Artist_Cecilia SjoholmMeet the Artist

Cecilia Sjoholm

Can you describe your work in three words?
Tension. Storytelling. Visceral

You started your career as an architect. What got you into the arts? How did you become an artist?
I think it was always there. In school, I had many art classes, then I did a part-time painting and sculpture course followed by a Fine Art Foundation. For various reasons, I didn’t follow it through and instead did a degree in Interior Design, followed by Architecture.
The architecture process is interesting – a lot of time is spent in a 2D world, developing this imagined 3D volume in minute detail, and it is not until the very end you get to see it realised (if ever). I believe this oscillation between volume and flatness has infiltrated the way I develop my art too. The other critical aspect is materials. The relation between material and space (or object) is so fundamental to its being.

What do you find appealing in working with prints? When did you start using printing as a technique?
In 2017 I was part of the LCN Artist Developing Programme at Space Gallery. I applied to learn about working in metal, but they were happy to add on printing skills as part of the programme.
I am fascinated by the tension between flatness and volume and the awkwardness that can exist at the borderline between the two. Printing has the potential of being very planar, and the drive for me is to find or suggest depth within this intense flatness – in a way, it is counterintuitive. In prints such as Form, I begin with an “accurate” volume and then test how far it can be distorted into “inaccuracy” without losing its original character. Then by making them monochrome, i.e., even more uniform, more information is removed.
Essentially, I think there is something very direct with printmaking – it is potent and frank and graphically gives me a lot of satisfaction.    

You use very specific colours in your prints. How do you choose them? Do they have a particular meaning to you?
For me, colours are emotional and almost like little personalities in themselves. As such, they become part of a personal register, a symbolic representation of spirits and creatures. Some fight for attention, some are just dull, whilst others can be shy and so on.
Some colours like pink, blue and green tones make me energetic and also calm, while murky colours can unnerve me and create a claustrophobic feeling – then there is red, which makes me nervous. In Abutments, I decided to keep one colour (pink, a good old friend) as the constant and see what transpired when putting it next to another one; pink with the red undeniably made me more on edge, but it was also fun. Maybe red is like people you are not sure you like but can’t keep from just because they are so attractive.

You also make works in situ, directly onto and inside buildings. What interests you in working with 3D spaces?
I think space is fascinating as it has such a potential to affect us. The relationship between our physical body and its surrounding is very direct. For me, this means that a room can energise me, suffocate me, make me feel at ease or demoralised. I also like to ask myself: at what instance does the more abstract term space become a place – what is the ingredient(s). I guess it starts with atmosphere – be it a good or a bad one.
A room also has many factors to play with. How you work with it can affect its character and create narratives. Daylight is one I addressed in An inquiry into candid remnants I, a wall painting that fluctuates throughout the day due to its light-reflecting gloss surface. Another project Room Jewellery – is a series of small objects to serve as apostrophes for weird or forgotten corners and details. Then, of course, there is scale, which is an incredible tool to work with.   

Are there any ongoing themes within your work?
I am developing my storytelling as an integral part of my art practice, and I am interested in interpretations of truth, fiction and the whole spectrum in-between. Most of these chronicles are told through the eyes of a female protagonist, like little snippets out of bigger stories – but those remain untold. It is a way for me to decipher my surroundings, express observations. Still, it also allows me to address the absurd and the preposterous – a world parted from every day, one with some narratives that sadly will never happen. 
I am also researching the life of Edith Garrud, who set up and trained the suffragette “Bodyguard Unit”. They used jujitsu as self-defence but also sabotage and disguise to escape. During the period just before World War II, the parliament used the “Cat and Mouse Act” to address hunger strikes – essentially letting the imprisoned suffragettes free until they got strong enough again to be re-imprisoned. The Bodyguard Unit was there to defend these newly released and some of the crucial front figures. 

Who are the artists that have inspired you most?
One artist that inspired me to make art after my “architecture years” was Brice Marden. Not so much his stick paintings, but the more graphical and grid-based paintings in graphite and beeswax. I began exploring these materials myself, although my interest in the grid was more about disrupting or disordering it. Another great influence has been Imi Knoebel, his colours are wonderful, and he works with both painting and sculpture  interrogating ideas in both media. I am also inspired by his ability to use the regular and the irregular, flatness and volume, the giving and withholding of information – it is direct and seems very intuitive. Finally, at the moment, I am curious about Jane Busting, there is something poetic about her work, and she also uses storytelling. It begins with this beautiful artefact, but then there are more clues when you dig deeper until eventually the story is revealed. 

What interested you about joining Canopy Collections?
How Canopy Collections situate the artworks within a more intimate and personal atmosphere compared to most “white gallery spaces” is interesting – it underlines that art belongs in places and can even transform them. It is also great that the work is not about any piece in its singularity. Still, together with other objects in space, the artwork can evolve in new relationships and become part of another story, a story that can be altered over time. From a more fun fashion side, I also love the idea of seasonal collections.

Do you collect art from other artists? How important is it for you to live with art?
I wish I could do more. A dream would be to create this weird and wonderful place with art as an essential part – I think I would aim for a fun narrative with spatial intimacy, spatial energy and a bit of provocation. To start this off, I would be so happy if I could do an art swap with someone like Iain Hales or Garth Garrix. Later, I would be thrilled if I could add a Landon Metz, a Karla Black or a Nicolas Party artwork to this – although it would probably mean eating spaghetti and ketchup for the rest of my life.

Any projects in the pipeline?
I am currently working on two chapters; You never daydream in a daydream and The nefariousness of True Stories. Both of these chapters will be a set of (mainly wall hung) sculptures with accompanying chronicles. They are based on my fragmented memories and observations, with a big portion of fiction thrown in. I am also preparing two exhibition proposals based on the Edith Garrod story. One is an intimate fictional story, which will query things like disobedience, the individual relationship to society at large, and the individual in conflict with the collective. The other one will be much more celebratory of the collective – as a potential agent of change and a context for the individual to fight for their dreams, but also a celebration of bravery.