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Pär Strömberg    Contributor -- Sweden

Photo by Pelle Jansson

Pär Strömberg, born 1972 in Örebro, Sweden – lives and works in Amsterdam, The Netherlands and Stockholm, Sweden. Teaching at Örebro College of Art, Sweden. Four time nominated for the Royal Dutch Painting Prize (2004-2007) and winner of the Wim Izaks Painting Prize in 2002. Travels and exhibits all over the world in fairs, auctions, galleries and museums.

Pär Strömberg’s mythic figurative landscapes are not so much registrations of actuality as representations of states of mind and atmospheres that, the artist asserts, can be recognized by ‘collective memory’ even if they have never been directly experienced. Using multiple glazes Strömberg brings his ‘dreamy stories’ about archetypal struggles to rich and delicate life.

His paintings have developed into a registration of the landscape of his native country Sweden, both physical and psychological. The presence of the landscape and the wild nature is very impact, both relieving as well as frightening and intimidating. The beauty and freedom the landscape speaks about, has an ever so under laying threatening and mournful side.

His paintings are not only spectacular landscapes, also storytelling where Pär is working with and executing specific ideas and emotions into layers of imagery. Even though the borderline and mystic ambivalence always is present in his art, his later work has a legible influence of occult rites and myths, pagan stories and paraphrases from art history.

Representation by:
Serieuze Zaken Studioos in Amsterdam

Pär Strömberg's blog:

Facebook Fan Page: HERE



      Karen Bowles interviews Pär Strömberg for Luciole Press

  (all photos by Pelle Jansson)

         LP: Your work has an ethereal quality while maintaining a sense 
         of strength, even a bit of danger. It draws a viewer into it like
         following a trail into a forest, where one suddenly realizes they are
         not quite certain where they are, or what is really in the shadows
         around them. As they question whether they should stand their
         ground, or run back the way they came from, layers of your
         paintings seem to offer up clues to their past, present, and future
         selves. There is a rugged mysticism that suggests endless magic
         coupled with starkest realities. Do you think your art challenges
         your audience to access deeper parts of themselves as they engage
         in the world you create?

PS: There is of course a hope for a higher experience, but I wouldn’t say that is the main target. I play on a sort of collective memory that hopefully triggers the minds of the audience, yet to keep my narrative as a backdrop for their own. My titles always gives a hint to what my idea is based upon, but it doesn’t dictate any answers. I see my landscapes as sort of mindscapes, a place for rest and contemplation in this media frenzied world that is today. In that rest of peace, both darkness and light is lurking. It’s like a psychological mind trip of the layers of oneself.



LP: You identify yourself as a pagan on your facebook page, and the Scandinavian and Celtic pagans often worshiped in sacred groves. They see a world which is multi-dimensional, elemental, filled with myth and balanced along the line of light and dark. Your work is vitally connected to your heritage and native landscape of Sweden, and in pieces like Mis Du - Black Month (2004-2005), viewers cross the threshold into a grove of trees that feel modern, yet ancient. After the first glance, we are not sure if you are presenting a memory of the past, or inviting us into an uncertain present. In the end, it looks like both, that we have come to a place where time is not linear and the surface is only a starting point. Tell us about your past and present evolution; did you grow up feeling such a strong connection to your heritage? Was it encouraged by your family? What did you find amongst the trees of your hometown of Örebro that flowed through your brush and transformed blank canvases into talismans of timeless art?

PS: First I must say that I don’t call myself Pagan. I’m without any religion or belief. Yet, the past of our land has had crucial impact on trying to identify myself with my heritage. Most of my family is practicing Christians and it has been my rebellion against it that has triggered my interest in the occult and the pagan past. Back in the early eighties, heavy metal music was the strongest uprising for me and my friends against our parents. We we’re too young to get into politics so we just tried to piss them off by hailing the dark. On a deeper level, there was so much symbolism and strong values in that revolt that it trigger our interest in mysticism and magical experiences. Today this is mainly connected with Black Metal, where they have taken it to another level. In my work, that symbolism is again transformed and taken to another step. The ever present dark woods surrounding where I grew up is still a playground for the secret and hidden.


 LP: You have had exhibitions in Sweden, Norway, Holland, Germany, 
 America; have I missed any places?

Finland, England, and Ireland.

LP: Do you find that the reactions and comments about your work varies  
by locale, or is there a consensus of feeling? You have mentioned that 
many people feel that your work is “dark.” Is that reaction more prevalent
in certain areas, or are you discovering that we all really have a lot in 

I think my work is more exotic outside Scandinavia. However it measures up here with the recognition and experiences more closely connected to the forests. Outside Scandinavia I suppose the experience is on a less physical level and more mental. If someone calls my work dark, I suppose they don’t see all the light in them, making the darkness present. Still, I mostly hear that comment from people that isn’t very initiated. If the spectator would just settle down for a minute and really look at my work for longer than an average MTV clip, they would experience and see a lot more.

I believe we do have a lot in common over the boarders, especially in the western world. I’m not sure if my work would have the same impact in parts of the world that is not based upon the Judeo-Christian morals that has filled our minds with guilt and sin. I guess my work is, whether I like it or not, a direct reaction to that.


LP: You are primarily a painter, but also do charcoal drawings. Do you create in any other mediums? Do you set aside time with the intention of creating art, or do you wait for inspiration to strike? I am sure it varies, but how long do you usually spend on a piece?

PS: I work full-time in my studio, only taking time off when i teach at the Örebro College of Art and or traveling. I also do watercolors and pencil drawings, but rarely shows them. I’m not sure why yet. I’m fairly busy with everything surrounding an artistship, I have no assistant, so (I do) everything from accounting and logistics to the daily practice of painting. My wife Caroline helps out a lot with the business side of it all, she’s a great friend, supporter and asset for my confidence. I also used to write for some magazines, mostly columns and sometimes interviews with fellow artists and musician friends. I enjoyed it a lot, but time is not really on my side for that right now.


