Joakim Flash T.S. Bergström is a Swedish landscape painter. He is currently doing the Residency at the Barcelona Academy of Art and teaches landscape painting at the Academy during the Spring Term and the Landscape workshop in the Summer.


Why did you decide to do this residency? What were you doing before the Residency?

I’m from Sweden but before I came here I was living in Norway, painting and living as an artist. I wanted to come here to Barcelona since my girlfriend is studying here and then I found out that it was possible to do the Residency just for a few months. I thought it would be good to do the Residency because I can work on what I want and, at the same time, get marketing classes, get critiques from BAA teachers and get to know other artists more personally in an environment I don’t really have in Norway. I also really love Sorolla so it was logical to come to Spain and Catalonia to try and understand his work better.

Tell us about your current concept and ideas. What do you hope to achieve during the residency?

I’m mainly here to explore the landscape. I’m exploring different atmospheres and colors and learning a lot in order to expand my horizons. My current concept is just being in nature and painting that experience. I believe that we are all a unity, all humans and all nature, we’re all together just a part of the universe and so I want to push my painting when experiencing that.

I painted a lot of landscapes and portraits of people before but rarely together and that that is something I would like to pursue in a more elaborate manner now. I want to paint the figure in the landscape in order to make my idea clearer to people. When people look at my work I’d like them to see this idea that we are connected with nature and so I plan to link the two more and put humans in the wilderness. It’s also been useful to be in the Residency in order to study the figure since all residents are welcome to join in the Human Figure classes at the BAA and draw or paint for a day, to make use of the models that are here.

What’s your work process like?

It depends. I think it’s different every time I go out and paint. I do a lot of preparation because I prefer to go out for several days. I walk a lot and paint for three or four days while living in a tent and just being in nature. Naturally, I need to plan a lot before I do these types of expeditions and that’s all part of my process.

When it comes to the painting part, my process is just finding something that I feel a connection with or that I’m attracted to and then I just figure it out. I always try to bring in things that I’ve learnt, like how to think about composition and how to think about light. I think about what it is that interests me in this picture, whether it is the huge mountain or the lighting of the mountain or the arrangement of the composition. Hopefully, I’ll also stumble across things where I can get all of that in the picture, so that I love composition, the light and the motif together then it’s just starting to paint.

How do you see your work before compared to now?

Different. It’s not a huge difference, it’s still landscape and I’m still using the same colors on my palette but I’m definitely now pushing color more. I think it’s because I’m seeing colors that I don’t really see in Norway. Everything is really blue in Norway for example, because I’m painting fjords, which is the ocean and the mountains right next to it, which are also blue and I’m painting the snow, which is blue at least in the shadows. But here there are crazy colors in the earth – sometimes I find myself putting pure cadmium yellow and a bit of ochre in places and it works. I would never have thought that would work. I think these discoveries with color have changed my work and I’m actually excited about going back to Norway and seeing how my landscapes will look now! I think it will be very different.

What is the most unexpected or surprising thing that you’ve learnt or discovered while doing the Residency?

How much time you have to put into everything other than painting as well in order to work as a professional artist. I’ve learnt this from the marketing team in the Residency and it feels like a full time job being on social media if you want to get exposure. Social media can be so important although it doesn’t have to be, there are other ways to do it. I’ve been surprised by how much I can get out of actually being active on social media but I was also surprised how much time you have to actually spend doing it.

What first inspired you to take up art?

Wow, I’ve never thought about that. I wish I could say that there was a painting or something but I think it has a lot to do with the combination of wanting to do it out of love, the love for creating, in combination with being encouraged to do it. I was always encouraged by my mother and my uncle. I remember when I was about five and I started taking some art classes in the public library so it has been a part of my life since I was young.

What contemporary artists do you look up to? And are there any classical artists you are inspired by?

For contemporary painters, there’s Marc Delassio. He was someone that I was amazed by and really looked up to. I started painting landscapes basically after seeing his work. I’m also really inspired by Judson Monroe. He used to be an art history lecturer in the Florence Academy and he’s also a portable painter in the sense that he paints anything with a portable kit. He’s really inspiring and has very strong compositions and you can see that he just loves to paint more than probably anything. He’s really cool and very enthusiastic.

In terms of classical painters, naturally since I’m from Sweden I think Anders Zorn is amazing and he paints figures in the outdoors. There’s Sorolla as well and he also paints figures outdoors. I think those two would be the main classical painters that have inspired me.

Do you have any other key inspirations?

Nature, definitely. Just going into the grandness of wilderness, sometimes it is overwhelming and I’ve even encountered spiritual experiences from just being away from everything for a few days. It’s kind of strange as well because we’re a social animal naturally and you really feel that when you’re alone. I used to have trouble finding inspiration, and used to think “I’m not inspired now so I can’t paint” but when I started landscapes I just realized that I just have to go out and I’ll find something that inspires me. Nature is a constant source of creativity.

What are your plans for the future?

In the near future, I’m going into the Pyrenees to paint bigger paintings and portraits, portraits in the landscape.

In the long term, I plan to go back to Norway and run more landscape courses, and just keep on painting.

Is there a random object that you always have in your studio?

Alcohol-free beer. I have one with me almost every time I paint, whether outside or in the studio.

If you could own one painting what would it be?

I think that’s pretty impossible to answer but there’s one that would be amazing to own. I can’t remember the name of it but it’s a Zorn painting and there’s two women sitting on a cliff side around sunset more or less, it’s in the Swedish summer so it’s sunset for around five hours. It is in the Gothenburg Museum and it’s big, very big. It’s just amazing, when I saw it I did about ten sketches of it because I was so fascinated by it and by the size of it. I love big paintings.

Follow Flash’s plein-air adventures on his Youtube channel and on Instagram @jogsflash