That which Axel Linderholm paints must have been seen by him. Experienced firsthand. This is where it starts, in his immediate surroundings. He paints figures and subjects that surface recurrently: interiors, landscapes, portraits, a city park, a parking lot. Somehow this enables him to grasp the world as it is presented to him. By repeating and varying the motifs, he causes them to lose much of their original meaning. They leave the personal behind and become independent elements in a composition. Open to any meaning.
This is how he also employs motifs from the work of admired painters: a reclining nude, bathers, a sunny boulevard. These have been painted so often that they have become independent compositional elements. He makes no secret of his predecessors' influence. On the contrary: he feels a connection with them as he works. ‘That's something entirely different from wanting to copy their work. Now and then I cross the path of a predecessor, even though there may be a century between us. We focus on the same thing, and then we have serious discussions’. Sometimes examples from classic modern painting can be recognized in a cloud, a setting sun or a figure. ‘I have no problem with the viewer seeing the origin of what I do. In art school we're taught to act as though we've invented everything ourselves, but the very opposite is true: my work is part of a long tradition. I'm highly aware of this, but I'm not bound to it’.
It is tempting to regard his palette, in which blue and green dominate, as being part of a northern painterly tradition. But no, that is not the case. Linderholm simply has a preference for those colors. ‘When I buy new paint, it's almost all blue and green. And only a small amount of red and yellow’. He does blend his colors, but hardly ever with white. Because of this, the blues and greens remain heavier and darker, contrasting more strongly with yellows, pinks or reds. This has little to do with northern light or northern painting; Linderholm does not paint directly from observation. He paints what he has seen from memory. Memories require intense colors to remain alive.
After Axel Linderholm had finished his work period at De Ateliers in 2010, he was not able to start working right away. Something bothered him. The idea of a career and that whole art-world circus: that disturbed him. ‘Although I did want to paint, I didn't want to be an artist’. He retreated, began to travel, took a job here and there, and lived in Berlin, Vilnius and Manchester. Often he returned to painting, but his resistance to it remained. Lost and distraught, he went back to Sweden in 2018. He rented a house not far from his parental home, took walks in the surrounding landscape, observed and reflected. And that's where it happened: he again bought paint, canvas and paper, went home and painted the wildlife, the houses and the people for hours on end, as though in a state of ecstasy. It was liberating. ‘I had that feeling from long ago, when it began in my childhood and I could spend days drawing’. Back then too, drawing enabled him to grasp his world. For two months he painted every day. He had rediscovered his pleasure in painting. ‘That's when I realized that I'd be better at handling the life of an artist’. He returned to the Netherlands and received a stipend that allowed him to do what he loves doing, drawing and painting, without having to comply with the pressure of an expectation or an idea.
This roundabout route was needed not only in order to get away from something, but much more in order to arrive at something. To discover an outlook, to reach an emotional state in which he can give uninhibited expression to thoughts, memories and observations. Linderholm does not seek the innocence of a child's drawing, the simplicity of the naive, of folk art or the primitive, although those links are undeniable. What he wants is to arrive, from a mind full of ideas, at images and colors. With everything that he draws and paints, he shows us: look, this is what I like, what I looked at, what happened, how I felt. In order to work as directly as possible, he produces no preliminary studies, adheres to no fixed method; and the painterly technique is always secondary. No more means than necessary are employed to achieve an effect. Once we're moved by the charged quality of the image, the work has been successful.
translation: Beth O'Brien