Do you remember that time when everything else seemed so huge in comparison to your small self and your dreams were full of whales, frogs, mysterious creatures, and unreal scenery? Born in Stockholm, visual artist Susanna Kajermo Törner is creating drawings and illustrations of this kind. The artist has been based in Bergen since her graduation from the Bergen Academy of Arts and had many exhibitions in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and England. Her body of work portrays fascinating, surreal worlds, captivating the viewer with a mixture of childlike imagery, rich storytelling, and existential questions.
Your images bear a strong symbolic language. What influences your creative process the most?
Fairy tales and myths are important as inspiration. I use theme loosely along with the exploration of feelings and existential dilemmas, to create a personal but yet recognizable universe, where seriousness and humor both play important roles.I drag a lot of my inspiration from childhood, both my own and others’. Childhood is such an important part of people’s lives. It forms who we become. My work depicts stories or fragments of narratives. Sometimes they find their basis in my own experiences, such as the thoughts and way of reasoning that you have as a child. There is this sort of meeting point between innocence and children’s ability of thinking consistently, that interest me. What is meaningful and what is not, and whether it´s possible or not to distinguish good from evil.
How did you decide to become a visual artist?
Already as a small child, people told me that I was good at drawing and that I had an artistic talent. Since I didn´t really believe that I was especially good at anything else, I decided that I was going to be an artist. A little later I added veterinarian to my list of possible future occupations. But at the time I was finishing school, I was so fed up with studying that I abandoned the veterinary idea.
Why did you choose to study in Bergen?
The reason that I came to study in Bergen was simply that when I applied to the art academies in Sweden, I also found some information about Bergen Academy of Arts. So I sent in an application and that’s how I got in.
What do you need in order to be able to express yourself?
I need to spend time by myself and I need my own studio – since I find it hard to get anything done with a lot of people around.
Has your birthplace had any influence on you becoming an artist?
Not so much the place I was born, as the places where I spent time growing up. My parents had a summerhouse in Roslagen, north of Stockholm. It was situated close to the woods and my brother and I spent a lot of time playing there. I have a strong bond to nature and especially to the forest. Another place that´s been very important for me is Hälsingland, a bit further north in Sweden. I had a sort of extra family there and I spent a lot of time with them. They had no children, many animals and interesting friends and I loved being there.
How did you express yourself when growing up?
I drew a lot, both alone and together with my best friend. We used to make huge drawings together, where we added more and more papers. We also wrote stories and made illustrations for them. These were quite serious projects that could go on for weeks.
What role did Berlin play for you as an artist?
I spent three months in Berlin on a residency, together with my husband who is also an artist. I really enjoyed being there and I liked the atmosphere. We visited museums and galleries and met some nice people, but what I remember most, was all the walking. I walked through streets and parks and it was a very beautiful autumn. While I was walking I was thinking. I thought a lot about life and about my dad who had killed himself the summer before. It seemed to me that there are many dogs living in Berlin and since I missed my dog while living there, I also looked at dogs. Some of the thinking I did in Berlin has been useful for my art. For example, I´ve made an exhibition based on the thoughts of loss and longing.
Any advice to the lost?
Don´t judge people too hard. Especially not those who are close to you.
Interview: Victoria Trunova
Editing: James Hudson