A Studio Conversation with

Albin Looström

It’s a late evening in autumn when I meet up with Albin Looström close to what is perhaps one of the most well known places in central Stockholm – Mosebacke Square. His new studio is just around the corner – an open, ample space that he shares with fellow artists, and friends, Karl Norin and Jim Thorell. Over a coffee, we talk about the possibilities that arise when working in close dialogue with other artists and of the transition to new materials. The coarse hessian fabrics, that previously constituted the base of Albin’s so called wall sculptures, have now had to make way for a more inorganic and unwieldy material – plastic.

It feels as though you often find yourself at the intersection of painting and sculpture.
Yeah, I work with sculpture but there’s always a painterly aspect to what I do. I work with colour as much as form. I come from a pictorial background originally but have worked more with sculpture during my years at the Royal Institute of Art. Those times that I have worked with painting have anyway ended up with the object protruding from the wall and taking sculptural form. What I’ve been working on most recently is a series of wall sculptures that are a continuation of the works I showed as part of my solo exhibition at the Royal Institute in winter. They’re a smaller format, richer in detail.

AL-atelje1

What’s your working process like?
I often start with a form that I think, for whatever reason, feels exciting and that becomes a frame. It can take a while before a canvas, or plastic, is stretched over it. Previously I worked with coarse fabrics, like hessian for example. I still do – but have even started testing new materials like plastic. It’s a material that behaves quite differently to hessian when it’s warmed up. It forms in different ways and gets an almost fatty surface. I like the fact that the material goes against the organic forms. It makes for an interesting contrast. My sculptures draw expression from biological material – but consist of completely artificial materials. My latest work brings to mind fish carcasses, jellyfish and octopuses.

"Masks", 2015

”Masks”, 2015

What is it about the organic forms that interests you? Why fish carcasses for example?
Marine associations are constantly reoccurring in my work, I’ve got like no control over it. I started thinking how fishing lures are lacquered and then how the entrails are thrown back into shallow water. They can be lying there for a long time and the meat then ends up going white. Meat that decomposes underwater doesn’t look the same as it would if the process happened on land. A semitransparent membrane forms on the outside and the meat falls apart. Those were the images in my thoughts at the time and the material allowed me to approach them.

How did it come about that you started working with plastic?
I have actually been experimenting with plastic for quite a while. Seven years ago, before I was at art school, I was already melting things in the oven. I sat looking through a dirty oven window and tried to follow what was happening. I stopped because it felt a little sketchy messing around with such poisonous gases.

What was it about the melting of objects that caught your attention?
I liked the uncontrolled aspects of the process itself. The objects that I chose to melt changed form, rapidly became abstract. I have left that particular method behind me. Now I work more with directed heat and in that way have maintained a certain aspect of control. The plastic I am working with now is really good quality. It looks really cool when it melts and doesn’t smell too bad. It can take spray paint – that’s important for me. I discovered the plastic among Kalle’s (editor’s note: Karl Norin’s) residual stuff here in the studio.

"Divine Touch", 2015

”Divine Touch”, 2015

You are three artists and close friends that share an open – albeit large – studio. Does it affect your work?
Yeah, it’s probably unavoidable. You’re probably affected by it more than you are conscious of. I notice it as far colour is concerned. Jim’s (editor’s note: Jim Thorell’s) colour scheme has no doubt affected me. Today I went by another studio to say hi and what stood out there was an obvious dark colour scheme of rust, green and brown. Then I came back here and realised that we’re all working with much brighter colours.

"Divine Touche", 2015

”Divine Touche”, 2015

There’s a general belief that artistic work is something individualistic. You’re all working individually but still seem to have a distinct dialogue between your work.
Yeah, artists that have worked in tight constellations and groups are something that have existed throughout the whole art history. I see a lot of positives with working in that way. By having a group and a context you are able to formulate yourself more clearly.

You emphasise the importance of a group to your work, which is still largely individual. What’s your stance on collaboration?
I am part of a group project called Senoren where we do projects in various constellations. We aren’t always overly active, as a lot of us have other projects as well, but we had a group show recently at Gallery Box in Gothenburg that was a satellite show to (GIBCA) Biennial. A lot of the artists in my current network have been involved with it in some way. It’s a nice getaway. The show I’m working on at the moment is actually with two artists from the Senoren group – Anders Johansson and Henning Hamilton.

How are you guys working leading up to the exhibition?
We are going to work on a couple of collaborative works – like the figure in blue coveralls that we have started on and that you can see over there. Henning and I pretty much just came up with it after playing around for a bit one night. This particular sculpture is a collaborative project but it’s not a Senoren project, as we’re going to show individual works as well. With Senoren it’s always the group that is presenting, far removed from an individual way of thinking. Anyway, this sculpture is very much a coveralls, road signs aesthetic and working class romanticism. A huge guy – imagine like Patrik Sjöberg, the docks, the 70’s and ABF – the Worker’s Education Association. Without a doubt it has a Gothenburg connection – all three of us are connected to Gothenburg.

Utan titel, 2015

Utan titel, 2015

How is it that you got into art?
I always sketched, drew and painted when I was younger. In high school I studied art and design and as a teenager did graffiti, and am to some degree still in contact with that world. When I was younger I hadn’t even considered becoming an artist. I don’t have any artists in my family. For a while I thought I would be an architect and applied to architecture school a few times but suddenly realised there was no architecture in my portfolio. I had no interest whatsoever in architecture – it was all art. So I got myself a studio and gradually started applying for art schools instead.

AL-atelje2

In what way has graffiti influenced what you are doing now?
I think you pick up a way of thinking about both form and colour that I have kept with me. Spray paint is also something I still use a lot and which was an obvious choice. I don’t want what I am doing now to look like graffiti – but it’s nice if the fact that it’s there in the background can shine through.

The conversation between Albin Looström and Olga Krzeszowiec Malmsten took place in Stockholm on October 12, 2015

Text: Olga Krzeszowiec Malmsten
Translation: Nicholas Lawrence
Photo: Jean-Baptiste Beranger, Anna Kleberg, Carl Henrik Tillberg

Name: Albin Looström
Borm: 1984 in Gothenburg, SWE
Based: Stockholm, SWE
Education: 2015 MFA, Royal Institute of Art, Stockholm SWE and 2012, Emily Carr University, Vancouver CAN
Info: Group show: Albin Looström, Anders Johansson, Henning Hamilton, November 5-8, 2015 at Konstakademien
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