paintings of every guy she fucked the past year—sometimes she dumped them simply because they wouldn’t make for a good portrait. I met up with her in her studio a few days before the opening of her latest exhibition,
Vice: Is your Liar also about relationships?
Yes. I like using relationships as a theme, especially where they go wrong. This new series is about stuff like, to give a ridiculous example, when your best friend asks you, “Did you take my sweater?” and you answer, “No, I didn’t”, but you can tell that she doesn’t believe you. And you’re like, “Damn, she thinks I’m lying!” but you can’t just go, “And I’m not lying!”
Yeah, because then it’d look like you really are lying.
Exactly. That situation creates a vacuum, and you’re powerless. You’re falsely accused of something you didn’t do and, as you haven’t done anything, how do you vindicate yourself? You have a few alternatives, you can say, “Yes, I took your sweater!” or you can do the first spontaneous thing that comes to mind, such as to strangle that person. To take back the power and control over the situation, you want to attack, to suffocate her words, to get some peace of mind. That’s how this series came about. When I first started painting these pieces, it occurred to me that the throat and stomach are the most vulnerable parts of a human being. Stab a knife into your stomach or your throat and you’re done for.
And baring your neck and stomach to someone is showing yourself weak and vulnerable, right? Like animals do?
Yes, but it has nothing to do with humiliation. My previous series,
, in which people ride each other, was about submission. That in every relationship you sometimes have to humiliate yourself and let the other person ride you, even if this goes against your nature, because you have to put up with it for the relationship to last. This series is similar, but it deals more with power and control in a relationship.
These paintings are really good, I’m sure the exhibition will be a success. Are you nervous?
YEAH! I’m so damn nervous. I’ve got a hell of a case of performance anxiety. I get that before every show, but I always forget how panicked and nervous I’ve been, so every time feels like the first.
Are you scared no one will come to the opening?
No, just the opposite. I’m scared everyone will come and think my paintings suck.
That’d be worse, of course.
But I’m excited about the small room at the back of the gallery. At first, I was going to hang my pencil drawings there, but realized they’d look weird with these big canvases. So I made these small paintings of hands to hang back there. You know, like the tools you strangle with. It’ll be like action and consequence, in a way. The big paintings represent the action, the deed, and the small ones the consequence, realizing what you’ve done. [Laughs] That sounds ridiculous.
THE HANDS (LIAR), 2010. Oil on panel, 46x36 cm.
Are the people in the paintings anyone in particular?
No. I used to paint myself, but people would look at the paintings and go, “Girl, girl, girl, hmm… hard to see, girl, girl” and, “Are these about feminism?” And when I replied that I just used myself as a model, they’d go, “Ah, I see! They are self-portraits!” It drove me mad. I think that’s a very common reaction when people talk to a female painter. Now I photograph people in my studio, telling them how to stand, and then I paint from the photos. I sometimes feel like working with latex and leather instead, making huge vaginas instead of dusty old oil paintings. But then again, there’s an incredible strength in the traditional and conventional. To just be ordinary.
Like David Hockney? I saw this documentary about him the other day and thought, “his paintings are so ordinary, like the works of a middle-aged culture hag on a beach stroll.” Like, how ordinary can you allow yourself to get?
Yes, I saw that. It was so damn honest, as if he had come to an understanding, like, “I’ve done all that other stuff, so now I can do whatever I want. Now I can go back to the things that matter.” I was so damn inspired by how he dealt with his landscapes. Because I find the landscapes I paint to be so charged. I grew up on a farm, and if you were having a hard time, you couldn’t just go to a 7-11 or something; you had to ask your parents—that you probably just had a fight with—for a lift. So that wasn’t an option. I used to ride for hours, and then the landscapes would turn into an emotional backdrop. You’re out there in the middle of nowhere, scared, angry or hurt, and you’re out there until you’re healed. So in all my paintings, I’ve always been using these landscapes. In some way, they’re the most important. The other things happening in the paintings I take from somewhere else and project them on this backdrop. So it was really inspiring to see how Hockney dealt with that sentimentality. I’ve decided what I’m going to do for my next series. I’ll shoot someone in the studio, and then paint the entire interior with everything in the room, and then I’ll go out to these landscapes and paint them separately, and then present them like diptychs, of about five pairs. I don’t know what to start with, though, people or landscapes.
Maybe you can try both?
I guess. But surely, it could turn out good, couldn’t it? Oh! And another thing that stresses me out about the exhibition is that The Swedish Association for Survivors of Accident and Injury is going to contact me to say that what I’m doing is good and perhaps important.
Um, you lost me there.
Look at the guy with the Toronto Maple Leaf sweater!
Photographs Sara took in her studio, which she painted LIAR IV and LIAR VII from.
Oh yeah, he has no feet! That’s funny. Maybe they’ll buy it for their office. Does it matter to you who buys your paintings?
No, anyone can buy them. I couldn’t care less.
Are you easily separated from them?
Absolutely, as soon as they’re done or I feel satisfied with them. When I recognize the setting in the painting, then I’m done. The worst would be if they remained here, in the studio. Or if one didn’t get sold, then I’d want to take it to the dump, but I probably wouldn’t dare to do that. Anyway, on a more serious note, this series is about strangulation, about the feeling of wanting to strangle someone.
Can you understand if people can’t really see what you mean?
Of course, no one can see it. It can be like a gateway for people, a door, to focus on a detail or see something else in the painting. People looking at it will never be able to see what I saw. But if there’s something that people seem to notice and get hung up on, it’s the clothes. I have a soft spot for painting clothes, preferably in detail. I paint them with sharpness. Once, in art school, when I was working on that series about the guys, one of my snooty classmates came up to me and said, “You’re doing fashion!” and then left. I was like, “Oh no!” It was such a big anti-climax. I really like painting clothes and I always make sure there are never any logos or things like that, but I’m not doing fashion, that’s for sure. It’s a sore spot, because I’d hate it if people considered it to be fashion. Also, when people ask me about this series, I like to tell them that example with the friend thinking you stole her sweater, like I told you.
But you have a pretty special clothing style in your paintings?
Oh no! There’s no specific clothing style, is there?
For more on Sara-Vide Ericson, visit www.saravide.se
LIAR VII, 2010. Oil on canvas, 150x140 cm.
LIAR VI, 2010. Oil on canvas, 150x130 cm.
LIAR IV, 2010. Oil on canvas, 150x140 cm.