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Automatic Target Recognition

We recently met up with emerging Stockholm-based painter Julius Göthlin in his spacious studio in the industrial area of Ulvsunda while preparations were underway for the opening of Automatic Target Recognition at Belenius/Nordenhake, his first solo exhibition at the gallery.

C-P: Earlier this year, you presented an exhibition titled 'Transparent Movement' at Belenius/Nordenhake and now you're set for a new show opening within just a few days. You've certainly kept yourself busy since I last came around the studio. What can we expect from this new show?

J.G: 'Transparent Movement' was more of a showroom exhibition where the focus was to display the variety of media I've been working with over the last years. For this upcoming exhibition 'Automatic Target Recognition', I've continued to work with materials like spray-paint in large-scale paintings that bring the observer all the way between micro and macro, from the smallest molecules to outer space, while alluding to the movement of the body with a vibe that evokes references to scanned images from inside the human body and negative surface scanned images.

Generally, I've allowed myself to leave a bigger part of the work to chance, and allowing the individual qualities of the materials to lead the direction of each work. The title, 'Automatic Target Recognition' refers to a device with the same name that is being used to recognize objects and targets based on data captured from sensors. This technique is used in airport body scanners and other safety systems. I've been drawn to the idea of mimicking it in different ways to let structures in the materials decide where the paintings are going. C-P: I believe you're now officially a part of the gallery's roster. Congratulations! I'm so happy that things are starting to take off for you. I know we've discussed the notion of exhibiting in the past but how are you finding the experience today with some recent stints to your credit?

J.G: Yes! I just recently started working with the gallery officially, which is something I'm very happy about. I really like what they bring to the art scene in Stockholm. It's without a doubt the gallery that I personally relate to the most so it feels very inspiring. And to answer your question about exhibiting; I would say that since the first exhibition I ever did, I’ve always found the experience a little odd. I'd really label myself a “studio artist” in the sense that I really do enjoy spending a lot of time in the studio alone with my work. That's where it all comes together and belong. The idea of presenting these works in "the real world" has sometimes been a little bit confusing for me.

For instance, when I play music in clubs, the feedback is very honest and immediate. You get the feel of whether or not people like it just by observing them. It's a very special thing. I've had a hard time accepting that you cannot expect the same kind of response when exhibiting. To accept that you don’t know what people really think of your work can be very frustrating if you're already your own worst critic. However, with time, I've started to become more relaxed and also really appreciate when people take the time to come up to you and share their thoughts.

C-P: Your practice has notably taken a slightly new direction putting forth seemingly fast-paced spray-painted works rather than the evidently time-consuming geometrical structures of the past. Tell us a little about this progress.

J.G: During my years at the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm, I was working a lot around the idea of using boredom as a creative asset. While working on very labor-intense projects, I used to cut and paste painted strips of papers into minimal blocks of large abstract compositions and architectural structures. The purpose was to investigate how barely visible gradients in a complicated pattern of repetitions can trick the brain into experiencing movement; to suggest a third and a fourth dimension.

After many years of working with this slow-paced method, I gradually started to feel like I had reached a point where I had the answers to the questions I was initially interested in. I started to feel the urge to break the structure that I had built up for myself. I really missed the more experimental part of allowing chance and accident to drive you rather than preplanned ideas. Quite organically, my methods of working crossed over to spray-paint in a form that still was dealing with the ideas of trying to break the rules of the two-dimensional format while still remaining in a two-dimensional world.

I've always been very attracted to painting but yet have a weird relation to it. The idea of being able to enter a two-dimensional object that creates a world is very appealing to me. Although, personally I've always been distracted by the fact that a painting usually leaves traces of the person who made it, making it hard for me to see it as something more than a beautiful object. That insight has kind of taken away most of the mysterious qualities to me. In recent years, however, I've been very hooked on the idea of making paintings without actually touching the canvas with brush strokes and such. By using spray-paint, I've created a way for me to work in a more undefined format than before. Yet it has a lot of connections to my previous works and touches on a topic of what is being created in the gap between chaos and order, and fragment and reality.

