August 28, 2020

Moa Romanova & Fredrika Eriksson

A conversation on friendship

Photography + Interview Fredrika Eriksson

Editor Harley Buckley Collins

I met comic artist Moa Romanova for the first time in August last year. She arrived in an Uber, filling my hallway with complaints about shitty printing houses and confused taxi drivers. I immediately fell for her wit and sense of humour as she kicked her pink slippers off and entered my apartment. 

She had brought an oil painting for me to photograph, the cover art of her friend Sarah Klang’s new album, And after we were done she asked if I had time to go grab a coffee with her, I took a quick breath and stifled my work stress.  “Yes”, I lied, and walked out with her into the lukewarm summer afternoon. It didn’t take many minutes of talking over coffee (hers with grotesque amounts of foamy milk) to realize we’d be the bestest of friends in no time. 

A few months later, we find ourselves sitting ruffled up in common Covid-19 quarantine, and talk about ex boyfriends, how her friendships influence her work, and the time she kind of died in Budapest. 

FE

Moa. How would you describe yourself as a friend? 

MR

I’m an Aries which means that I’m playful and clinically insane. I think that makes me a fun friend. I’m not very into romantic relationships, so I put a lot of energy into my friendships. My apartment has an open door policy, so my friends stop by all the time. [For some] It could be to get pumped up before a date, get a shitty tattoo or to stay on my couch for a couple of weeks. I’m also a sad bitch which makes me good at talking about… emotions and stuff. I think that sums me up pretty well. 

FE

What do you think are important qualities in a friend? 

MR

For me, it’s essential to be mischievous and teasing with my friends. It’s my love language and how I express closeness to someone. I can feel right away when I meet someone if we’ll click based on the grade of loving harassment – like when I met you, we started teasing each other almost immediately.

Another important thing, which may sound basic and even odd to say, but a friendship has to be built on a steady foundation on wanting what’s best for each other. I’ve come across some adult friendship where malice has occurred, and there’s just nothing good coming out of that. It’s a human urge to compete with others, but you need to put that on pause when it comes to friends. 

FE

…competing in relation to success and careers, or on a more personal level? 

MR

I think both. Some people get stuck in the way they knew how to be a friend in school, when everything was about hierarchy and competition, and never evolved from that. It’s a part of growing up to only want what’s best for your friends.

Speaking of that, I’m having my grown up year this year where I try to take all decisions from a responsible adult perspective. I have a proper work routine in my atelier, I don’t go out and do stupid things, and I’m so happy to feel that I only have well functioning grown-up relationships with my friends now. 

" ...a friendship has to be built on a steady foundation on wanting what’s best for each other..."

FE

How important are your friends for your work and art? 

MR

Someone asked me this question not too long ago and it really got me thinking. I used to think  “it’s nice that my friends like my comics and enjoy my art” and didn’t really reflect more on the matter. But then I was like, wait a minute… and realized that every artwork I’ve ever done is basically a portrait of a friend, ever since I started painting 10 years ago. My debut book Alltid Fucka Upp (English title: Goblin Girl) is revolving a lot about my friends and our close relationships, and now that I’m making my second book it’s turning out to specifically be about my friendship with Åsa, whom I’ve known basically since we were born. So yeah, when I realized all this it was suddenly crystal clear, that my friends are fucking crucial for my art. 

FE

Have you discovered anything about Åsa’s and your relationship while in the process of your second book? 

MR

I wouldn’t say I’ve discovered anything about our relationship per se, but I’m realizing how hard it is to translate our friendship into something comprehensive and truthful on paper. We’re almost like part siblings and part best friends, so I want to portray the loving and caring part without it becoming too sugar-coated, and the bickering and teasing without it coming across as mean, and at the same time amp it up for the format, always keeping it funny. But it’s a hard balance to find. We’ll see how it turns out. 

