Yrjö Edelmann is a Swedish artist best known for his hyper-realistic paintings of packets, napkins, and paper. Inspired by French surrealism, Yrjö has cultivated a distinct style of transforming everyday objects into visual masterpieces. Perhaps this is why he is hailed as one the finest trompe-l’oeil artists of contemporary times.
He will be in Singapore for his first solo exhibition in Asia, which will take place at MAD Museum Art & Design. Popspoken speaks to him about everyday living, his thoughts on art of now and the future.
Popspoken: People typically lead their lives within a fixed routine, either at work, at home or at school. Do you think there exists an art form that is suitable for everyday living, capable of fitting in with routine and commonplace activities?
Yrjö: Artists along with other people are very different. Some, like me have rather strict routines, other work best under pressure; for example before an upcoming exhibition. Still others work best intoxicated, some at night etcetera.
Popspoken: Is there a place or setting that harnesses your creative energy?
Yrjö: Painting is often an extremely lonely occupation, so when my wife, Aira, sits by me it gives my inspiration. We also have a country house at the isle of Oland (the second largest island in Sweden) where I have a studio. It gives me great joy working there during the summer months.
Popspoken: What is your definition of good art? Damien Hirst’s formaldehyde shark, yay or nay?
Yrjö: Good art or rather interesting art is something that gets to your nerves somehow. In the case of Damien Hirst, he was one of the very young British artists who really changed the art scene in the early 90s. His work “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living”, which you are referring to, is in my opinion a work of a genius. And as most of Hirsts works, refers to death. I also consider his grand sale at Sotheby’s (2008), as an act of art, showing how close connected the art market has become with the financial market. This was indeed, in my opinion, a gesture on the same level as when Marcel Duchamp showed his Fountain at an exhibition in New York (1917). I am not, however, that impressed of Hirsts’ later works, for example his skull of diamonds, called “For the love of God.”
Popspoken: Is there a turning point in your pursuit of creativity/higher art form? What aspects of French surrealism are you most fond of?
Yrjö: The most important turning point in the history of modern art was when Marcel Duchamp at the beginning of the 1900-hundreds took an ordinary and everyday object and put it on show at an art exhibition. That totally changed the way we look at art. It was a revolution that opened up for all the new art forms we see today, installations, performance etcetera.
Popspoken: Which is your favourite art work you have created thus far, and why?
Yrjö: My last painting is always the most thrilling. But I of course also was very much honored being chosen as one of Absolute Vodka’s Artists in 1995.
Popspoken: What are your thoughts of being likened to an ‘illusionist’ and referred to as a ‘national treasure’?
Yrjö: I started out my art career as an illustrator working with magazines and book covers, and I am proud of having been one of the most skilled ones in Sweden. In 1973 I made my début at one of the best art galleries in Stockholm, sold a few paintings to friends, was stuck with hybris, finished my job and starter out as a free artist. It was followed by some difficult years, but I have never regretted that step. Although I have been rather successful and some know my works, nobody has as yet called me a national treasure. Wouldn’t mind, though.
Popspoken: Is there anything about the modern era of art making/exhibiting you would like to change, or improve?
Yrjö: I regret that art criticism in our newspapers is declining and I am not sure that the influence so called curators have on art and exhibitions always is for the good of creating good art. One could also be rather sad of the fact that art today is becoming more and more commercialized.
Yrjö Edelmann’s first solo show in Asia happens from 24th November onwards.