Artist: Rikard Fåhraeus
1. Where do you live in 2020? Please describe the place and the surrounding environment.
At the beginning of the year, I lived in my studio (Slipvillan), two rooms in a little house on Långholmen which is an island in the middle of Stockholm. The island used to be where the city prison was located and is because of this not full of housing. Now days the prison is gone, actually turned into a hotel, surrounded by nature, or rather a park. It is not wilderness even if I during my years there have seen both fox, deer and beaver. But there are more people walking their dogs, families bathing at the little beach, youngsters kicking football (or drinking in the bushes ) and all the boat-people. There are several boat-clubs on the island and they are all more or less specialized in wooden boats. I am taking care of a wooden sailing-boat, a ”folkboat”, for a friend who is living in England for a few years. It is big enough to house a couple for some days. People has actually used this type to cross the Atlantic, but that is not something I would recommend. Non the less is has taken me and my loved ones to days and weeks out into the Stockholm archipelago with its 30000 islands (true!).
The studio is in an old house with 5 rooms and kitchen. It used to be the living quarters of workers at the nearby dock, boat-slip, where they still take up smaller steel-ships for repair. This is just behind the house and can at days be a source of amazingly much noise. But mostly it is more of a picturesque setting with a view of the cityhall on the other side of the water.
We are a small organization renting the house and three of the rooms are used as studios (top floor) and two rooms are used for art; exhibitions, events, talks and also let out to other to finance the extra cost of these rooms. Around the house is a rather big garden which is also used for various artistic adventures in summer. There are remains of such a little everywhere since we have been there for more than 10 years now.
Regrettably we, me and my wife, had to find other living-quarters this spring. This since there was hard tensions in the organization and we were threatened with eviction unless we terminated the illegal living situation and did as the other half of the organization wanted. We moved and took the fight. It was a hard time but finally resolved. We still have our studios in the house and plan to continue our art-events and exhibitions in the future even if it has been less of this now because of the Corona.
Our living address is these days outside of Stockholm since the capital is too expensive for us both paying for an expensive apartment and an expensive studio. Home is now in a rather exotic house between two little lakes 70 minute by car south. The house is an old giant blast furnace for making iron. It has not been used in over 100 years but is restored just recently as is our apartment which once was the living quarters of the foreman and his family. It is named Björndammen ( the bear pond). We have seen no wild bear so far in the woods that surround us and the 5 other families that live there. It is a lovely place but too far away from our studio, Stockholm, friends and work. We have possibilities to stay over in Stockholm when we have much to do there and when it feels like an overwhelming task to drive long and late after a hard days work. The cat still lives in Slipvillan and takes care of the mice and visitors when we are not there.
2.How does the COVID-19 pandemic affect you personally in your country and its countermeasures?
Covid effected me directly by eliminating most of my sources of income. Indirectly Covid is also the reason to all the troubles at the studio-house leading to us moving. The first, my income, is due to the fact that most of my money I earned by working for galleries, museums, art-halls and other artists as an assistant, constructor and handyman. The main gallery even shut down completely and will never open again. I was lucky to have two bigger jobs at a technical museum that has taken me through the year.
The trouble at the studio-house began as all the extra incomes we had managed to get from our two project-rooms and from letting it out to conferences and minor parties went away. Suddenly the studios for us that have permanent places in the house went to costing twice as much as before. Half of the organization then wanted to find permanent artists also for the half of the house we have used for these other activities. Half of us did not want that since that would be the end of not all then at least most of what is interesting about the place. All the personal problems brought by these circumstances have effected me more than smaller issues like keeping distance to people in the supermarket or not being able to make a ridiculously cheap flight to some holiday resort. But I have of course also been lucky in this. Neither me or anyone in my family has been infected.
There is one thing that has effected me more than anything the year of 2020. Our marriage. Laetitia, my wife, moved to me in Sweden from France in the summer of 2019 and in February this year we got married, in the garden of our studio. The marriage was before the outbreak at a palindrome-moment: 2020-02-22 at 2 minutes and 2 seconds past eight (20200222200202 ) at this second the ceremony started . Friends, family, loved ones all around us. Fires and closeness. Joy.
3. Where is one of the places you enjoy most this year? How do you spend your time there? Can you describe what it looks like?
It must be my studio. Even if I have had some of my worst moments there also. I do everything there except the most dirty handicraft such as welding and grinding which takes place in the garden outside.
Here I sketch, draw, paint, sculpt and mold. In one corner an armchair where I have spent many hours contemplating and reading. In another corner a fireplace that is well used in winter. Three windows showing me the garden, the trees and the water. The ceiling is a bit to low for making big things and the room is too filled with material, art made ready or waiting to be finished and tools. Sometimes I reflect upon the fact that I got rid of absolutely everything material in a project 7 years ago and then I wonder where all this stuff came from. But in a way I like it being a bit crowded. It is not always the most rational and practical place to work but it is very ..charming..