C-P: On the note of being a "studio artist", tell us a little about this two-storey space you're occupying. It's pretty impressive and remarkably spacious. J.G: We're currently in the beautiful industrial area of Ulvsunda, which is a suburb quite close to the city and as with any place where nice studios exist, an area that at the moment is undergoing rapid changes. It'll probably look completely different around here in a few years. Sounds rather familiar, no?

Before I moved into this one, I had an extremely small studio space that I shared with a few other artists in a basement of an apartment building close to Fridhemsplan. The location, vibe and rent of that studio was great but when I started changing my methods of working from these slow-paced collages to using more obscure tools, I couldn't really make it work in that little studio anymore. I found myself climbing up in odd paths between the freeways nearby to find enough space to do what I wanted. The studio basically turned into a storage space for work that was being made under pressure at random places outside.

When winter arrived with snow and minus degrees, I realized the situation wasn't viable any longer. By accident, I noticed that a big studio in Ulvsunda industrial area was being rented out. Obviously as a young artist, I didn't really have the budget for a space like this but the feeling of finally being able to work in a place where I didn't have to compromise took the upper hand. In the end, I decided to try to compromise with a lot of other things in my life in order to make it work. I haven't regretted that decision once and the feeling when I arrive and open the door in the morning is just pure magical.

C-P: Aside from your art practice, you're the editor of a biannual graffiti magazine, and also keep yourself busy with DJ sets and making music. How do you find the time to combine all these projects? J.G: It can get a bit crazy at times, that's for sure. I often I get very frustrated that projects I'm really psyched about have to be put on hold due to time constraints. To me, all the different things I work with are somehow connected. They all feed so much energy and ideas to one another that I'm starting to realize that I would find it hard to remove any of them for the sake of balance in my practice.

The music I'm making, playing and collecting shares many point of references with the art I'm interested in. I'd say that my art practice is the main focus in my life and around that I try to find the time to make music, go record hunting, play at parties, and some other quirky things I'm interested in. I know some people say that it's not very wise to divide your focus on too many different creative ventures at once. Of course that's highly individual, but I've always felt that it's a rather healthy approach to allow yourself to have different identities and different creative projects. And by doing so, not getting stuck in just one idea that restricts you from growing further.

C-P: Earlier this year, I asked you to compose a series for our Instagram account and you pulled through beautifully forwarding some very interesting works. How is your rapport with the arts? J.G: Naturally I'm influenced by many painters, both old and contemporary, but the list is too long to mention. Perhaps above all, I've always been hugely inspired by many of the Italian artists from the 60's kinetic art movement such as Getulio Alviani and Alberto Biasi who is without a doubt one of my all time favorite artists. Their way of creating vibration and movement is so fascinating and truly impressive. Having said that, I do think I get most of my inspiration from things outside the realm of fine arts. For example, I often visit construction sites where I take a lot of pictures and get very inspired. These places always have so many elements that just by accident create really interesting compositions. I find that very fascinating. As I've been collecting vinyl records ever since I was a kid, I'd lie if I said that both the musical contents and the artworks haven't had a big impact on me in terms of inspiration. I've always been into music and art that a lot of people would refer to as kitschy. For example, Japanese 80’s music that often has a very dreamy, mellow and undefined mysterious character, both in terms of the sound and the accompanying artwork. Many of these records have a very weird balance of dreamy "feel-good" and "feel-weird", a mix that fascinates me greatly and has been a key element in shaping my art practice. C-P: Lastly, what's coming up for you later this year? J.G: Right now I am directing all my energy and focus on this exhibition and hoping to get everything done on time. Later this year, I might have a couple of shows in the States along with some other very interesting projects that I'm very much looking forward to but can't really speak about at the moment. But before getting into any of that, I'll take the time off for some very well-needed vacation.

Automatic Target Recognition opens Friday June 3 at Belenius/Nordenhake (Jakobs Torg 3, Stockholm) and runs through July 3.

For more info on Julius, please visit:

All images courtesy of Corina Wahlin. <3

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