We're so excited to be featuring Stella Im Hultberg at our upcoming show Daydreamers. Take a look at this brief interview we did with her.
Do you think your background in industrial design translates into the work you create now?
I don't think I get direct influence from having the design background. It helps when I have to make stuff (if I have to build my own frame or sculpture or other things)
or any other shop skills come in handy, but other than that it's not directly related at all, at least in my opinion. I do think though, in the beginning, I had to struggle to turn off the
designer-client mode of thinking, in order to get some of my real works out. I kept thinking of the "end product" or how the buyer or viewer that "end product", which was a very industrial design way of thinking. It took me a few years to shed that, if at all.
Your work has evolved incredibly since you first started, what made you veer into the direction you're going now?
I'm not sure if there's any specific thing or instance that makes me or my work evolve. It's kind of like when people asking about what i'm inspired by.
It's never one thing. Things I experience, hear about, read about in life just accumulate in my senses and mind and just flows out into my consciousness later on without revealing their sources, so it's nebulous to me too. For a while there's been a quiet struggle within me that stemmed from the difference between my sketchbook and my finished paintings. normally I would like that kind of differences, but it was feeling uncomfortable, where it made me think my works that I make to show the world weren't quite as genuine.
So in the past few years, if things looked a bit different, it's my own small efforts to ameliorate that gap - a reconciliation, so to speak.
Who are some artists you hail influence from?
I will never forget the first few exhibits I went to that blew me away - Egon Schiele retrospective at Neue Gallerie, Barry McGee show & Swoon show both at Deitch, and Basquiat retrospective at Brooklyn Museum, all in one year (2005). That was a mind-blowing year, the year I started putting a piece or two here and there, still confused a little bit at my accidental luck at having landed some gallery gigs. but seeing their works in life, in the massive amounts all together, made me realize it's all about hard work. they were all so prolific. Schiele, for example, only really worked as an artist for less than 10 years, having only lived till 27, but he had enough works to fill an entire museum. that's really amazing.
So if it's not technical or stylistic influence, I got influenced from many of my favorite artists to work hard.
Having grown up in 4 different countries, do you find that you get inspiration from those places?
I don't think so -it's all subconscious, if I do. as a person, I am definitely, without a doubt, influenced by all those cultures.
but as for work, maybe it's more that I draw from the personal, internal experience of having lived in different countries, than the actual physical places themselves.
The concept of those places or the concept of being a forever stranger not belonging anywhere (not even to the mother country).
In your biography at Thinkspace it reads "Her portraits of women are rendered in easy, flowing lines with soft hues that transcend the typical critiques of feminine beauty, inherent in today's self conscious society" How do you think your portraits transcend the typical critiques of female beauty? Could you elaborate?
First off, I didn't write that bio, so I'm not sure what they meant by it either. I don't offer my own intentions or meanings or "hidden messages", if there are even any, in my works to people, so it's refreshing to hear other people's interpretations. that being said, I have never once consciously thought of how to "transcend the typical critiques of feminine beauty", vis-à-vis today's or any other time's societal measures. if they see that in my works, that's great.
I paint figures of women (or "portraits", as many people call them) mostly as a vessel. not that they have no substance - maybe they're only substance, really.
The external "feminine beauty" part is just that, external. it's for my own aesthetic satisfaction. although it's slowly starting to change, I couldn't find any better way to slice a moment
of emotion or mood or ideas and express it, other than to show it with something familiar to me. if that makes sense at all.