4. Where is the farthest place you have been this year?
We went to Abisko for two days during Christmas. A most crazy trip, expensive and in many ways very wrong but fun and magic. Abisko is in a national park at the very north of Sweden. Mostly people go there for the nature and to trek through it in summer. In winter the sun does not come up at all. It is also one of the places in Sweden where it rains the least. Meaning that there is not much snow in winter either ( compared to the rest of the north, because there is snow.. not just so much ). This makes it ideal for those that hunt a sight of the northern lights , Aurora Borealis.
We took a night-train with our own sleeping cabin there and back, rented our own cabin, so the risk of infecting or getting infected was to the minimum. It is a 16 hour train-trip through a dark and snowy landscape. In Abisko we got one night with clear sky and some very faint whiffs of northern light (or it was just the Christmas glögg that played tricks with us).
5. Who do you live with in 2020?
My wife Laetitia Deschamps. Our cat. Before the move to Björndammen my youngest son who now is 16 lived with us every second week. Now he comes by the studio sometimes, since this is close to where he lives with his mother, but he seldom come with us to the countryside. The city has more to offer a boy that age.
6.How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect the way you work?
The way I work might not have been so effected, or if so it is too close still for me to see that I have changed my modus.
But non the less everything I have done has been effected, and then of course I have had to adjust my way of work to new ideas and reactions.
One very obvious project was the ”INKUBAT” project. It was meant to be simple drawing meetings at Slipvillan (the studio-house). This was changed into be meetings only online using zoom. When we started it was a bit of a novelty to most participants, later on not so new but more of a feeling that there were to many meetings made into video conferences.
The exhibitions that I have taken part in during the year did all change their direction one way or the other compared to what was said originally. First was the yearly summer/spring exhibition at Slipvillan. It finally got the name ”101 Fahrenheit”, a slight fever degree is of course a reference both to the state of nature and the pandemic. My contribution was a sculpture that I originally made for an exhibition in November 2019 in Birmingham that opened on what was meant to be a Brexit date. It depicts a couple that dance, struggle, wrestle, tie and entwine each other in an attempt to stay together and part at the same time. In the garden of Slipvillan they are even more entwined also into the surrounding, here with ivy.
Another exhibition was given the name “Distance” where I contributed with paintings made with watercolor and disinfection-fluid. In the middle a moving sculpture: two scythe tied together circling the air in a slow dance of the reaper.
7. Has your work been promoted in some way?
I applied for a support grant from the Swedish arts and grants committee after half a year of postponed jobs and no income. I was happy to get a grant that will help me survive financially and the end of the year was better for me even if the spread of Covid was worse then than in spring.
8. Are you more anxious this year than in previous years? If so, how do you relieve your anxiety?
Yes. Especially the situation at the studio-house and our forced move combined with higher expenses and lower income put a considerable strain on our life. My wife is also new in Sweden and that is definitely not easy for her and therefor also for me. There has been much struggle to get through.
Relieving anxiety is not easy. I tend to try to do something rather than sink down into apathy and depression. My reaction is more of melancholy taking turns with anger. I talk, write, and make art. Talking long walks is an excellent way of both treating anxiety and letting the mind lose.
9. Recommend some movies or books you have seen this year (or a poem), you can briefly explain why.
The old movie “Solaris” by Andej Tarkovskij for its mix of beauty, psychology and old sci-fi.
The book “Roadside picnic” from 1972 by Arkadij and Boris Strugatskij that Andrej Tarkovskij based his iconic move “Stalker” on.
Both of these feels somewhat relevant as they describe situations that the main-character does not fully understand, maybe an infection, a virus. In any case something bigger and possibly leathal.
The book “My name is red” by Orhan Pamuk and “Killing Commendatore” by Haruki Murakami are two books that I read this year where the main character is an artist, painter. In these books the art they make drag them into strange, mysterious and life-evolving experiences. They represent two very different ways of writing as well as cultural background but still have some basic drift in common.
10. Have you ever imagined what human life would be like after the end of COVID-19 pandemic?
I am quite sure this will result in a pendulum – effect. Some will dive straight back into what they have been refused for too long. Hedonistic joy without any hope of salvation on the brink of a burning world. Others will absolutely see this as the start of something new, another world-order. Hopefully the good side of such striving will win and not those that want to revolt for only the sake of destruction of the old. I have the hope as many others that the world can change course into a more ecologic way. It becomes more and more clear that the capitalistic new order as well as its eastern counterparts are bankrupt not only morally. What comes instead is hard to say but I hope it comes before the crowds reinvent the guillotines because the queens and kings will not choke on their cookies. I hope that we all learn to see further beyond our fears.
About the artist
Rikard Fåhraeus is a Swedish artist working mainly with sculpture. He got his master of fine arts from the University of Arts, Crafts and Design in Stockholm in 1999 after attending the department for fine arts, painting. Since then Rikard has exhibited regularly nationally and abroad. He is a member of the artist run gallery Studio44 since 2008 and has there been involved in many artistic projects, exhibitions and exchanges. The studio-house Slipvillan where he works is also a hub for collective creative processes. Rikard has been given the honor of making five permanent public commissioned sculptures, three in Stockholm. Artist’s website: http://rikard.yolasite.com/