UTBURD – An Illustrated Short Story

It has been a while since I was posting here last, but MostNorthern has been on my mind every. single. day. I have something big coming up here on the blog, which I’ll tell you about in more detail once I’m done talking about UTBURD.

You may remember a while ago I interviewed Italian artist Alessia Brusco AKA Skogens Rymd. Well, shortly after that interview, I had an idea that we should collaborate on a book together.

So, I sent Alessia a short story about a mother in olden times Scandinavia who abandons her newborn in the forest, as was often done in the cold north when families were destitute. And hardly any time passes, before she returns to me these most extraordinary paintings that work so in harmony with the tone of the tale. You can see a few here…

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So, if you’re partial to some Scandinavian folk horror, you may enjoy our little book. It’s available on Amazon as a paperback for £8 and for those of you who like to go paperless, it’s on Etsy as a PDF version for £2.

As I mentioned before, there’s something big going to happen on the blog, and by that I mean for the whole of December, I will be documenting about what it’s really like as an expat living in Sweden.

You can expect to see what we have in the fridge, what it’s like hiking with a baby in the winter forest and, of course, what happens at Jul time. I hope you’ll come by and see for yourself!

 

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A Conversation With Artist Alessia Brusco

The best types of Instagram accounts are the ones that leave you feeling better for encountering them. That leave you feeling as though, actually, life is good, and there are decent people out there doing brilliant things. One such precious account is that of  Italian artist Alessia Brusco AKA Skogens Rymd.

Although she’s an expat in Sweden, Alessia illustrates the north as though she’s never spent a day away from the deep woods and wide skies.

MostNorthern caught up with Alessia to get to know the woman behind the art. We talk about her career as an artist, her infatuation for the aurora borealis, and her experience taking Scandinavian Studies.

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Hello Alessia! Would you mind telling MostNorthern’s readers a little bit about yourself, where you’re from and where you’re based at the moment?

Hey Katie and thanks a lot for your appreciation and your questions! I was born in north-west Italy, in a region between sea and mountains called Liguria. I lived there all my life and studied at the University in Genova.

It’s two years now I’ve been living with my boyfriend, Martin, in Skåne, southern Sweden, in a small village in the middle of  a beautiful countryside landscape.

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When I first saw your art on Instagram, it was obsession at first sight. I was gobsmacked when I found out you’re entirely self-taught. When and why did you first start to create art inspired by the north, and how long were you painting before you decided to share it with the world?

Yes, I’m self-taught and I’ve always liked to draw: when I was a little girl, I enjoyed to reproduce Disney´s characters and to draw clothes! When I was 14 and I had to decide for the high school, unlucky the art school was too far from were I lived and I chose to go to a school were I studied Latin, Greek, History, Literature and so on. I left my passion for art but sometimes I kept on drawing small things, like copying black metal bands´logos or covers.

I started to paint on Christmas´eve 2015 being home alone with my mom. I didn’t have nothing else to do and the day before I bought two canvas and some colours just for fun. I’ve always liked the north and I had already travelled there before.

I think I showed my first paintings just some weeks after I did them, receiving at once a very good response, not expected and super appreciated!

Can you tell us about the meaning behind Skogens Rymd?

This name has a double meaning: literally means ”the space of the forest.” It was actually my boyfriend to create the name for me and it suits perfectly: it refers to the connection between earth and woods with the night sky and cosmos, but it’s also thought to be the actual room covered by woods and nature.

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I can really feel, through your paintings and the way that you talk about Scandinavia, the love affair that you have with this part of the world. When did this passion first start to develop and how did you feed it? Did you always know that you would end up living in the north?

I think that it really started when around 12 years old I discovered Tolkien´s universe. Soon after it I started to read about Nordic mythology, fairytales (also from other places in Europe) and began to study a little of Norwegian language by myself, using lyrics from my favourite songs.

I could not imagine to actually live here but I think I’ve always wished for it.

You have this inspiring infatuation with the aurora borealis. What draws you to this phenomenon? Have you had the chance to experience it in real life?

Unluckily I’ve never seen an aurora in real life but I feel very fascinated by it and have been since I was little. I think it´s so elegant, majestic and mystical. I really would like to experience it not only for the visual part but also for the sounds they say you can hear!

How long does it tend to take to finish an art piece? Do you work on multiple pieces at the same time?

I’m not able to work on more pieces at the same time even if it happened that I stopped a work and took it again after some days, but it happens only for commissions. When I paint something from my own mind, I usually want and need to finish it the same evening I start. I usually work on evenings or nights and I can go on until 4 or 5 in the morning just to finish. But usually for small pieces it takes only 1 or 2 hours to be done, but still it takes a lot of energy for me.

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How would you describe your ideal working environment? Do you listen to music or prefer silence? Do you need daylight to create, or do you choose to work at night?

I like darkness to paint. Even when I studied, I preferred to do it in the evening or night, I can´t concentrate during the day. It can differ about music or silence: I can paint with my favorite music, a movie, a series or a TV program from the PC or just sitting and listening to my boyfriend playing video games, alone or with his friends.

