^ Sara-Vide Ericson, Consequence (of a Touch), 2020, oil on canvas, 190 x 130 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Eighteen.
OTP Short-Forms: Sara-Vide Ericson
An interview with the original hunter-gatherer painter.
Licking drawings in the dark, dropping out of sports and being hungover in the museum.
Like a sublime dream or a dreadful nightmare, the experience of Sara-Vide Ericson’s paintings seems to take place first in the deep recesses of the soul before the nervous system has a chance to try and make sense of what it has just seen.
Somewhat naturally withdrawn, Ericson has been living and working in the heart of rural Sweden for the past 10 years, where shifts in light and seasonal differences are more pronounced than anywhere else in Scandinavia. With little available distraction, it comes as no surprise that she has spent well over 10,000 hours painting in her studio.
The following interview was recorded to coincide with the artist's current solo exhibition Navigating Ancient Consequences at Eighteen, Copenhagen.
OTP The works on show seem particularly reflexive - is this the first time you have created images that directly point towards the materials of artistic creation?
SVE Both yes and no, but over the last years I’ve been more reflexive in my thoughts around the physical act of painting, and the relation of painting to the motif itself.
I’ve been aware of that development in my own mind, but I haven’t previously communicated it as directly as I did in this series. I suddenly felt, when each painting was its own sphere, illusion, motif or scene - that I was not finished with the motif itself when I was done with the painting!
And that felt like a waste, sometimes even superficial. So, this was a rehearsal for me of how and why I need to circle around and inside the painterly process and motif, at the same time.
^ Sara-Vide Ericson, Consequence (Ghost), 2020, oil on canvas, 120 x 180 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Eighteen.
OTP You have spoken before about the relationship between souls and garments in your work - do you see the moulds in these paintings as inanimate before they are filled by the pastry chef?
SVE No, that was why I wanted to paint them! I was totally beaten by their existence!
I always collect, or hunt down, objects, materials or locations that I intuitively feel I want to paint. It was the same with these, I bought them really cheap in a small local auction house this spring. Then I gave them to the pastry chef to investigate further, and the paintings evolved out of that.
Back in the studio, when I had the experience and images from living inside the paintings, I decided to put away the moulds in a hidden corner of the studio, until the paintings were done, and the stonecake was cooked.
After that, when dragging them out into the light, next to the paintings, they felt lifeless, faded, small, insignificant. I felt sad about it. It was a small loss.
At least for five minutes or something like that haha. The nature of a predator.
OTP What role does taste play in your painting?
SVE A pretty big one actually.
When my mother divorced my father, who was an advertiser in the eighties (those days were crazy), she drove several trailers - I mean tons - of French haute couture clothes up to the old farm in the harsh countryside of the northern parts of Sweden, where I later grew up.
There she hung them in rows in the barn and started selling them to the ladies in the village. I was hiding underneath those heavy racks full of clothes, I spent hours, days in there; tasting, smelling, chewing on silk, pallets, exclusive wool cardigans. I was safe there, hiding in my senses.
And when you actually ask, something I never admitted earlier, I remembered how as a child I used to lick my drawings and paintings every night in the dark, as a company, or comfort. I should maybe start with that again?!
No but actually this is an important question, it’s about the need and aim of being at one with the medium, to amount to something bigger. It’s also about the need to obtain information through the senses and organs in a way other than the conscious way, because the body is obviously not always only an intellect.
^ Sara-Vide Ericson, Consequence (of a Moment), 2020, oil on canvas, 70 x 50 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Eighteen.
OTP How does your approach to image-making change when you are working on paper / a smaller scale?
SVE Early in my artistic process I started by painting full-scale figures, or larger. It was a conscious way of relating to painting on a more physical level.
But later it became an obstacle instead, because it sometimes was stopping the process and tempo of hand and thought. Also – it’s very important that the paintings have different levels of physical power over you.
So, to keep the narrative strong I think that some paintings need to be so small, like light memories just rushing thru your body and fading away - so small you actually can keep the painting in the pocket on the subway.
And sometimes it’s important that the painting remains bigger and more powerful than you, as a half-god, or a monument! It’s a sweet surrender to sometimes not be able to move a painting from one corner of the studio to another by yourself.
OTP What is your happiest memory in a museum? What is your most unhappy memory in a museum?
SVE I have many unhappy memories, if you count all those times when you feel sweaty, stupid and doesn’t have enough time to dig down, deep.
The most powerful memory from a museum though - is when I had the world’s worst hangover and went to National Gallery in Stockholm to see the exhibition with the Russian group Peredvizjniki.
I don’t know what happened, but I was totally hit and started crying and felt as one with universe, haha.
So, some good advice is always have a hangover when watching art, you’re a more open, honest fragile version of yourself. Needs to be a massive hangover though...
^ Sara-Vide Ericson, Consequence (Deserter), 2020, oil on waxed stencil paper in purple heart wood frame with ultravue glass, 42 x 30 cm (unframed), 51.5 x 38.5 cm (framed). Courtesy of the artist and Eighteen.
OTP What were you like as a kid? Were you interested in history?
SVE I wanted to be an archaeologist, and in my teens more specificically an Egyptologist.
I was (or am!) shy and dropped out from sports in order to learn more about hieroglyphs, unfortunately I don’t remember anything.
OTP Have you ever dreamt about a stucco mould, or being a pastry chef?
SVE No but I carry the feeling inside of being not just my own experiences - that it is not only the circumstances that have happened to me that have shaped me.
I am a cake baked in a form that I have not always been able to influence.
It can be frustrating sometimes, but one part of it is also that because of that I am able to get insights, which are wider than those that I have myself collected. By investigating these extra insights through painting I can collect them as an embodied memory.
^ Sara-Vide Ericson, Consequence (Reef Knot), 2020, oil on canvas, 44 x 35 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Eighteen..
OTP What is a question that people never ask you about your work that you think would be good to know?
SVE I don’t know the question, but I know the answer:
To start a painting is as if you would come into a black, totally dark room. Suddenly you’re pushed into this unknown room, and the door slams shut right behind you!
You turn around and try to open it, but there’s no way back. You grope forward, looking for somewhere to fix your gaze and feel carefully forward with the tip of your toes. You hit your thigh in a sharp tabletop, start crawling towards the furniture.
At the same time, you begin to see a dim light, maybe it's a bad lamp that lights up the rom slowly, or your eyes were just paralysed by the darkness?
The more you paint, the more you begin to be able to see what kind of room it is, how it's laid out, the windows, if it’s a kitchen, living room - what the purpose of the room is, why you had to paint this painting!
Suddenly the room is completely lit, and a door suddenly shows up, and the process repeats itself; a new painting appears.
^ Navigating Ancient Consequences installation view, Eighteen, 2020. Courtesy of the artist and Eighteen. Photo: Jan Sondergaard.
Born in Hälsingland, Sweden in 1983 Sara-Vide Ericson completed her BFA at Idun Lovén Art School, Stockholm in 2004 before completing her MFA at the Royal University College of Fine Arts, Stockholm in 2009.
Her exhibition history includes solo exhibitions at: Kalmar Konstmuseum, Royal Academy of Fine Arts Stockholm, Bror Hjorths Hus, Örebro Konsthall, Bollnäs Konsthall and Gävleborgs Länsmuseum.
Sara-Vide Ericson has been the recipient of awards from: the Längmanska Foundation, The Royal Swedish Academy of Arts (Grant of Simone de Dardel) and Gunvor Göransson Grant.
Navigating Ancient Consequences remains open until September 12 2020.
See more from Sara-Vide Ericson: