Studio (re)Visit with MATILDA FORSBERG

© Matilda Forsberg for Zephyr and Maize

Matilda Forsberg is a Swedish-born artist whose introspective paintings explore personal stories about family, heritage and identity. Inspired by emotional implications in cultural tradition, and often sourcing imagery from family photo archives, Matilda focuses on the narratives that emerge while observing captured moments from the past.

“While I have a deep personal connection to the places and experiences in these paintings, the narratives originated from photo archives of my daughter’s Chinese side of the family who came from Hong Kong to Miami. With few verbal accounts of anyone’s individual experiences, shared experiences and rituals were amplified as a way to carry on a sense of heritage and tradition. The paintings explore this imagery as well as a confluence of my own memories of the place or situation, and signify feelings of a loss of a larger personal narrative and a search for new bonds and identities,” - explains the artist.

Forsberg's protagonists find themselves in group settings, occupying dream-like spaces and landscapes inspired by Nordic nature and the tropical setting of Miami, both places where she has lived. Occasionally, figures with blurred identities appear in compositions so dynamic and expressive that the very painting seems incandescent ("Erasure-Remembrance", 2020). Among the most distinguishing qualities of Forsberg's paintings are their introspective quality, artistic individuality and the suppressed impulse of the painterly emotions, realised in the tempo and rhythm of the paintwork and the courageous compositional choices. Forsberg's new works once again demonstrate the effective use of pictorial space and juxtapositions of bright and pastel hues, softer washes and thicker accentuated areas of pure colour, and narratives collapsing time, place, and memory.

Matilda Forsberg's work has been exhibited worldwide, including New York, Los Angeles, Portland, and Sweden.

"My recent body of work is titled “the arrival” and consists mostly of large-scale paintings. These pieces reflect on what it means to leave your homeland and settle in a foreign country and culture. Much of the imagery is sourced from photo archives of my daughter’s side of the family who came from Hong Kong to Miami in the 70’s. I was first drawn to these images because there weren't many verbal accounts of their stories and I wanted to understand more about them. In these photos, showing the family after arriving in their adopted country, you can detect the mixed feelings of excitement, confusion and longing they were going through, which I deeply related to which I deeply relate to this being an immigrant myself, so the paintings are also a process of self-discovery. In all of these, I intermingle the stories from the past with current experiences, thoughts, or fleeting feelings and impressions often set in dreamlike settings.
With my work, I want to recognize the importance of our personal histories. I believe that respect and inclusion in a society begins with understanding of one another as humans. As an immigrant, and, as the mother of a bi-racial daughter who is both a second- and third-generation immigrant, I want to understand how migration affects people and the world. The West’s many promises draw people from all over the world, yet not much care is taken to create understanding between people. Instead, people from other cultures or with different world views often become stripped of their dimensionality. By sharing the stories and the feelings one experiences as an immigrant, I hope to foster humanity and empathy, while inviting viewers to ponder own personal narratives, and how they relate to the world and one another."

© Matilda Forsberg for Zephyr and Maize

A messenger of change, 2021, 48 x 60 inches, acrylic and spray paint on canvas

"This is based off a photograph of a family and friends gathering, probably a birthday party. It was a very down to earth looking photo, earthy colors and all. Everyone looked engaged. I was initially thinking about how for immigrants (and also for many people in our increasingly globalized world) our friends often take on the function of family. But as I was painting, all of the adults were slowly erased from the picture, and one boy developed wings, and to me the painting ultimately became about the inevitability of change in life." © Matilda Forsberg for Zephyr and Maize

© Matilda Forsberg for Zephyr and Maize

An introduction to cultural treasures, 2021, 60 x 48 inches, acrylic and spray paint on canvas

"This was the first one I completed in this series. It was a very intuitive painting; most decisions were fairly subconscious. It started with a photo of a visit to Disney World. To me, the painting is about the strangeness and newness of American culture. When I first moved here, Disney World was introduced to me as some sort of cultural treasure (thus the title) in a way that one would introduce the pyramids in Egypt or the Big Buddha in Hong Kong. I focused on trying to capture the feeling of hesitation the children seem to be experiencing next to this strange cartoony figure. And in a way, this feeling of hesitation yet acceptance is also something one might go through as an immigrant." © Matilda Forsberg for Zephyr and Maize

"As part of my process, I create small-scale, quick paintings that aim to capture certain fleeting moments or connections. I make these very intuitively and I try to avoid making conscious decisions, as I believe the mind can really guide you and tell you things when you let it bypass your intellect." © Matilda Forsberg for Zephyr and Maize

© Matilda Forsberg for Zephyr and Maize