EK Interview: Fredrik Åkum

Fredrik Åkum was featured in 2011, his paintings are as accurately described by Konahrtist: ‘full of hypnotic textures and psychedelic colors’. His interview is intriguing and insightful.  Take a peek:

Introduce yourself.

I’m Fredrik Åkum, visual artist that soon will begin my last MFA year in Gothenburg, Sweden. I’ve always been making pictures of what interests me, sometimes to understand why something interests me, sometimes just because making images, painting and drawing is a natural language for me.


You use many different media, photography, painting and zines, what does each provide you?

All of them become important in the way that images work. It’s more in the recent year I’ve been working with photography as “art”. Before that I used it more for source material, or mapping myself, or just a tool of memory. Now if feels like some instant film correspond to qualities in my painting process, and that’s why I’ve started to show photography. Zines on the other hand are a something I like in how you can narrate your images, make new meanings, lead someone into your images and put them in new contexts. And I’m also weak for the old photocopy machines, and I really find them wonderful in the way that they equate images. Removing all colors and adding new deep, the machines really makes something new out of the sources.

art blog - Fredrik Akum - Empty Kingdom

How did you make the image on your site?  What media did you use?  Where did you get the name “Forgiven By The Lake?

I assume you refer to the image that I had for an enter page before my solo exhibition on Gallery Steinsland Berliner [GSB] in Stockholm. It’s a painting called “Plants”, and it’s made with acrylic, ink and spray. I really like to mix colors that don’t work to well with each other, so I can’t have full control. The title for the exhibition, “Forgiven by the lake”, comes from and old inside joke that’s going around with my closest friends. We’ve all moved down to the west coast but originate from a town by the biggest lake in Sweden. We’ve always stated that it’s way better with lakes than the ocean. So to be forgiven by the lake could in one way be seen as when we return. One of the many sayings we had was also “The ocean forgives everyone, the lake doesn’t”. And then a lot of the work I showed at GSB was somehow connected to places by the different lakes where we grew up at, or still go to.

art blog - Fredrik Akum - Empty Kingdom

In “By The Lake” why have you chosen to depict the people the same color as the mountains?  Where is the lake in that painting from?  How did you choose the color scheme?

One of the qualities that I try to work with in painting is that mountains don’t have to be made out of stone, people don’t have to be made of flesh, and everything can be everything. So I try to make as much as I can seamless. I want as much as possible to equate and be equally important in the images.

The source image is borrowed from a video, which isn’t mine. But that is an act that I really enjoy, to use others images to work with, still in the same context. It kind of makes you go around the nostalgia part of the work, which isn’t important to me, but it’s often brought up. I think nostalgia is an act of looking back, and I’d say I’m a longing person, forward, or working in the present. So the nostalgia equation doesn’t work out. It has happened that my friends come in to my studio, looki at my paintings and ask “what did we do here really?” but sometimes it isn’t “we”.

I often chose the colors during whatever I feel is interesting during the day of the painting process. Like this summer I’ve been working much from (what I suppose is) a bad documentation of Henri Matisse’s “The Palm” (1912). The colors are somehow warmer which I’ve tried to mimic in some new paintings.


In the zine “Five tears in a year” who were the tears shed by?  Whom were they shed for?

The title is a subtle homage to my closest friends. No tears, no fears, I haven’t told them yet.

art blog - Fredrik Akum - Empty Kingdom

“Shake for the Sake of Shake” is a departure from the normal amount of color that you use, why did you choose to make it a black and white piece?  You’ve bracketed a group of people with four pages of abstracts, what are the people doing?  What are you saying about their actions that they’re surrounded by abstracts?

The zine is based on smaller paintings that I haven’t showed other than in that publication. Except the middle spread image, which is a larger painting. The loss of color is simply because of the photocopy machine. The images are based on a party that I joined a couple of years ago, it was in the middle of a forest and me and a friend were going to play some records in the end of the night. But there are also a couple of images from where I grew up, so this is actually a great example of how to renew the stories in the images.

art blog - Fredrik Akum - Empty Kingdom

Most of your work portray’s women, what do you think of the female form that is absent in the male?  Why have you chosen to focus on the female form?

It’s because most of my friends are women, so in pretty much every answer before this when I refer to a friend it’s by 95% chance a female friend.


Much of the time you portray women looking away from the viewer, are they seeing what we see?  Are they seeing more or what we should be seeing?  Or is it something more?  What are they looking at?

I think the concept of this comes from many different ideas. One is probably to not give away everything, both when it comes to an image, and when it comes to the person in the image. I don’t want the viewer to understand the image at once. If there is a gaze in an image, the viewer will understand what the person does or feels too fast, it becomes uninteresting, “we don’t share the same problem”, the one in the image has a problem and we don’t have to care. And I don’t want to give to much away about this, because it’s really questions like yours I want to be raised, sometimes you need to solve the images yourself.

art blog - Fredrik Akum - Empty Kingdom

You’ve chosen loud, neon colors for much of your work, why have you chosen this selection of colors?  What do you think this selection of colors says about you, about your personality?

I’ve been working with colors all my life, so I think this is pretty much a period where I needed to work with it. I was very bored with damp earth colors, which I worked with for a couple of years before this “neon” period. So it became like a self-revolt. I think the intensity is somehow more calmed down and at the moment, I’m mostly interested in how to make images warm, almost melting.


Who are your “Icons”?  Why have you chosen a shark jaw and bird on a sword as your subjects for the “Icons” series?

The shark jaw is just a phony scratch on the surface of my shark interest. It’s something that always has been around, but also something which has made me take a pause from art making I guess. This could turn out to a couple of years with only shark referenced motifs, or nothing about it, because it’s so much of a different world, something too interesting that could never be translated into images. I don’t know yet. The bird is straight from the cover art of the British raw punk band Discharge’s EP “Never again”. So that one is fan art.


Your About says you that you use “flowing, luminous media to explore fleeting moments”.  What moments do you seek to capture?  What emotions?  What makes them so fleeting?

I guess I liked that text in the way that it described the mediums and the fleeting moments at the same time. That I don’t believe my images are frozen moments, rather the opposite. Since there is (often) a source image from one time, and then all the movements, colors and everything in the actual process is a representation of all my time, all my knowledge. And I also liked the fleeting part of it, to describe the uncontrolled part of the painting that some parts are happening because of the colors, which I can’t control.

art blog - Fredrik Akum - Empty Kingdom

What’s coming up for you?  What are you working on?

At the moment I’m working with a series of paintings, mostly for my exam exhibition for next spring. Also for a couple of other group exhibitions, and new zines, fashion collaborations, etc. there is much on the horizon. But at the moment I’m working with rather loose or distant deadlines, so there is much experimenting going on.


What are cooler, velociraptors or sabre tooth tigers?

I’d say Velociraptors, even more after learning that they where more in the size of wolves that in the Deinonychus-size they are portrayed in in the Jurrasic Park movies. Also it’s interesting since it’s still a research in progress, long from finished. What I know it’s not even set if they had feathers or not yet.

art blog - Fredrik Akum - Empty Kingdom