I have always loved ants. Some of my earliest visual memories are of staring at the ground looking for ants. Creatures that build communities fascinate me. They may not always appear to work together, but they need each other to survive. Separate an ant from its colony and it will die, even if you give it food and water.
When I grew up, I enjoyed playing by myself. But that did not mean other people were unimportant.
I’m still rather by myself, yet I´m also completely dependent on a network of people scattered around the world, both dead and alive! I think of them as my ”crew”. And I am thankful for not being alone in doing what I do. Others have done similar work before me and will continue to do so long after my death. My ”crew” is vital to me. And if it weren’t for them, I would question who I am and why I’m doing what I’m doing, until I would stop and most-likely die. Does that sound dramatic? Yes, maybe it is.
My studies at Örebro Art College coincided with me turning 30-years-old and suffering a quarter life crisis. Luckily, an art school is the perfect place to grapple with such feelings. Before I began my studies, I already had a crew of great comic artists, potters and animators around me. But I needed more people who could support the side of my life that I was having trouble taking seriously: The Art.
Art, art… this magic word, which cannot be identified in any sensible way. I needed people who were ‘in Art’. But all of my crewmembers largely considered themselves to be apart from the art world. Personally, I had gotten used to being outside the art world, until I got a grant from The Swedish Arts Grants Committee to develop my sculptures.
I got scared. Suddenly I was alone.
My studio neighbor, sculptor James Bates, asked if I wanted to enroll at Örebro Art College, where he was teaching at the time. ”No, I don´t have time for that, I have to throw!” was my instant reply.
”Are you scared?” he asked.
”No,” I said instinctively, and signed up for classes immediately.
That was it. There I was with my crew of misfits.
But I fitted in. The crew had to expand.
So, what do you do at an art school? I had no idea. I thought that you sit at a table and draw things. I was wrong. What you are really DOING – whether sitting, drawing or building a sculpture out of meat – is evolving.
You are exposed to new perspectives; you visit new countries; you see things that you had no idea you would love or hate.
I would have evolved even without Örebro Art College. But it would have taken infinitely more time and would have been even scarier by myself. Now I have my own anthill with people who are a bit like me all over the world! And I live in it, and struggle with my pine needles, just like everyone else.
Translation: George Wyndham and Cecilia Jansson