February 28, 2019

A studio visit with Truls Mårtensson

"For me, it started with me drawing a portrait of the Marlboro Man. I found something both stylish and sad about those images."

Words Tea Falk

Photos Frida Vega Salomonsson

I met with Truls Mårtensson at his school, Nyckelviken, in Stockholm a late afternoon in february after obsessing over his ceramics on Instagram, @ snake_b00t. I fell in love with the humorous and relatable expressions, the small cowboy boots and big vases and felt too curios to not find out more about the person behind it all.

TF

Tell me about yourself and and how it came about that you started to make ceramics?

TM

Currently I reside in Stockholm where I’m going to an art school, trying to be an artist and find good energy wherever I can.

I started making ceramics two years ago while living and studying in Los Angeles. The art department at UCLA is amazing, and when the chance to take a beginner’s course in sculptural ceramics came up, I grabbed it out of pure curiosity. Until then I had not really considered myself as creative, but being in that environment — in California amongst a lot of inspiring, encouraging people — made me think differently about myself. Coming home I was a bit lost, but I took up ceramics again in Sweden after 6 months and have continued since.

TF

Have your changed image of yourself and your creativity made you become more creative on other levels as well, besides the ceramics?

TM

It definitely made me venture into other artistic expressions. Just after last New Years I found myself in a creative vacuum and in that decided to buy a point and shoot camera and start photographing. Im a still photographing today but it’s mostly documentation and for my own well being. I would recommend everyone to get a cheap second-hand camera and just carry it with them at all times.

TF

What’s your inspiration? For me, your ceramics feels realistic and relatable and free from the assumption that ”ceramics always has to fill a function, and have a purpose of use.”

TM

My inspiration comes from so many things that I don’t really know where to start. First and foremost a lot of it comes from my deep fascination with America and Americana. Secondly, a lot of it comes from popular culture — movies, fashion, and music. There is a lot of immediacy to my work, I think, which might have something to do with the feeling of my work not being an everyday use object but rather telling a story. That and humor is something I want to be influenced by in some way or another.

In current ceramic art I am very excited about three New York based artist: Dean Roper, Diana Rojas, and my dear friend Annie Yang. They are similar and at the same time make very different work. What inspires me is that their work is very direct and has a lot of humor, which is something I strive to have as well.

Last April, when I was back in LA, I came across a retrospective of Dora De Larios, who had recently passed away. Her work will always be a source of inspiration.  

Just recently, I made a series of vases greatly influenced by the movie Electric Horseman by Sidney Pollack from 1979. It has some of the most beautiful costumes I have ever seen in a movie and both Jane Fonda and Robert Redford are incredible.

TF

There is a huge western nostalgia in fashion right now, what is it about cowboys that attract?

TM

The cowboy and American frontier as a narrative vehicle have been present in popular culture for such a long time. They can be the backdrop to Greek tragedies and alien invasions. We have detached the image of the cowboy from its historical counterpart, which has made it timeless. I believe it will be present in everything from fashion to film in some form or another for a very long time.

For me, it started with me drawing a portrait of the Marlboro Man, the figure used in ad campaigns for tobacco from the mid-fifties up until the nineties. I found something both stylish and sad about those images.

In the end, for me the pop-culture image of the cowboy is the epitome of cool. The image of the boot, the hat et cetera is so simple yet so powerful in its communicative ability.

TF

When your in the studio, who do you create your art for?

TM

In the end, I think I am creating for myself. I think I will always be surprised when people show appreciation because my work comes from such a personal space. Then again, I use very commercial imagery that is recognized by many so it might be for everyone. I think it has layers that a lot of people can relate to but also references that are harder to trace… or at least, that is my ambition.

TF

What does the ceramics studio mean to you?

TM

Right now, I share the studio at school, so for me it’s a haven, but a chaotic one. I tend to go into my own zone playing loud music and focus. I would love to have my own space someday, but right now I have to be flexible.