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Pia-Veronica Åström

In conversation with Barbara Pflanzner, Studio at Creative Cluster, April 24, 2023

Let’s talk about your paintings first. In your artist’s statement, you describe the body as a fractured form that is supposed to represent a situation or a memory. Can you expand on that?  

My paintings very much relate to my own body, as well as to the relationship to bodies in general. The pieces have been worked through my body several times, becoming a personal relationship. Painting isn’t an intellectual process for me. While working, the endless number of possibilities can be overwhelming, and I find the intuitive filtering process interesting – in what I am doing through gesture. In what way my own brain starts making things up and how I can trigger myself as well as the viewer to make sense of what can be seen is what fascinates me. What I associate with, feel and remember are the three rolling components as I’m doing the work but, in the end, the works mustn’t be personal. What’s important is finding elements that can translate into something more universal.

Can you tell me a bit about your way of reduction? 

In the very beginning, when I started to paint, my works often lacked contrast. Only later, I gained understanding of how necessary contrast is to my work, to create a more powerful impact. I tend towards muted colors and layer the image with lighter ones, which makes them more toned or vague – it creates a blurriness. If it’s too much of that, the work doesn’t communicate as strongly as I would like. Especially in the last few years, I’ve improved in trying to increase the contrast in my works. In doing so, there’s not just plain darkness but also a lot of depth in it. With abstraction, you need to know where you draw your inference from – I guess from finding the invisible aspects of the world or my own sense of being, through my working style, through my gestures. The memory of what I imagined as well as the situation I associated with when creating it and what I can see is crucial. The elements of what emerges from the unconscious is captivating, as well as the question of what I don’t show; what, in a way, I have censored, and what I make of it.

Would you agree that your focus lies on a sensitive balancing of coloristic possibilities?

Yes. Colors are essential to me. Usually I start a painting much more explosively than they eventually end up. In the beginning, they’re generally wilder and often even stronger in the color schemes. As the process of balancing begins, I try to distinguish what I can see and further build on. These kinds of invisible traces stem from the unconscious and appear, in a way magically, on the surface. But seeking balance has become very important to me. When I look at my earlier paintings, they were often wilder than now but also more unbalanced. It’s a fine line because I like the rough aspects of the works, which I also want to maintain as much as possible. I need wildness in a balanced way, as ambiguous as that may sound. I try to paint something with both these characteristics that can simultaneously be wild and calm.

In your studio here at Creative Cluster, you’re working on large-sized objects. Did you already work sculpturally while studying at the Academy? 

I’ve always done both. Painting just requires most of my time. Working on objects needs space. If you aren’t working site-specifically in a show room, you need to imagine the space in which the objects should be shown, which is very tricky. Painting is different because a two-dimensional work only requires a wall. Working here in the studio space has been very good. I’m really grateful for this opportunity to work on these new objects. Because the paintings are stored somewhere else, it’s the first time I can keep the two media separate and focus on the objects only. 

What’s striking about these objects is their materiality. What kind of materials do you use for them?

 Much of the materials are found on the street or taken from  waste disposal sites, such as this jacket or that mattress. It’s an obsession that I have. I’m an opportunist; I seek, look and hunt for things within my surroundings. It’s interesting how the materials can transform into and perform something they never intended to be. It isn’t so much about finding something and presenting it as it is; it isn’t a statement. The process of finding, collecting, and scheming opportunities is as equally important as the actual making of the objects. It’s more of a game for me to see what specific elements the materials can keep in combination with what I can do with them. All of these objects in the studio still need to be finished; they are still in process.

I like their roughness.  

Yes, I like it too. I’m careful not to edit it too much. I don’t want to improve the works to perfection or make them decorative. I like that they’re raw in their expression, even to the point of being ugly. This year I also started to work with concrete for the first time which is quite difficult, because you have to be very precise.

 Do these works also have a political claim?

Apart from that they all relate to the fractured body residing in a mode of transition, it’s also ironic that I work with waste material, litter, and scrap directly from the street and combining that with this classical oil painting. So, yes, I guess it becomes a mirror of the neo-capitalistic hegemony or the hypocrisy of society as a whole.

What are your plans for the next few weeks and months to come? 

I want to finish and work on the objects here and find ways of experimenting with how they could be presented and documented. And, of course, I’m also always painting. So, basically, I’ll just be continuing with what I’m doing already. There won’t be any new projects until I’ve finished these works.