FE

I think it’s interesting that readers of Alltid Fucka Upp have very different interpretations of your relationships to your friends. Some have said that it seems dysfunctional. Why do you think it’s not clear to them, that for you it’s the complete opposite? 

MR

It’s very interesting! Everyone who reads my book has a unique way of seeing my relationships with my friends. A couple of interviewers have asked why I have such mean friends, others say it’s nothing but an amazing depiction of friendship. Honestly it’s weird to me that they would come across as dysfunctional. But yeah, maybe the teasing and bickering can seem mean to those who have another love language? I don’t know, what I have in common with my best friends is that we laugh at the same things, often at each other.

FE

If you could pick anyone in the world to be your best friend, who would it be? 

MR

Damn. Tough question. I’ll take Tana Mongeau, Anna Haifisch or… Clas Svahn! 

FE

Do you have a friendship memory you’re extra fond of? 

MR

It will have to be the time me and Åsa were inter-railing in Europe at sixteen years old. It was such a shit show. To make it short: We were stuck in some suburb in Prague, our hotel room got destroyed and someone tried to drug me, so we got on the train to Hungary. While sleeping on the train, Åsa gets robbed, and then we both start feeling like shit. We arrive in Budapest and check in at a shared hostel room with a bunch of super hot Italian football guys, then Åsa starts to throw up all the time and I begin to hallucinate [from] this insanely intense fever. We go to the emergency room where no one speaks English and it turns out my appendix is inflamed and needs to be surgically removed. Åsa is not allowed to stay with me while I’m in surgery, so she wanders out and vomits on the streets of Budapest without any money or phone, due to the robbery earlier. When I finally wake up from the anaesthetic, she’s sitting on my bed, God knows how she found her way back, telling me she found out that she’s pregnant and that’s why she threw up everywhere. We laughed so much about this and the fact that I actually survived the surgery. It was good vibes only. 

FE

On a different note; Many would like to stay friends with their exes but find it too hard. You’re like the boss of staying friends with your exes. How do you do it?

MR

I know, that’s rare! I’m good friends with all of them today. Actually, I think the main reason is that I’ve been with such level headed guys. Like, many of my friends who have ended all communication with their exes is because they turned out to be crazy or mean. If it was a good relationship, you built a strong and safe bond with someone, that still exists underneath the sadness and impacts of a breakup. If you’re capable of dusting that surface off. Of course it wouldn’t happen over a day, it takes time to find each other again on a new level, but it can really work out to say “let’s stay friends”. But yeah, I need to emphasize again that my case has always been level headed guys, no drama, no cheating, etc. etc. When me and my exes have broken up it has always been more or less a common decision, which also eases the situation, no one has been like insanely hurt or heartbroken. 

FE

I think you forgot to mention one friend. How much does your dog Uno mean to you? 

MR

He means everything. It’s fascinating how in our relationship, I need to communicate on a whole different level than with people, I need to show him love in another way. It’s more like caveman communication, like “here, food” and “pat, pat”, and also the importance of expressing encouragement and boundaries. It’s also a lot like being his personal assistant and guardian, which is great for me to challenge my almost non-existing talent for responsibility. This month me and Uno celebrate 3 years together. It’s another kind of friendship that’s as important as any other. 

Speaking of important friendship… Isn’t it weird how we found each other so quick? It’s been a long time since I made a best friend until I met you, it really was love at first sight. From my side anyway, I remember us vibing so hard. 

FE

We definitely did. I felt like being your friend from the first moment. What was your first impression of me? 

MR

Well, that you were such a professional, and provided with your knowledge in the most loving way. And I could tell right away that you have this teasing way about you, that you use the same love language I do. I remember I was in such a hurry, I had to deliver the cover we had just shot in a few hours, but still I lied about having no stress and asked if you wanted to go grab a coffee with me. 

FE

So that means we both lied to each other that we weren’t stressed out about work, so we could hang out a little longer?

MR

That’s fucking adorable. Love ya.