Lydia Ericsson Wärn is curently based in Frankfurt where she is studying at Städelschule (Staatliche Hochschule für Bildende Künste) under professors Monika Baer and Amy Stillman. We check in with her about 'After Before' which presents as a showcase exhibition of Lydia's recent paintings, at Studio Mossutställningar, in conjunction with C-print's 4 year anniversary. In our interview, Lydia speaks about transitioning from preparatory art school to where she is today and valuable advice which she has been given as a painter.
C-P: You are currently studying at Städelschule in Frankfurt am Main under professors Monika Baer and Amy Sillman. How are you enjoying your time there and how has the transition been from preparatory art school?
L.E.W: I studied for two years at Gerlesborgsskolan in Stockholm before coming here, and a big difference is that at Gerlesborgsskolan everyone was Swedish; students and professors. Here everyone comes from different places; Denmark, Argentina, South Korea, UK, Austria, USA, Germany, the list goes on. This diversity in itself means a lot. It’s harder in this environment to have a communal opinion, for everyone to agree like; ”yeah, that’s ok but that’s not” and that’s very very good. ”Common sense” is broadened and it makes me see myself better, what I think, and why. Still, Gerlesborgsskolan prepared me well for coming here, I was drifting free quite a lot during those two years and did mostly stuff I wanted to do, and they let me.
I have a great work space at school that I share with my dear classmate Nicholas Pittman and the work one does there is the core of the time being here. Then there are many great lectures one can attend and workshops of course, but still, the work you do on your own alongside the inputs and meetings with your professors and other students, is the core and so was the case at Gerlesborgsskolan as well.
C-P: The medium of painting weighs on so much history and tradition which can be daunting as a painter. What's the best piece of advice you've been given?
L.E.W: I like the word daunting, I think it describes in a funny way what if feels like to paint: problems that need to be solved all the time. But regarding your question; to do what I want to do is an advice I’ve been given, because it’s harder than it sounds. To think of why I take the decisions I do, and for whom. When I’ve managed to make a work that I like, it has been as if I’ve put blinders up around me, those that you have around the eyes of horses sometimes so that they don’t get scared you know? It relates to another advice I’ve been given: not to mix up consuming and producing. If I’m in the middle of finishing some paintings I want to be inside that bubble, and looking at too many shows then, or whatever it may be, can put me off track. But in between, it’s great to look around you. Which makes me think of a third good advice: to look at a lot of art! I don’t want to be ignorant of what has been done, neither long-back time-wise or next to me by a classmate. Having the knowledge of what has been done is important, both for finding stuff to align oneself with or things to put as an opposition. Like ”I don’t want to be that, but I'm attracted to that”.
Some good people around me have given me the impression that anything is allowed as long as I’m aware of what it is that I’m doing, and the outcome of it. It is ok to work intuitively, but it should be my decision to do so; not because I can’t make up my mind about what it is that I want.
C-P: What's your work process like?
L.E.W: Slow and fast. At the moment I paint quite fast, or at least faster than it takes me to start with my paintings. Painting takes time but the preparation and considerations such as what do I want and why, what should it then look like and why, what size, how many etc., takes longer. But without those decisions, and that time spent beforehand, I don’t like the painting part as much. Might sound not so free but all that decision-making creates a lot of liberty once it is over.
Also, I often think I have done that whole process and then I start painting and realise, that I haven’t. I might not have completely missed the chart but I’m on the side of the target I actually wanted to hit, missed the bull's-eye so to say. And so I have to start over again and hope for better decisions to be made this time.
I choose photographs out of what I have in mind but sometimes the other way around; all of a sudden I will have a weird series of photographs that I’ve been looking at for a while, and then usually that bunch gets smaller up to a point where I feel that yes, these are important. And then I start thinking of them as raw material for my paintings.
C-P: You are now preparing a showcase-exhibition with us in November, in Stockholm titled 'After Before'. What is the context and direction of the exhibition?
L.E.W: I tried to stick to the advise I mentioned earlier; to do what I want. In this case I’ve been coming back to the idea of how one single image, a picture frame, is often neither before nor after. It is not as an example, a moving film showing you reasons for why something is happening and the consequences of it. I thought of images that present a question to the viewer such as ”what has happened” instead of giving answers. That was the starting point.
C-P: What have been a few personal highlights from the year that passed?
L.E.W: To get to study at Städelschule with Monika and Amy is definitely the biggest one. It feels as if a luxurious, rich and fat lawn has been rolled out under my feet with coming here. A lawn I can also be on for four more years if I want to! Moving from Stockholm to Frankfurt filled me with mixed feelings. Frankfurt is not as big as one thinks and I also don’t speak German just yet, but now a year later I’m very glad I came here.
C-P: What lies ahead of you in 2018?
L.E.W: Our next Rundgang at Städelschule opens February 8, so that’s up first. For the rest I hope to be surprised, by myself and others! Some real good working time in the studio is definitely ahead of me...
Lydia Ericsson Wärn's showcase exhibition After Before with C-print opens November 2 at Studio Mossutställningar (Allkonstrummet), Stockholm, and is on view through November 5.