EAS participating artist, Liam Andersen, working with memory and imagination, discusses his two interconnected, ongoing projects exploring identity.
I am a mixed-media artist from Denmark, based in Greece. I am currently working on recreating photographs of my family and upbringing into oil paintings. This method captures the poetics and emotions that memories evoke, allowing me to find a balance between memory and imagination. To engage artistically has given me the opportunity to view memories and family photographs with a more critical lens and helps me better understand where I come from, how this has shaped my identity, and why I have ended up on a very similar path today. The process of becoming a part of the art I am creating, by living the story that I am tellin, is the baseline for the whole project. As a young and aspiring artist, I seek to fulfill my passion by finishing two interconnected exhibitions titled, 'Until I was Born', and 'Mom and Dad, We Survived'.
You can see more images of Liam's work on his Instagram account: the.moon.is.a.harsh.mistress
'Until I was Born' tells the story of my parents, from when they met until I was born, through oil paintings based on recreations of photographs, as well as through their oral accounts, as they were handed over to me throughout my upbringing.
This is a story of a young and idealistic couple who fall in love, through a commitment to creating a life together free from the individualistic and isolating reality of the neo-liberal market society of Europe, since the late 1970s. From the squat scene of Sankt Pauli and Reberbahn¹ in Hamburg, to the drug infused raves of Goa in India, and experiments with communal lifestyles in various parts of southern Europe, this piece tells the story of the life of my parents.
As travelers living on the road in a bus converted into their home, before I was born, they became parents. Before my mother became pregnant, they confronted the question: How can our lifestyle, our dreams and aspirations, be compatible with the safe upbringing of a child? This is a story of sacrifice and compromise. Eventually deciding to settle down, and once again confronted with what they considered a meaningless life within capitalist modernity.
The piece captures the crumbling of my parent’s relationship and my father’s sinking into depression. After years of pain, the result is a divorce. I was born into this moment of pain, this moment of rupture. The only glimpse I would ever come to know of a harmonious family would be through the thousands of pictures that capture those years before I came into being and everything changed.
'Mom and Dad, We Survived' is a video piece, still in process, that follows up on my own love story. From 2017 to 2019, I have been documenting my life and journey with my former partner, using videos, writing and photographs as a tool. The video piece begins one harmonious summer, with two 19-year olds riding their bikes through the woods in Denmark, two days before leaving their houses, jobs and lives behind for the next two years.
The experimental video footage consists often of only fragments. Through these fragments, the viewer is taken on an intimate love story journey with a young couple travelling through Palestine and Morocco, Chile and Argentina, and finally to the south of Europe, where the relationship ends when one of the protagonists becomes deeply involved with the radical left subculture of Greece. Themed around love and the desire to make sense of oneself by revisiting and exploring the rivers from where one’s identity and self-narrative have sprung. The piece consists of video footage, self-portraits (photo) and diary pieces. It is a follow up to 'Until I was Born', exploring the same issues, themes and cultures, only 20 years later through the lens of my own tragic and fantastic love story.
ADDENDUM: Excerpts from a recent interview with Liam published in artCollective Magazine:
I am a big admirer of Apolonia Skool. Her art has been very inspiring and important to me. The sensation her art gives me is similar to the feeling of disappearing into an amazing piece of literature. The way she portrays her characters is incredibly strong, and I am moved by how her love for the people she works with comes across through her art. I am also a sucker for portraits that are located within the mundaneness of everyday life. The normality of the setting can function almost as a window into something very powerful between people.
I am also very inspired by the city I live in, Athens, and the people around me. … the documentarists that I have met through the political scene here in Athens, and the artistic process of becoming a part of what you are creating, by living the story that you are telling.
I love working with oil chalk. I have developed a process that is very physical, and one that allows for a lot of spontaneity. It’s a very simple process, but it’s very therapeutic to me, almost cathartic at times.
First, I cover a large piece of canvas (90x70cm) with a thick layer of chalk, a long and intensive process, often so violent that my fingers will start to soften and blisters will appear. When the entire canvas is covered in a layer of oil chalk, I draw on the canvas by carving it with a knife. It’s a very long but meditative process. I find this method exciting because you are presented with a completely different set of challenges, but also opportunities...
All the images are oil on paper, untitled # 1-7 from the series 'Until I Was Born'