Interview Ferdinand Evaldsson

Curator Caroline Elgh Klingborg (CEK) in conversation with artist Ferdinand Evaldsson (FE)

CEK: You have a background as an icon painter and thus combine an older craft tradition with a contemporary expression. How is the relationship between history and the present expressed in your works?

FE: For me, history and the present are always in an interplay. When I see something, I weigh it against a story, it can be my own or a bigger one. I have a background in icon painting, which in turn has its origins in art of the late Antiquity, a craft that was taught for a long time from master to apprentice. In that transition, there’s both a preservation and a change, by going from one person to another. In that sense, I’m at the end of a chain. I continue to build on a craft and even if materials and ideas change, the story is embedded in my works. I want to see how far it’s possible to take such a tradition and show that it’s possible to comment on the present by mixing the old with the new.

CEK: All your works can be said to be memory processing linked to a personal memory loss. How does the artistic process help you recreate memories?

FE: I’ve had memory problems for a while. Some episodes of my life are very fragmented and other parts, which I would rather forget, I remember all too well. My work is a way to deal with and understand my damaged brain. The motifs come from my inner fragments, but instead of letting them stay diffuse in my head, I make them concrete in wood. Before I concretize the fragments, I work for a long time with the immaterial. Here I use different methods, such as visiting places linked to fragments, to try to expand them. The fragments become a figure that becomes a form, the form is so concrete that when I carve it out of the wood, I get to know every little part of it physically. It’s a process in which something leaves the head through the hands and takes physical form, and then goes back into the head via the hands. Through my work process, the fragments become uncomplicated and I get several pieces of the puzzle to put in place.

CEK: What does your work in the studio look like, and how does a new work begin?

FE: It starts with me getting something in my head that I can’t stop thinking about, usually it comes to me when I can’t sleep. To get closer to the motif, I make several quick sketches of it from different angles. I often work with ornamentation where I develop and test different patterns to see what works best for what I want to convey. Once I’ve decided on an image, I make a scaled sketch that will be the relief. The motif determines the colour and I use old colour symbolism. Then I connect my handicraft brain and join wood panels in alder or lime, depending on what’s available. I transfer the sketch to the wood by milling and chopping out the motif. Then I paint the surface in up to twenty thin layers of gelatine and pigment, and sand every fourth layer with sandpaper. I polish the outer layer with my own saliva, which hardens the surface.