MUNTHE ART MODAY: Myra Sjöberg
Please introduce yourself and what you do.
My name is Myra Sjöberg, I developed a love for painting in my early twenties, I'm now 36 years old. I love painting with oil colour and watercolor; playing with transparency, light and shadow. I was born in Skagen, Denmark.
How has being a woman affected your career?
Seeing as women are notoriously underrepresented in the artworld I'm sure it has affected me. It's not difficult to get a gallery show for me but I think curated shows are thougher to get into. But I enjoy networking with other female artist and curators - I think we
can be a great support system for each other.
What – in your opinion – makes a great artist?
I think a great artist is brave - not afraid to challenge themselves and others. All great art is created in uncharted waters.
Which other female (artist) inspires you and why?
Frida Kahlo of course.. Leonora Carrington, Louise Bourgeois, Hilma av Klint and a lot of authors and musicians. Angela Carter, Janet Frame, Tanith Lee, Björk, Nina Simone. And of course Anna Ancher - the first of the famous Skagen painters born and raised in my hometown of Skagen. She is very lauded for her ability to capture light in her paintings - something I've always been fascinated with myself.
How has the art scene coped with the gender imbalance since you began your career?
How could it still improve? There's a lot more focus and attention surrounding female artists at the moment. Shows curated specifically around artists like Hilma av Klint or Surrealist female artists. Or shows like Scannet Nutid at Gallery KBH Kunst. I think the art world is more aware of lifting female artists both past and present. I'm hoping that this focus and attention will help shift the gender imbalance - unfortunately all great change takes time. We are trying to create a lasting fundamental change in the structure of the patriarchal society we are currently living in - that shift in society will affect both personal and professional dynamics - whether it's how we view gender roles and what gender is to how that affects our opportunities as women. The fabric of our society is based on ideas - a lot of those ideas are old and outdated. I think there is a great need for different perspectives and narratives from people who are not white cis men. If more female artists are given a voice I think that is a good first step in creating a more fertile soil for ideas to grow that will hopefully create a more nuanced conversation and perspective in how we view ourselves and each other - because that is what art is; a conversation between the artist and their canvas and then the conversation continues between the artwork and the audience.
What advice would you give to emerging female artists entering the art scene?
Work with and seek out people who support your ambitions. Form networks with female artists and believe in yourself and your vision. Do not compromise your ideas or try to please others in order to feel accepted.
What themes do you pursue in your art?
My themes revolve around an explanation of female sexuality and power. I try to play with well-known characters from mythology and fairytales and give them new meaning. Sometimes my work is more ethereal and spiritual. I have always been intrigued by feminine power and beauty and my love of women influence my paintings both romantically and sensually. I think it's important to be able to express female sexuality without the typical "male gaze" and my paintings are very much an exploration of desire and sexuality without the objectification by men. My characters often challenge the viewer with a steady gaze or they are lost in a turmoil of feeling and introspection that the viewer might recognize within themselves. 8. What is your position on feminism and the fight for women’s rights and equality in the art world? Art is supposed to represent all aspects of the human experience - therefore it's absolutely important that we fight for equal representation in the art world. 9. What has been the most challenging aspect of being a female artist ? Learning how to stand up for myself and trust my instincts. I think that's true in all aspects of being a woman. We need to unlearn a lot of cis-normative behavior.
What is your ultimate goal for your artwork?
try to always think more in terms of process than goals - because the process is the interesting part. I hope to always be in the process of learning and growing as an artist. I've long ago given up any aspirations of being "famous" or even successful - not because there's anything wrong with success but because that is not what drives my need for creative expression. Creating art is a very personal journey for me and it has always been important to me that I'm free to paint and play without having to be burdened by financial circumstances - the pressure to perform can kill my joy of creating. I have chosen a path that allows me to balance a normal job with my artistry. I may not paint as often as I like but when I do it is a real pleasure that I appreciate that much more for having built up a longing for it.
Explain your process.
I usually start with a theme and then I'll seek out inspiration. Sometimes I'll use my friends as models and photograph them and use the pictures as sketches. Or I'll get an image or a mood in my mind and try to recreate it.
Which impact has the Covid 19 had on your work?
It has created a need for introspection and I think it has affected the current themes I'm working with.
What would you like people to notice in your work?
I hope to create paintings that speak to people. I have my own conversation with each piece while I paint. Hopefully that conversation continues when it leaves my studio. I try to create a lot of layers of meaning in my paintings. There are references to myths and folklore but also themes surrounding female sexuality, death and desire. It's important to me that my ideas aren't too obvious or "in your face". The art I admire the most retains an air of mystery and is open to interpretation. I would much rather ask a question than deliver a punchline.
How does gender affect your work?
I have always explored gender identity in my work. I'm curious to explore masculine and feminine aspects and how these affect our identities. I rebel against the traditional gender roles and the ways that they limit our ability to fully express and realize ourselves and our exploration of identity. I am fascinated by androgynous gender identities and the concepts of strength and fragility. My father is a glassblower and the medium of glass is both strong and fragile at the same time. I think the same can be said of people - we are strong and fragile and sometimes we find strength in our ability to be vulnerable and breakable. Traditional gender roles are very limiting and unfortunately they place value on characteristics that are potentially damaging. I think there is a rebellious freedom in the androgynous - we can venture beyond the binary gender roles and discover a new freedom of expression.