:: para versão em português, clique aqui ::

A few moments before meeting Helena Johansson Lindell I realized my old recorder was broken. To safely memorize the conversation that was just about to start with the Swedish artist in Galeria Alice Floriano (which hosts her exhibition Synthetic Fruits and Transmuted Circles in Porto Alegre, Brazil, I trusted my phone – as every modern journalist does. It worked properly during the whole hour we talked about Helena’s work with second-hand plastic, her creative process based on joy and playfulness (that she calls ~Lust Method), and how design can struggle some hieralchical structures of the society. Some days later, while transforming this voice note into written words, Bob the cat jumped on the phone and (don’t ask me how) deleted the archive. With no access to the end of the interview, I had to remember our conversation by heart. Nervous at first, suddenly I realized that this would be the perfect way to write about Helena (who has shown her work in solo and group exhibitions throughout Europe and has been awarded with one Swedish Art Grant): intuitively, trusting my memory and accepting the flow of the creative process. This may have been a good solution for an interview that gets straight to the point that the mood impacts on how we make things artistically>. >Getting to know her work proved how she condensates very important issues in the pieces and showed me that Helena thinks also with the hands: like this, her ideas are kept closer to the human body. The lack of her exact words gave me the opportunity to conclude the text taking into consideration what I saw and felt. Could this have been a chance for lust? Probably yes. And now to Helena’s words for the time I had them and to their effect on me after I missed them. 

{When did you start doing the things you do?}

I started 10 years ago, or even more, on my own. At that time, I created earrings for my own pleasure. Eventually I thought that I could learn different techniques to create more advanced things, so I gave myself the permission to get a training at Leksands folkhögskola, in a small Swedish village. That later turned into a BA in Visual Arts from the Oslo National Academy of Arts, in Norway and further studies at Konstfack University College of Arts, Crafts & Design, back in Sweden.

{How do you connect to the materials you choose to work with?}

I think metal has very beautiful qualities and I created a strong relationship with it. But there was a lack of color in it, so in order to express myself I was always looking for clear and bright colors. For this reason, I had to add things like beads, pieces of glass or textiles to the pieces: in the end, metal was becoming a support for other materials and I did not think that was fair. So when I went on to the art school I decided to work only with metal for my final work. I pretty much hammered for a whole year, and somehow I felt that like this I honored the techniques and the material. Since then, I’ve being working a lot with plastic. And I work basically with simple hand tools and glue.

The reason I work LOW TECH is because I then better understand the forms and the material`s own will. For example, a hole that is drilled by hand, turning the drill between my fingers, holds a different quality than the hole drilled by machine. I am more present in the act. It has to do with precision but also that when I make errors they themselves become organic and incorporated into the piece. I am not interested in forcing my ideas onto the material, or squeezing the material into a predetermined form. I wish to establish a dialogue and to let the material make many of the decisions. Again, it has to do with respect. I can easily apply these thoughts to interpersonal relationships – how I wish to treat others and be treated myself.


{The second-hand materials are strong in your work. When did you decide to use them?}

The choice of working with second-hand materials was subtle, not conscious. It came gradually. I just started collecting plastic: toys and things for the kitchen without thinking about what they would become. I bought them because I was attracted to the colors and different shapes. Slowly I started cutting them up and refining them a bit, puzzling them together. I did not think too much and I was unsure if I could transform the plastic into jewelry or a piece of art.

In my work I try to embrace materials, the methods and the personal qualities that, from a societal perspective, are considered low class, low status or bad taste. To own and be those things is my way to try and repeal the prejudice that is a result of those hierarchies.

{Besides materials and forms themselves, are there some artists that inspire you or influence your work?}

There is this Japanese artist who fills museums and art galleries with toys, Hiroshi Fuji. Kids can climb his installations, what would be a dream to me. Moreover, I have always lovedLisa Walker’s work. She is a New Zealander jeweler who works very unconventionally with materials. She seems fearless when putting materials together and her attitude really inspires me.

