Interview : Christine Linde Of Tomarum

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To come across the work of Christine Linde/Tomarum was an absolute joy. Inspired by two of my favourite artists Theodor Kitteslsen and John Bauer, Linde creates deeply atmospheric folk art. Her work enables the observer to dip out of the human world for a time, and individually connect with what lies beyond. I’m delighted and honoured to feature her on Wyrd Words & Effigies.

Tomarum is a fantastical, original and extremely memorable title. Can you reveal the inspiration behind it, and how you decided that it was the right name to represent you and your creative works?
I have always been interested in history, especially in Scandinavian history. My arts name means vacuum/vacuity in Icelandic, a language that has still got many influences left from the old Norse. Tomarum also describes an emotional state of emptiness I’ve been feeling now and then since I was very young.

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When did you realise that art was the path for you, and is it something that you can envisage yourself doing for the rest of your life?
Photography didn’t really come to me for real until I was about fourteen years old. Before that I did some painting. Guess I always wanted to be a good painter, but my sloppy style didn’t belong in that kind of art form. Yes, well, I know how to paint but I don’t have the patience to be neat with a brush in that way. When I two years later finally got to study how to handle a manual camera (with a darkroom and all the chemicals), it was like the darkness inside me just woke up and started to create and build what today is called Tomarum.

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Your work is steeped in Scandinavian tradition. Have you always wanted to explore the history and lore of your home lands?
As I wrote before I am very interested in history. Knowing history and traditions of my home region is very important to me, especially when my ancestors have been in the same place since the 17th century. I love standing next to a field and looking at all the old barns and imagining how it looked like 200-300 years ago, in Hälsingland with all the decorated farmhouses, all the hundreds of years of work farming the land and building the houses.

I am led to believe that you are a mother, and if so, how has motherhood changed your life as an artist? Are you able to reveal how your work process has changed?
I wouldn’t use the word “changed”… But maybe me being a mother evolved some more in me to put even more folklore in my style. My parents and grandparents used to sing and tell me stories about all the trolls and the elves living among us when I was a kid…and when you are a mother yourself, you intend to think more of your own childhood. So I guess my art is supposed to be some kind of method to bring on and tell my daughter the same tales.

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Theodor Kittelsen is one of my all time favourite artists, and it appears that he has had a strong influence on your work. When did you first encounter Kittelsen, and what is it about his artistic creations that inspires you?
It feels like you recognize everything he has done from various tales. I may have seen some when I was a kid, I should have. Bland tomtar och troll (Among Gnomes and Trolls) is an anthology about Swedish folklore and children’s fairy tales with illustrations by a Swedish illustrator named John Bauer. My vivid imaginations were portrayed so well and made me dream away even more as a kid. When I later on in my life I started to explore and listen to black metal, I relived the same feeling when I saw the amazing and breathtaking album art Satyricon and Burzum had. At the same time Kittelsen’s work was similar to Bauer’s and my childhood imaginations were portrayed once more by another talented artist.

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You started life in the countryside. Would you say that your childhood played a significant role in the art that you create today?
Yes. Whatever kind of seed of love and respect for the nature that were sown into me, wouldn’t have been there without a childhood on the countryside. And when you are a kid, you got your favourite places, those places are often the surroundings in my art today.

I know artists sometimes hate being asked this question, but I’m just too damn curious. Do you have a favourite piece? One which makes you feel incredibly proud?
“De Gamla” is my favourite. I envisioned the fairies dancing on the fallen tree when I took the photograph.

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What have you found to be the best method of selling your work, and has the reaction to your creations been what you expected?
I have just started selling pieces, so there are no methods yet. The response I’ve got is overwhelming, not at all what I expected. I’m so grateful.

Scandinavia has – as you well know – an immensely rich collection of folk tales. Is there a story which you find yourself returning to time and again?
Hårgadansen is a legend about how the devil, in a disguise as a fiddler, played a song on his violin and made the young adults of the village Hårga dance themselves to death. The song is called Hårgalåten which is said to be the one song. It is one of Sweden’s most played folk melodies.

“Where do you come from, you who is playing
Tell us who have taught you this way to play, so wild and mad
If you don’t stop our hearts will burst
Oh God preserve us, he has a cloven hoof!”

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Sweden appears to be home to a multitude of female artists who explore the dark and mysterious. Do you all support each other, and would you say that Sweden is a good place to be an artist in this day and age?
Yes, we are. And I have never felt any kind of competition from my female “colleagues”, just love and support. It is wonderful to see how everyone evolves too. For me living in Sweden with the school I went to and photo teacher I had, it means everything. So I would say yes, Sweden is good in that way, giving the support and encouraging you to be artistic.

Would you say that 2014 has been a good year for you and your art? And are you able to reveal any clues as to what can we expect to see from you in 2015?
It has been an emotional roller coaster. Which means my art has flooded out from every pore of me. I think other artists can relate. My anxiety gives me no other option than to create to feel better. Hopefully the web shop will open with prints, stickers and throw pillows. Possibly some kind of book/album too.

Want to see more of Tomarum’s work? Head here.

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