Tique asks six questions to an artist about their work and inspiration.
This week: Jörgen Axelvall.
Lives in Tokyo, Japan
How do you describe your own art practice?
It’s evolving. I came forth as a photographer, an epithet too limiting for what I like to convey. Using techniques I’m not proficient in makes me anxious but I look beyond. Recently I was physically constrained due to health issues; I created with whatever tools accessible and manageable. It was liberating. I’m also writing. Half a lifetime of voracious reading and I finally dare to pen.
Which question or theme is central in your work?
Ever since childhood I’ve pondered the age-old question: what’s the meaning of life – or more specifically – what’s the purpose of humanity and what’s my role. I spend a healthy amount of time ruminating about an immeasurable universe but I create from a micro perspective; drawn with certitude: my own winding life.
What was your first experience with art?
Born in rural Sweden I was baptized in the small village church. Swedish society is largely secular and so is my family; still the church’s omnipresent – a traditional marvel of sorts. I’m an atheist and religion is not a central part of my art but seeing grand, iconic and often dramatic religious iconography time and again throughout childhood, long before any museum visits, made a real impression as if now engraved in my DNA. How the environment, its imagery and perceived art, affect us is something I’d like to explore further.
What is your greatest source of inspiration?
Life itself is an endless source of inspiration. Experiences far from my comfort zone conduce the most interesting work. Some events take years to process, others are immediate. This past year I presented two very different bodies of work. One has been in the making for years. Titled ‘And I reminisce’ I examine childhood memories to better understand my queerness. The other concerns my very recent battle with cancer. Pain and blood.
I also find the written word, books or just about any text, to be an inspirational treasure trove. Reading has the ability to expand one’s consciousness, infinitely.
What do you need in order to create your work?
I need a good night’s sleep and personal space. I’m comfortable being by myself, always have been. We all need some quiet time to process events. I conceive my work daytime in solace and nighttime spooning; that precious short moment before falling, asleep.
What work or artist has most recently surprised you?
Not long ago I landed on “Yesterday’s Sandwich II” by Boris Mikhailov. It’s a collection of prints made from ‘sandwiched’ color slides. It’s visually striking and unique. Mikhailov wasn’t afraid of criticizing the Soviet Union he lived in. He’s a recipient of the Hasselblad prize and other accolades. Admittedly he was not on my radar. To incidentally encounter great work is exciting and humbling; a reminder of existing achievements. Meanwhile, the wheel is reinvented almost daily.