I’m not bothered by other people speaking but I want to have my physical space on a big table in the living room or sometimes in the kitchen. Nowadays I got a hamster and his cage is on the table with me (and the dog at my feet).

On your website, you talk of having taken Scandinavian Studies in Italy. I’m intrigued about what aspects of Scandinavian culture your studies were focused on. Could you talk a little about your experience and what you got from it?

After I graduated in Medieval Literature and History in Genova, I really wanted to start a new degree in Scandinavian Studies so, under almost three years, I took classes in Swedish language and Scandinavian Literatures reading the translations of Swedish, Norwegian, Icelandic and Danish literary works. Moreover we studied the history and culture of those countries.

I surely got a lot of info from my classes but of course the most about Swedish language, I’ve learnt living here.

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You’re extremely well read when it comes to Swedish folklore and fairytales and if you were to recommend a folk tale/fairytale, which one would it be?

Something from the collection of Hyltén-Cavallius.

One of your series of paintings is inspired by Swedish folkloric creatures. Which creature would you say intrigues you the most?

I think it´s Älvorna, the fairies who dance in the mist. When there´s fog on the meadows it is said that ”the fairies are dancing.” I love the concept and I find it very suitable for my art.

One of the series of my paintings it´s called De Underjordiske, and it refers to small creatures, sometimes identified also as trolls, who live in the underground and they are invisible to the humans. Sometimes, at dusk, once can see a light on the hills, and that means that they left a door open. I like this concept so much as well.

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What’s the furthest north you’ve ever been, and is there anywhere on your bucket list that you’re aching to visit?

I think the furthest north have been in Dalarna (Dalecarlia, Sweden) and somewhere south of Bergen in Norway. I really would like to visit Norrland and Iceland but also Siberia, speaking only about northern countries.

You have over 8,000 followers on Instagram. How does it feel that so many people are drawn to your art, and do you find that your interaction with followers helps motivate you to create more?

I really think it´s amazing that so many nice and kind people like my art. I could not imagine it and I feel grateful every time I think about it. When I read all your comments then, I really go super happy and many times this has given me the strength to keep on in what I´m doing!

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Swedish artist John Bauer is one of your biggest artistic inspirations. How did you first discover his art and what are some of your favourite Bauer pieces?

I discovered his art randomly on the web: the first piece I saw what Tuvstarr riding the moose in the moonlight. It was love at first sight but I could not find anything in Italy about him.

I bought a book when I finally traveled to Sweden some years after and now I´m actually working on the translation of the fairytales illustrated by him in the beginning of 1900. The book is going to have an introduction about the artist, his life and style and so on to be able to give the Italian public an idea of his wonderful art and works.

I think that my favourite works include paintings from Tuvstarr, Svanhamnen and När trollmor skötte kungens storbyk.

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Norwegian artist Theodore Kittelsen is another of your muses. How did you first encounter his work? Do you have some favourite pieces of his that you would care to share?

Yes, he absolutely is! I discovered him much before Bauer, always on the web and thanks to metal music. I love everything from him but now, if I’m going to pick one is the jumping squirrels from a snowy tree. Of course all the trolls and the creatures and the drawing with the moose are favourites as well!

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As well as taking inspiration from the work of Bauer and Kittelsen, it appears you also find inspiration from music, in particular the Norwegian band Ulver. I’d love to know more about the series of paintings inspired by their album Bergtatt.

Bergtatt is my favourite albums of all times, I never go tired to listen to it and it gives me always the same fantastic feelings.

My series of paintings Blandt disse mørcke Graner is meant to be in honour of Ulver´s first works, a way to ”thank them” for the inspiration they gave me.

You’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with a number of bands. How has this experience been? Is there any band or fellow creatives you would love to work with in the future?

It has been unexpected and fantastic! And thank to it, I had the opportunity to know more bands and talented musical artists!

I´m very happy with my collaborations but if I have to dream, I would like to make a cover for the band Otyg.

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Are you a full-time artist or do you need to hold down another job to put bread on the table?

I work some small jobs to be able to earn more: for example I take dogs for walks and recently I worked for some months for a dog breeder taking care of the puppies and their mums. One of the best experience of my life that I will do again in some months.

In your opinion, what draws people to the north?

The idea of wilderness, the connection to some kind of spirituality and the wonderful mythology.

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Do you have any favourite influencers inspired by the north that you would like to tell us about?

I´m not very inspired by nowadays stuff, I don’t follow any trends (maybe I did when I was younger but not anymore) so I don´t actually know. I mostly like past things, cultures and art.

Can you reveal what you have lined up in the coming months?

Of course! Soon, in august, I will have an exhibition here in Skåne where I will show some of my watercolours. At the end of October I will be in Stockholm for a three days exhibition and there will be other shows next year.

I hope to have time and energy to work on bigger pieces.

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Finally, in three words what does ‘North’ mean for you?

Nature, Thule, Freedom.

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