Agneta Livijn has always been fascinated by the life and work of artist like Monet, Matisse and Jackson Pollock. Livijn’s paintings indicate a form of communication as she tries to express her emotions in watery abstract simplify style. The creative process for Livijn seems to be both emotionally charged and natural, allowing her emotions to spill out onto the canvas, inspired by envisioned surrounding beauty.
A.P. How did your upbringing influence your art? When did you start painting?
A.L. For me, painting has always been my one way of expressing myself and since I can remember I started to paint small images at home. I used to be very shy as a kid and therefore I usually describe art as my kind of meditation, because it helps me slow down and get in my “own little bubble”. I’ve painted ever since I could pick up a pen and when I was around ten years old my art teacher gave me an award for my artistic talent, this has had a great impact on me since I was so unaware of my talent.
Both my parents are great influences of my life and career. My father was a charismatic businessman, running several businesses while living in both France and Sweden. His business-personality involved a lot of risk taking and he used to tell me that “A sitting bird gets nothing”.
My mother was extremely creative and talented woman who always used to play around with colors and shapes in her own characteristic way. Sadly, she passed away when I was twelve so I had to find my own way through my teenage years. My teenage years where tough for me since school wasn’t my thing. The turning point came when I was accepted to Beckmans School of Design in Stockholm which got me back into my passion of art. The three years of education went by in a flash and I decided to study further at the San Francisco Art Institute, which was fascinating and stimulating for me. San Francisco in the eighties was like a live performance inspired by Jackson Pollock.
Your very first exhibition was of charcoal portraits, though the subject of your current work is nature. Could you speak a bit about how did the transition occur?
For me, my inspiration and “fuel” for painting comes from the way I live and where my focus it at the moment. Some of my first memories from my childhood painting was when I used to sketch people because that’s where my interests were at the time.
A huge source of my inspiration comes from my trips to places like the Maldives and Mauritius. Maldives has had a big impact on me as a person. The colors there is an extraordinary contrast from the Nordic palette. This tropical paradise island with only vegetation, the sound of the birds, the amazing trees and water is like magic to me. During my visits, I connected and developed an interest of the yoga culture there. I had the great privilege of meeting a lot of exceptional yoga teachers by this time from all over the world. The yoga culture is part of these paintings.
At the moment, nature is my most interesting subject. I often use water as an example; you can repeat the subject of the water over and over again and it never seems to get boring.
After I completed my studies in San Francisco and returned to Stockholm where I felt lost and had nowhere to belong. This is when I started to sit in a coffee shop and just make sketches.
A.P. That time you were working at a newspaper, right?
Correct, I was working for several hip magazines as a freelance at the time making layouts, covers and illustrations. Everybody came out to these magazines and it was like being in the center of the world. I found a great balance between work and the ability to work on my own art.
A.P. Then why did you decide to learn pottery? What did you look for in pottery, what you could not find in painting?
Well, my three children took up a lot of my time and I found it demanding to paint. When painting, you need to focus 100 % on the image and having my children interrupt me all the time made it impossible to focus full-time on the paintings.
Also, I enjoy creating with my hands. In painting you have the brush and the canvas, which can be limited in a way sometimes. Clay gives you the opportunity of creating things in three dimensions. I had created a family, and I actually needed plates and cups, and that gave me the inspiration and idea with the pottery.
A.P. Then you had a contract with IKEA. How did that happen?
IKEA contacted me since I had a unique handmade feeling and shape in my line.
Along with IKEA I got HABITAT, Williams Sonoma, Marks and Spencer. I got worldwide in one year and the word started to spread. I am still doing jobs for the big companies instead of writing, it is a fantastic experience and joyride to travel the world with these companies and developing their lines. For my line “Maräng”, IKEA built up a new factory in Vietnam and I got the opportunity to visit and supervise the production in Vietnam, which was a dream come true. It’s surreal that I can create a cup in my studio, and this cup can be spread and sold to the whole world!
A.P. Are you creating a new body of work for your upcoming show at the Ward-Nasse Gallery? Is there any relationship with your 2016 show and the new show in terms of the content?
I would say it’s a sequel. I play around with the same topic of colors, and the nature. Of course I will be making new paintings for the show!
A.P. Do you have any special technique that you developed for your painting?
I love to paint big paintings and I paint with multiple layers. I make around 30-40 paintings for each show or in a year. Since I work on several paintings at once, it allows me to make mistakes. Then I have them all around me in my big apartment in Stockholm. It’s actually quite funny because sometimes I like a painting, and sometimes I say “this is terrible” and I just paint it over. Painting for me is a process.
I use gold in my layers as well. It’s a sort of meditative activity to put on the gold and the layers one after another. I feel that it signifies the character of the painting. The effect of shimmering is a good mirror of what I want to expose.
Did you notice any type of change in your painting since you restarted painting 6 years ago? Eventually, did you start working on new themes?
I have to say no. When I was younger I used a lot of different techniques and ideas when painting. But there is something in the meditative painting that I returned to. Also, I don’t have it as my mission to create “new” things. My mission is just to be in the awareness where time stops, where there is a “non-being”. In my own world. And that’s why I repeat this kinds of paintings. Of course you want to make new things, but I must say, I have great pleasure doing what I do. I also think a lot about “who do I paint for?”. Why should I bother? If I feel pleased with this, then it’s okay and I should continue. The changes will come naturally and sooner or later there will be small changes. I feel right now that I’m back to the young me who fell in love with painting at a very young age and right now I’m doing what that little girl also loved: making art.
– Anna Pasztor, NY Arts