My work develops in groups where I can work with more than one canvas at the same time. This makes it possible to bring painterly qualities, techniques and color tones straight in the next waiting piece instead of re-inventing it every time. By that I get that familiar Strömberg touch to all my work. It’s impossible to say for how long I work on one single paintings, it varies from days to months.


LP: You stated in a previous interview that the energy and power of music has been very influential in your work, and that many metal bands employ pagan symbolism as a way to encourage people to listen to their inner depths and selves. What have you found in yourself in the course of creating such rich and thought-provoking work?

PS: I grew up in Örebro which have more bands per capita then any other place I know of. All my friends were in bands and so was I. Today, a few of us went on becoming artists, designers and what-not where most of them are still musicians. We were a great creative bunch and very curious minded. The music has always been there as an influence but it has never been crucial for my work. Music has it’s ways of getting out to the masses which makes it a great way for bands to get their voices heard. As an artist I work on a different level and most of my clients are not goth kids, obviously. Still, I have to maintain an open and honest way to communicate my language, whether it’s heard (or seen) by masses or not. The quality in my work is to be experienced en place. Reproductions and digital images just won’t do it justice.





LP: Though you tap into an occult mysticism in your paintings, you are also a very contemporary and savvy person who seems fully engaged in an eclectic arts scene. You had a show called “Ride the Lightning” in Berlin, named after an album by Metallica. You have made album covers for friends. You are also a We activist, from the WeSC clothing company (We are the Superlative Conspiracy). I have read that WeSC has stores in New York and Beverly Hills, but would like to become more known in America. It is not simply a clothing line, but a way of life and thought that essentially started in the skating world and branched out into the art and music scenes. People can check out the site and watch a WeSC film here:


Can you clue readers into what it means to be a We activist?


PS: I guess that it’s part of our group of friends that grew up together that wanted something more. Instead of getting drawn in to drug abuse because of our rural boredom we created our future. WeSC was co-founded by one of my childhood friends and many of the so called activists share my background, whether they are from Sweden or elsewhere. We are a superlative conspiracy as we say. A group of people from the street cultures that has created a network. The clothing line is the roof for that but none of us is answering to them as a company. We are all just doing what we like to do and we’re doing it good. The street cultures may differ depending on location. In Örebro, it was all about metal and punk, music and skateboarding. In other places it might be graffiti, hip-hop, dance or whatever. Our interests may also differ a lot. I have always been very curious and I read all the time. For me, constantly getting more knowledge is crucial. I don’t see that different interests in different areas have to clash, as long as they are my interests they are part of me and important for my development as an artist.


LP: You have lived and worked in Amsterdam, and are currently teaching art at Örebro College of Art, which you also attended between 1994 and 1996. You also attended the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam. What are the differences between the art communities in Holland and Sweden? What do they have in common?

PS: I moved to Amsterdam to pursue my art education and didn’t plan to stay there for so long. 14 years later I’m moving back to Sweden. Amsterdam brought me in with open arms as their art scene is very eclectic. Straight after my graduation from Rietveld in 1999 I got invited for a group show at the Stedelijk Museum, a show that rocketed my career there. But to be part of an art scene you need to be in place. I lost the contact with the Swedish scene when I wasn’t really interested in showing there. Now when I’m back, a lot has changed and I’m a rookie again. I find it interesting to experience the aspects of different art scenes, they may differ a lot from town to town but mostly they are built on the same sort of  anxious protection of their rights. The art scene dictates who is who and what is art in their little turf. Protective and anxious, elitist and selective, but I guess that’s the only way. There has been numerous of other attempts that hasn’t manage to break down this monolith.


Teaching however gives me a possibility to change. My students are mostly on a level where they need the sole direction of their language. I guide and advise and it is really rewarding. I learn a lot about my own artship by talking with others about theirs.


LP: How long have you been teaching? In viewing and working with your students, where do you think contemporary art may be headed in the near future?

PS: On and off I’ve been guest teaching at Örebro College and the Rietveld Academy for years. It’s only in the latest year I have been doing longer projects with more substance. It’s really hard to predict the future since most of the development of art students appear after their graduation, out in the real life as an practicing artist. There is however a resurgent activism lurking, or maybe it’s there just because I’m interested and very open to that. I believe painting will still be around as it has always been and I hope that the art spongers called curators will get less important roles in the future.

LP: Will we in the US get to see an exhibit of your work this year or the next? Let me know the details when they are available, and I will do my best to show up!

PS: I had a show planned in Los Angeles for this summer, but unfortunately it is postponed. I will keep you updated on development of that. Hopefully I will do something in New York early next year too, but it’s still on a planning stage. I lost contact with the US after my gallerist Caryn Coleman of Sixspace (Culver City) moved to London two years ago. Hopefully I will come back soon, the US has been good to me.


LP: You have an upcoming show in Stockholm; please give us the details. Best of luck to you for the show.


PS: I do a book presentation for my upcoming artist book Darkness Visible. Coinciding that event I will show some new work at the venue Restaurant Riche, a cultural  waterhole in Stockholm. The book contains around 20 of  my latest paintings, some close-ups and environmental shots from my studio. The texts are written by freelance critics and writers Daniël Bertina, Frida Cornell and the director of Akzo Nobel Art Foundation, Hester C. Alberdingk Thijm. I will also launch my new website


all art copyrights belong to Pär Strömberg

all photo copyrights belong to Pelle Jansson
all article copyrights belong to Luciole Press and Pär Strömberg

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