Your work doesn’t look that Scandinavian at all: an interview with Emanuel Röhss, Conceptual Fine Arts (2016)

by Stamatia Dimitrakopoulos

‘The first time we saw the work of Emanuel Röhss was online, after cruising his immaculate website. Intrigued by his perception of the “white cube” as an artistic medium itself, we contacted him asking for a studio visit that was held right after in his Los Angeles studio which was luckily full of works, ready to be installed in Thomas Duncan gallery as part of Invitation to Love, Emanuel Röhss first solo show in Los Angeles – and his seventh solo show since 2013.
The following interview was held by email, as a recap of our previous visit. Going through the answers, one will see a highly confident artist talking about himself and his work, the exact type of confidence we count on seeing during the evolution of his work.

You were born and raised in Sweden, studied and lived for a couple of years in London while currently residing in Los Angeles. How does this very interesting topological synthesis shape your artistic identity?

In a schizophrenic way I think. I feel fundamentally Scandinavian; there’s something about your cultural heritage that won’t ever disappear no matter how much time you spend in other cultures. So there is an element of the cliché tropes of Scandinavian-ness deep within, like some kind of scepticism towards things that I find largely absent in the American culture in particular. There is also this sense of modesty in Swedish culture that I can’t escape from, regardless how much I try. Even if I probably don’t come across as modest, it is still a cross I have to bear.
On the other side, during this decade that I have been an artist in an active sense, I was never based in Scandinavia. I went to School in the UK and Ireland and I think I was trying to be quite aware of what was going on the different art scenes across the West. The work, the people and the artists that influenced me since from early on were never limited to one explicit locality.
Moving around a lot one becomes aware of how the tendencies in art work in local levels, although it is impossible to generalize about multifaceted places like London for example. In Sweden there is dry conceptualism, or people painting pine trees; art produced through pain. In Southern California art is flashy, it looks like artists are having fun making it and may also come through as more shallow; art produced through happiness. I can relate to both.
People comment on my work rather regularly now ”Your work doesn’t look that Scandinavian at all” which is maybe true. I guess one’s interest as an artist is not determined by genetics or your ethnic origin, but by things that you feel provoked by or passionate about. I do care about what’s happening in my home country, politics etc, yet my work is concerned more with other things.

What triggered your decision to move to Los Angeles? Are you affiliated with the art scene there?

My first visit in LA was a while ago, drawn by my fascination for a culture that would be fundamentally different to my origins. There was a point where I could have stayed in London but then an opportunity came up about moving to California, and now was the time.
I think the art scene is exciting here. It’s more cliquy and heterogenous than for example in London where there is a dense community of artists from my generation. In LA things operate differently on professional and social levels. It’s more chilled, everyone is hanging in their zone, in their clique. Yet the scene feels engaged, and there are some really exciting artists here who inspire me.
The possibilities for making work here are great and the local production of culture, movies, architecture and art has provoked me to develop my work in ways I would not have done if I was still based in Europe.’

Read the full text at Conceptual Fine Arts.