Saturday Spotlight: Volume 034

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arctoa's avatar
An Interview with-

> Please introduce yourself, in your own words. What are your interests?
My name is Samuel Poromaa and I'm a professional artist & photographer living in Stockholm, Sweden. I was born 1960 in Kiruna, a small mining community way up north in Sweden, but moved to Stockholm 1983. I have been working with imagery and art for as long as I can remember, but on a more serious level after I finished my art studies at the Konstfack: National College of Arts Crafts & Design here in Stockholm, in 1989. I am a painter at heart, at least that is what I studied those five years at Konstfack and that was my goal; to be a painter, but things went in another direction after a decade of painting, and nowadays my principal tool of the trade is the camera and digital darkroom. However, I do still think more as a painter than a photographer when I'm working with art, and I guess I always will.

> Where did you begin with artistic endeavours? How did you come across Abstraction or Surrealism?
I have been producing 'art' for as long as I can remember. As a child or teenager I was very much into the art of comics, and I remember that my goal back then was to become a cartoonist someday. My favorite genre was superheroes and science fiction, and I have to say that it still is! So one could say that my first encounter with art where the day when I opened a magazine from  Marvel Comics for the first time and was completely knocked off my feet by the wonders of The Fantastic Four. I guess that my big interest in mainstream culture originates from that first encounter with the marvels of Marvel. Back in those days I never thought for a minute that I would become a painter one day or, for that matter, an artist that works with digital media and photography: but when I was 15 years old we went on a school trip to Amsterdam and were more-or-less forced by our teacher to visit Rijksmuseum, although none of us youngsters were the least interested in that kind of culture; we wanted to party all night long. But we went to the museum, well-behaved as we were, and that visit changed me completely. When I saw Rembrandts Night watch, alone in one of the halls of the museum, glowing as something I had never seen before, my mind went on a completely different journey and I decided to be a painter.

Surrealism and Abstraction came much later: actually, my first encounter with modernism as an idea came during a lecture at an art school where I studied for two years in preparation for the higher studies that came later. But I honestly must say that modernism has never been my thing, although I'm trained in its tradition, so to speak. Abstraction is of course what we always do, so whether I like it or not, that is the basics of all imagery, but Surrealism is something else; it is a specific idea, as I see it, in the modernistic tradition that is basically about visualising the subconscious and the dream world, and frankly I have never been particularly fond of these visualisations. Admittedly, some work by Magritte is interesting (his work tends to be more conceptual than surrealistic), but Dali's work for example is horrible, just overworked visions from a pompous fascist in my eyes: a man that supported Franco's fascist regime; not my bag at all.

> How would you explain the concept of Abstraction or Surrealism to someone with no experience with the genre?
Well I'm pleased that you use the word abstraction and not the word abstract in your question, because there is a big difference, as I see it, between these two words. While abstraction is something all imagery is based upon, abstract art is a definitive concept that is about doing art that has no other references than to the artwork itself. Abstraction comes naturally as an effect of the transference from a three-dimensional vision into a two-dimensional surface of an image, whilst abstract art is about trying to create a vision of the mind that has no references to the 'real-world' or to 'reality'; it is, one could say, about constructing a new reality without any references to something observed by the eye. And that is almost impossible to achieve because the mind will always search for something 'real' or experienced to hold on to; I would say that one would almost never stumble upon true abstract art; the only one I can think of right now whose art doesn't give away any other references outside the artwork, so to speak, is Jackson Pollock's paintings. But I guess there is more out there if one looks closely. undefinedreference here on deviantART is very close, but his work is also the only (so far, anyway) example I have seen here on deviantART that is truly closing in on that concept. One thing is for sure though, and that is that a photograph can never be truly abstract. There is a tendency, I think, to use this word 'abstract' very lightly or even carelessly when we speak about art in general or certain kind of photography in particular. I'm for example part of a group on LinkedIn called 'Abstract Photography', and now they are launching a competition on the subject of nature photography, and I find that almost hilarious because nature photography of various kinds has little if not nothing to do with the concept of the abstract. Photography will always be linked to what you and the camera sees, and in that sense it can never be totally abstract, but at the same time a photograph can't portray reality in an objective way and is therefore by definition an abstraction, whether it tries to depict something on a documentary level or is about using 'reality' for, other more conceptual, purposes.

