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The Fauna of Mark-Making: An Interview with Linnéa Gad

The Fauna of Mark-Making: An Interview with Linnéa Gad

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Born in Stockholm, Sweden, Linnea Gad works primarily with painting, drawing and printmaking. She graduated from Parsons The New School for Design in 2013 and currently lives and works in New York. 

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MA: Can you talk about the Necro Interior series? Rita Bullwinkel, whom I recently interviewed, says that each of your paintings is "a window into some whole, other complete world." She believes that the ability to create "the allusion of a complete, original other is the most valuable thing any artist, writer or painter, can posses." What are your thoughts on this? How do you ensure that the world you're alluding to is a world entire?

LG: The worlds I explore are within this world. One could say I'm a nonfiction artist. There is so much to infinitely explore that I don't want to make things up or create an illusion. I want to bring forth what is in the background, what might be lost or overlooked.

But allusion is a good word to describe the Necro Interior series. This is a series of paintings of images that presents obsolete interiors as if they were still alive and fully functioning. Each interior is to some extent a window to another world, one that is now primarily of pictorial existence. For example, the Theatre Smoking Room is a painting of the gentlemen's smoking room at the grand San Francisco Fox Theatre. The theatre was demolished in 1963. While the furniture and the organ were sold, the extensive walls of gilded moulding were slowly torn apart by an iron ball. The yearning for what was lost yielded funds for elaborate computer renderings reconstructing its interior spaces. An actual space challenges its fate and continues to live pictorially past its original function. If the image is the window to another world and time, then my painting reveals the disconnect between image, time and space. I want to convey not only that other world, but also the conflicted dialogue between image and the current state of the space. But it is also a reflection of our relationship with history, preservation and modern age relics. As well as our dependence on images and how they will shape our notion of history.

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From Gad's Necro Interior series

MA: What would you say your ratio of planning to making to revising (or making new iterations of the same piece) is, percentage-wise, in a finished painting? What about in a print?

LG: I rely a lot on research, and each work has some sort of curious history. It begins with a thought or an impression that triggers my curiosity and leads me to a chain of research. The 'research' is varied. It often includes reading, writing, watching, and going through visual archives. Along the way I find a path for how my thoughts and ideas can best be translated. Each material choice should be justified. My work also relies on the principles of poetry to convey beauty and form which is untranslatable. That is the inexplicit conversation between the process and the piece, and the piece and the viewer. 

MA: What are your thoughts on patterning? Where do you look for patterns in everyday life? 

LG: Interesting you ask me about patterns—I've lately come to realize how fascinated I am by patterns. Things that are of different nature but visually similar. Change of scale or resolution can make a container lot look like a motherboard or a motherboard look like an aerial shot of a farm landscape. Visual confusion excites me, when form and marks can repeat themselves in different contexts.

I'm currently working on a series of work that involves drawings of visual content that look like lunar landscapes, including footage reference from lunar missions. The lunar drawings are sitting on top shelves made out of materials like sponges or ceiling tiles that also resemble lunar landscapes.

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View from an Island

MA: I love your prints, especially View from an Island. What do you think about when choosing an image for a print? I just started printing on the offset, and I really love it. What's your favorite way to print?

LG: Thank you. I haven't made any prints in a couple of months, and I really miss it. To some degree, it is a bit strange that I've done so much printmaking. I took a lot of printmaking classes at school because I enjoyed the printmaking environment. It is a meditative yet intense practice. You always make the most out of your time in a printshop, while in my studio practice there is more room for madness. The whole idea of printmaking is to make editions, which to me limits space for idiosyncrasies and poetry.

The goal with my prints is to explore the fauna of mark-making that is unique for printmaking, like the embossment of a plate into water-soaked paper. But also to insert movement and painterly elements to such a static practice. View from an Island is a photo etching from a zinc plate. Although the etching into the plate remains the same, I managed to create movement of a wave reaching an island by wiping the plate differently for each print. The most challenging has been to make a painterly screen print. I've been experimenting with making plates by mixing gum arbic with acetate ink, but I haven't yet made a print I'm satisfied with. I would love to try mono printing, where you make one of prints and ghost prints.

As for the images, I've only printed my own photographs. I have my mother's old Yashica camera that I take about four or five rolls of film with every year. I'm drawn to images that are bit abstract, those that do not translate their content immediately. It is perhaps a reaction to the aggressive, high-resolution images that call daily for our attention. View from an Island is a photo I took from a cliff in Hawaii. As the wave hit the island violently, the foam blurs the horizon line and merges with the clouds above. The separation between clouds and sky is similar to the division between the rock and water pools on the ground. It is an exciting moment when the wave hits the cliff, as the photograph has no sense of gravity it can emphasize the sudden loss of navigation.

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MA: Who are some of your favorite contemporary writers? Filmmakers?

LG: I have little patience for fiction at the moment, so that guides my appreciation when reading and watching. I feel that the strongest reading experience I've had recently is with W.G Sebald, who blurs the line between fiction and reality. He gives you access to his mind and there is no made up character in between. It was the first time I really felt like I had a conversation with the author while I was reading. I read his books with a pencil to scribble responses back to his thoughts that awakened old ones or sprang new ones in my own mind.

I just started reading Karl Ove Knausgårds' Min Kamp I (My Struggle), the first of six autobiographical books. I already feel a similar bond to him as I did while reading Sebald. I understand my world better as Knausgårds reflects over the trivial and obvious with a sly new clarity. 

Tacita Dean is one of my favorite artists and filmmakers. She shoots with a 35mm film camera, which is very rare today. A film camera can actually capture a moment, the light burns it into the film, while a digital camera uses a mirror to reflect reality. Dean has made a series of short documentaries about old men. I was fortunate to see the one she made of now deceased writer and translator Michael Hamburger. Dean places her camera in Hamburger's apple garden and lets the viewer spend some time there, long enough to notice the details that would present themselves in present time. 

Very recently I watched Play by Swedish filmmaker Ruben Östlund, which felt very contemporary. There were no archetypes or even a previous plot to rely on for answers. It depicts the complexity of race and morals, and as a viewer you are constantly challenged by your own thoughts along with the characters in the film. Now I want to watch everything Östlund has done so far, including his new film Tourist.

MA: What music are you listening to now?

LG: To indulge in sadness: Angel Olsen. To feel happy: Juaneco Y Su Combo

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