There is also Jessica Stockholder, this American artist who worked first as a painter and now makes sculptures and large scale installations. It is like she is painting in three dimensions with all kinds of things – furniture, for example. When I see her work, I think that she understands colors completely. But the most important: you can step into her art and immerse your body in the things she does. She talks a lot about the bodily experience.

We have intellectual concepts all the time, ideas about what something means. But the body’s experience is very important for the full comprehension, and it determined my decision to work with jewelry: wearable works talk to the body straight away. Even if I am to make bigger things and art installations they will always be about the body.

{As I listen to you now, it seems to me that you mentioned these artists also because of the way they work – it’s not only about the visual impact of an specific piece of art, but how it is done. Did you take actions and personal purposes into consideration when choosing your favorite references?}

The actions that you take when making something determines a lot about what the piece expresses. When preparing my workshop, Lust as Method, I thought a lot about the attraction of materials. The intuition and the joy during the artistic processes are also very important. For me, lust is your own internal will: a desire, something you want to do, a direction. There is the intuition and the flow of things, but especially there is the joy as an experience. In the different places and schools I have been, to be joyous while making things was considered less artistic.

~~That’s the time when the cat erased the voice note with its paw. Right when Helena was finishing to explain to me her method! This is not fair 🙁 So I asked Helena to complete her thoughts by e-mail. Thank you, internet!~~

Lust as Method is the title I have given my way of working. The lust-method for me means trusting that the artistic process doesn’t need to be a struggle to bring meaningful, expressive, important results. It means trusting the intuition without judging it. Judgment brings any process to a halt and by setting judgment aside, by continuously making work, the results will undoubtedly come – independent of what your intention for making work is. Judgment resides in our thoughts, so by focusing on the bodily experiences of things I find myself by passing the judgment more easily and getting a richer expression as a result.


~~Those next words are still hers, but crossed with mine. In the end, that is what conversations are about, right? ~~

After talking about the Lust Method, we started thinking about work spaces: ~how important do you think they are, Helena? Because sometimes I catch myself looking for this magical place where we are capable of letting our fragmented ideas become something solid and important (I suppose it is the same for writings, paintings, music, jewelry… ). Do you think there are places where we gather our inspirational pieces together more easily? Then Helena told me about her studio in Stockholm and how simple it was. She does think the work space is important, because of the energy created there – both by the people residing and what is encapsulated in the walls from previous residents. She gave me an example of how it affected her work: when she worked in a goldsmith`s studio, my pieces shrunk in size and became more detailed. When she was in a studio on her own, she had difficulties to stay in flow. And in the more judgmental and narrow- minded environments she has been working, birthing new ideas was more of a struggle.

But now she feels that sharing spaces can also be very fulfilling. The place where she is now is divided by eight creators (different media, different expressions and technical backgrounds). In the house they have in Stockholm, each one of her friends does their own things. But when they are tired, they drink some coffee and laugh. Sometimes they do share the same exhibitions or projects. And this is how some mental battles of the creative processes end up. Sharing doubts and anxieties with other people helps a lot, she told me. I totally agreed.

Gör om, gör rätt

Helena also told me that although she is always reinforcing the role of intuition and joy in her process, she is often very strict with things: if she, or the material, are not satisfied with the result, she remakes it until they are. It can be difficult to know what needs to change, only that there is something missing or something to be removed. ~Gör om, gör rätt is something she says aloud often. It means ~remake, make right. Sometimes she also spends hours thinking about the perfect word for a text about her work – or, even more difficult, a title for a piece or an exhibition. We concluded that the most important things sometimes are not translatable into words. Colors or forms do this job so well that this was the reason why she understood jewelry as a possibility to empower her causes. From a feminist and queer perspective, she wants her pieces to be worn as an expression: a non-judgemental expression. When picking cheap materials, Helena shows that contemporary jewelry can also be about ideas. She does not want things or people to be better or worth more than others, and the strong combination of colors and forms materializes this will perfectly. Our body can say so many things. Her work too. That is why it was made to be worn against on skin, like the things we believe.



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