> What inspires you to use Abstraction or Surrealism in your work?
My problem is that I do not see myself as being someone who works with Surrealism and as far as abstraction goes it comes with the territory, so to speak, so I can't really answer this question. If I have to categorise what I’m doing I would say that I am a conceptual artist & photographer who has an aesthetic approach that leans towards minimalism, but to be honest I try not to put myself in a box, so...  My inspiration comes from everywhere I would say; from movies, books, music, computer games, comic books and sometimes, but more seldom, from that thing we call fine art.

> What do you want to express with your artwork? What is the idea you're trying to put across?
This is the question with the big question mark, and the one I always think upon. Let me give you an example of a series I have done recently that I call South of Ivarstead. I guess that this series of images might look very much like a surreal trip, but I assure you it is not about Surrealism at all. OK, one could say that it has a certain flare of the unreal, but it is not about trying to visualise something from the dream-world or even my subconscious. I did this series as a part of an ongoing investigation I'm performing (artistically) of the gaming world, and South of Ivarstead is actually an indication of travel directions given to you at some point in the game Skyrim, so this series is basically about art depicting art, or my way of trying to visualise a part of mainstream culture that I love. Let me give you another example; my project The House of Thoughts or the project ISM could, I guess, be mistaken for being abstract art, but it is actually two series about the concept of abstract art. The series refer to what I would call the peak of modernism, namely abstract expressionism, or to be more exact concretism, so you see these series is basically also about art depicting, or even imitating, art.

> What are your 'tools of the trade'? How do you create your art?
I mentioned that in the beginning; my principal tools are the camera and the digital darkroom. For the most part I do take photographs, and work with them digitally. Post-production is essential to me, working with Photoshop and various plug-ins for that application. I do everything by hand though, so apps like Instagram have never been an option to me. Sometimes I do work purely digital or partially digital at least, like in the series I spoke of in the previous question. This series to me is not photography-based although photographs are involved in the process; it is simply-put digital art.

> Do you think the quality of a piece depends more upon technical perfection, or the message contained therein?
This is a hard question to answer, but to me both are equally important. Aesthetics works (at best) like a gateway into the inner room where the concept lays waiting for its audience. But on the other hand there is no point in having a gateway that does not lead to anything at all, so aesthetics and concept must work together as I see it. One could argue that aesthetics is the same thing as technique; well I'm not sure, but I do think that it is linked to the basics of all visual techniques used in creating images namely the art of seeing. So in that sense technique is important, but technique can be more of a circus act sometimes, like listening to a brilliant guitarist doing a solo that sounds more like a practice of scales than music with heart and soul. Like Yngwie Malmsteen, whose technique in perfection works more like a closed door to me; the heart of his music is hidden behind that door of brilliance and perfection. So, I'm honestly not sure. On the other hand how funny is it to listen to music performed by someone who has no sense of rhythm, no sense of how to treat an instrument, who simply put cannot play or sing at all?

> Who are your favourite visual artists, and why?
It is kind-of hard for me to answer that because I rarely get inspired by individuals in the art scene today, and get more of my kicks from mainstream culture. As far as traditional art goes I have to say that the oldies are far more interesting to me than the ones operating on the scene today, so I would say Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Caspar David Friedrich and in the modernistic tradition I really like Edvard Hooper and the realistic tradition that leads up to Photo-realism in the seventies, but I have to admit that I also like some of the more 'abstract' art from the fifties; like the Swedish painter Olle Baertling (who worked in a strict concrete tradition) and some of the abstract expressionists, like Jackson Pollock.

Finally I would like to mention my dear friend Jan Rufelt whose images always inspires me, but he is not active here on deviantART any more. I would recommend a visit to his homepage, here.

> Which dA Groups would you recommend to someone looking to get involved with abstract and surreal art?
I honestly have no idea. Have a look for yourself, there are lots to see.

> What advice would you give to an absolute beginner in the genre?
If you are trying to do abstractions, don't try: you are already doing it. If you are trying to do abstract art, start with excluding the camera from your toolbox. If you want to do Surrealistic art, start by trying to remember your dreams and visit your subconscious more frequently.

> Any final words on abstract and surreal art?
I think I have said it all; or have I...?

> In conclusion, pick nine works from your Favourites that you particularly enjoy.

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davespertine's avatar
Really excellent interview!
An honour to be here