As we continue to expand our Art in Uncertain Times series, we have yet to check in with  our friends in Scandinavia. For years one of my favorite artists has been Swedish-painter, EKTA, and his recent postings on Instagram have reinforced the high regard. I wanted to catch up, knowing the artist would have interesting projects to discuss, including a great perspective on staying busy. I didn’t know how busy! The day I wrote, he happily disclosed that his wife was about to have a baby. A few days later, EKTA carved out some time where we spoke about the mood in Gothenburg and how the pandemic was changing his schedule, as well as how the experimental public artist and studio painter is beginning to see figuration in his works.

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Evan Pricco
: I thought I was just going to check in for a friendly “How is  isolation treating you?” but wow, you and your wife are having a baby - right now! So, tell me about these crazy few weeks!

EKTA: Sweden is doing things a little different, and we’re not yet in complete lockdown.  Schools are still open and you are allowed to go out if you want, but advised to stay in and work from home if you can. I think their method at this stage is recommendations instead of restrictions.  My wife and I have been in self quarantine for the past few weeks, mainly working from home. For me, the main concern has been that if I get sick I would not be allowed to be there for the delivery of our baby.

On April 2, about a week overdue, we had a daughter, and all went well. I’m really looking forward to a few weeks off with the family,  which means we are now 6 people, so I’m pretty sure I won’t be feeling lonely.

Where are you living right now, and what is the scene like in the city?
I’m in Gothenburg, on the southwest coast of Sweden, and I like it here. It’s the second largest city in Sweden but still a pretty small place. Many artists move to Stockholm, as most galleries are located there. The scene where I am is small, but I think the fact that we have fewer possibilities makes the mentality here relaxed, and maybe that makes people more open and curious. The population is approximately 570,000 but  parts of the city have an almost provincial feel. Gothenburg has always been famous for its music scene, but a lot of really great artists and painters come from here too, so very I’m happy to be part of this scene. Probably due to the shortage of established venues there’s also a tradition of artist run galleries and DIY club’s for music.

Some projects and people coming out of Gothenburg you definitely should check out: Höga Nord Rekords, Ideal Recordings, LL Editions, Fine Little Day, Eric Magassa, Andreas Samuelsson, Carolina Falkholt, Martin Solymar, Marie Dahlstrand, Annika Von Hausswolff, Henrik Franklin, Jamila Drott and Roger Risberg.

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I feel dumb asking this now as you are going through a double whammy of real life in the midst of a pandemic, but how how has altered your daily schedule as an artist? We’ve  observed that, usually working in isolation, artists’ routines haven't changed much - but the rest of the world is now adapting to a new timeclock.
I’ve had a pretty introverted year, spending most of my time with the family or in the studio, so no really massive changes for me so far. It’s a bit like everything is in slow-motion at the moment, and I’m just trying to maintain some routines and not worry too much.

Usually I try not to work when I’m at home, especially since my studio is within walking distance, and for me it’s good to keep things separate. If it comes to not being able to go to the studio for work, I will continue to work on whatever I can from home. If that happens It’s very likely to affect what mediums I would work in. I’d have to scale down the drawings and maybe change from painting to textiles and sewing.

Are there other ways you can see your art changing during this time?
Actually the last couple of drawings I made have more apparent figuration, maybe a house, a block of flats or a castle. I’m working on several new series on paper and just found a direction with these new works. I’ve noticed that I’ve started to depict things in a more conscious manner, but it’s too early for me to say how or to what extent that will change my work. I think it’s gotten darker but that was happening before this pandemic, I don’t want to make political statements with my art, but it obviously reflects how bad everything is right now with far-right ideology on the rise and general stupidity spreading in most countries. I’m not a fatalist but things are not looking very good, and I’m, of course, looking for ways of dealing with everything and contribute to a change. If I’ll be confined to my flat in the coming weeks or months that will affect the work more, and I won’t really be able to paint or work on large drawings. I hope this current situation helps people to appreciate art and culture more and understand that we need more than just simple entertainment.

Did you have anything lined up for the future that you had to cancel?
I was looking forward to my next solo exhibition in May at Alice Gallery in Brussels, Belgium, but that’s, of course, been pushed back now. The exhibitions and commissions I have scheduled for this summer are still on but that could of course change depending on the duration of this pandemic.

I’m also working with New Order Architecture and fellow artist Patrik Bengtsson on a sculpture playground for kids, commissioned by the city of Gothenburg. We still have quite a bit of work left to do for that, but it’s an amazing project and meant to open sometime in spring next year as part of a large new park development with international studios involved. As far as I know this project has not been affected yet! We’re all in more or less a similar situation, and even though we will have to find alternative ways to show work, I think the creative flow in this coming period will be heavy.

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Is there anything you have always wanted to learn that you now have the time to teach yourself? One of the things I always loved about your practice was how you were able to experiment in the studio and on the street almost in unison, and now in many ways the street is off limits.
I’ve not painted much outside the studio recently but I’m planning to bring the kids to do a wall together this week. In the past I’ve struggled more with the studio work, and painting walls came more easily to me; but my focus changed a bit in the past 2 years and I’m enjoying the studio work more now.

There’s so many things I’d like to take the time to learn or dig further into. Earlier this year I did my first ceramic pieces so I’d like to continue with that and I’ve got some sculptures I want to make in concrete. I’m not patient enough to really read and learn about different techniques. Failing and finding my own way usually work best for me, and that takes time, so this could be a good period for new things.

Last year I took a course in weaving, and this year I signed up to do a one week course in stonemasonry but that might be postponed now. I’ve said for over a year now that I’ll start recording stuff, and I guess now is a great time for that. My wife's a musician so I’ve been messing about with some of her keyboards. My ambitions are to play my bass guitar a bit more, Read more books, write some notes/poems and work on my character.

You have incredible music taste, so I have to ask for a little 5-song playlist to close this out...