Escape to Scandinavia with Cecilia Danell
Swedish painter Cecilia Danell has found a home from home in Galway, in the West of Ireland, where most of the time you’ll find her hiding out in her studio listening to Swedish radio and making stunning works largely informed by her Scandinavian heritage. Each year she spends time back in her home region, researching the landscape and ideas that will later make up the basis for her beautiful paintings. Here we go into the studio with Cecilia to find out more about her life as an artist, her early love for Pippi Longstocking, and the things that get her through the day at work.
When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
I always loved drawing and making things for as long as I can remember, but in my childhood and early teens I mostly drew characters out of children’s books, so at that time I wanted to be a children’s book illustrator. Then when I was 16 I interviewed an illustrator in Stockholm as part of a school project and got to see her studio, and I knew straight away that I wanted to have a studio space myself one day. But it wasn’t until I went to art college in Ireland that I realised that I was much more drawn to painting as an art form, as I felt freer to express my own ideas that way instead of working with clients’ commissions, so I became a fine artist.
What was the first artwork you ever made? Can you remember?
I was very much into Swedish children's author Astrid Lindgren’s characters as a child and the first thing I remember drawing was Pippi Longstocking and her horse, I must have been about three at the time.
Who are your favourite artists?
Tell me a bit about the process you use to create your work. What are the inspirations and visions behind it?
I don’t work with found imagery, so all the paintings I make are based on real places that I have visited and documented. I am very influenced by my Scandinavian heritage and the Scandinavian landscape, coupled with research into analytical psychology, existentialist fiction and utopian/dystopian science fiction. Previously, I would have made a couple of research trips to Sweden each year to collect ideas and materials for new artworks, but earlier this year I was on a two-month residency at the Nordic Artists’ Centre Dale, Norway, it’s located in a small fjord community and is funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Culture, so now I’m also making work based on research I did while there.
What do you love most about art & making art?
I love the freedom of being able to express myself through painting and other media that I choose myself depending on what I want to convey and how. I like when the struggle to make something pays off and you recognise how you’re constantly improving and learning. To do things like go on a paid residency or get funded to make work is a fantastic thing whenever that happens, and makes you feel that what you do is being supported and validated and that really means a lot.
Give us a quick one or line about your studio space - what do you love about it?
I love the location, it’s in the centre of Galway City so I’m close to everything, and it’s got enough wall space to work on several pieces at once as well as a reading chair and a storage closet.
What’s playing in your studio right now?
Good painting music for me right now is The War on Drugs - Lost in a Dream, Slowdive - Just for a Day and the latest Wye Oak album. I also love radio documentaries, there are some great ones on the Swedish national radio website, but they’re in Swedish though…
What’s the most important object in your studio?
It’s definitely got to be my filter coffee maker, I need coffee to function properly and make up a flask to last me through the afternoon.