Studio Visit Linnéa Andersson

Linnéa Andersson is a Swedish artist based in Gothenburg. I call her up on a Monday morning to chat to her about her life, career, and 1970s Swedish folk-heroes.

I tell her I’d stumbled across an old Swedish album by a bearded musician whose name I definitely do not pronounce correctly, and then proceed to hum the song I’ve had on repeat for the last few days.

Andersson knows who I mean, and delightfully exclaims: “Oh, Pugh Rogefeldt! That song (Små lätta moln – small little cloud) is practically a national hymn in Sweden. It’s like an ode to summer, which is so precious here because it’s so short.” She laughs at this and tells me that, coincidently, she had also very recently listened to the same song I was talking about.

Despite the short summers though, Andersson has lived in Gothenburg for around 12 years. It’s a place with a small, yet nevertheless significant, art scene. “I did my BFA and MFA there (at the art academy HDK Valand). But I studied design actually, not painting, which is what I do now.”

“I tried very hard to become a graphic designer. I took some time off my studies to do internships and gain work experience in the field. I thought I wanted to design magazines, and create book layouts etc. I realised that this world wasn’t for me though. It’s pretty hard having to cater to another person’s vision, especially if that vision is somewhat…conservative. I didn’t find the work that interesting.”

Andersson first gained attention for her murals of abstract botanical motifs, and I browse through the archival collection of these on her website. Intrigued at the leap from graphic design to large-scale open-aired painting, I ask her to tell me more. “So I think I started painting about five years ago. I practised for two hours every day, and stuck to this for like half a year. But I knew I wanted to paint, I really wanted to make a career out of it.”

“Gothenburg has this long wall just outside the city (Draken) where it’s legal to paint and practice graffiti on. I would go there and use the wall as a canvas. It was quite a journey though, before I really felt comfortable. It’s funny how many people were engaged with what happened there, and felt the need to criticise or make suggestions about what I was doing, especially grumpy old men. They were always coming up to me and giving me their opinions, telling me to use a different colour, or telling me my work was too minimalistic.” At this she chuckles, and adds, “it’s funny how frustrated people can be with simplicity. Of course, that just made me want to be even more minimalistic.”

“So yeah, I had this barrier of distraction that I had to overcome. I’d always struggled with claiming visual space, and this wall was a place I did not immediately feel invited to. I really had to learn a new language, to imprint the flow of working on my murals into my spine, so that it could be a movement I did automatically and easily…so that when these people came up to me, I wouldn’t be thrown off or intimidated.”

“For me, my early murals represent me developing a tool to claim space. I’d get up at 7am to go and work on the wall in the freezing cold, so that I could be alone. But then every time I’d stay a little longer, arrive a little later, ready to face the people. This journey eventually became my Master’s project.”

One of the photos in the archive shows an almost empty room with an old wood stove tucked away in the corner. Painted in blue is an abstract leaf whose wiggly stem twists and turns around the cracks in the old white walls. It’s a photograph of the mural Andersson painted during her Masters degree show in 2018. She laughs at the memory of the crowd’s reaction to her painting the walls of Gothenburg’s oldest building.

“People were angry. They thought I was ruining the place, that I wasn’t allowed to be there, although I did have permission. They were like, “You cannot do this, you must stop!”. I think I still approach my work with a designer’s mind. You know, I ask questions such as “who is seeing this?”, and “how is this affecting people?”. And it really did affect people. Working on my murals became a way of interacting with the people of Gothenburg”.

Turning to Andersson’s more recent work, the wiggly leaf appears again and again. “It’s a design I use a lot. I’m always trying to look at things in a new light. When I work I feel a little like an engineer searching for solutions. That’s why I use the same shape. The motif is not really important, it’s how I make it, the tools and medium I use to get there that matter. I love combining materials and examining the way they interact with one another.”

I ask her about her daily life as a full-time artist, and how she finds inspiration for her projects.

“I spend office hours in my studio, sometimes more, rarely less. I’m really trying to leave my weekends free, even though it is tempting to just stay in the studio. I often miss it when I’m away. For me it is important to just turn up to the studio, since I believe in creativity as something that finds you when you are working. I never find it if I’m expecting it.”

I agree with what Andersson says, but chuckle at this last bit, and ask her whether she hasn’t ever purposefully gone on a trip to try to find that treasure chest of “inspiration”. “Oh I have. But I have to be honest…I don’t find them that inspiring”. She laughs as she admits this.

Finally, I want to know what Andersson’s future plans are, beyond a solo exhibition for Mini Galerie in May.

“One of my five year goals is to get more commissions in public spaces. I think that could create a possible dialogue between the people in the surroundings and the existing architecture. It also opens up opportunities for working with new mediums and materials. How time and weather would impact these works is also something I find very interesting.”

“But before that, I’m taking some time off to tour around the US with my boyfriend and his band.”

Jealous of this coast-to-coast roadtrip, I wish Andersson all the best, and I’m excited to see whether it may just be one of those inspirational trips after all.

Stay tuned for Andersson’s upcoming solo show, Remix, opening on Friday the 29th of April.

Text by Alicia Hansen