“In Sweden we always put a line between two names as that would be one; So, my name is Anna- Maria.”
“An egg or a seed is the beginning of all life. - A new life is the greatest love you can give the world.” Through a golden egg painted upon pages of the bible, Anna-Maria’s subtle conceptual depiction of creation and new beginnings can be easily overlooked. The writings of the old religious texts glimpse ever so slightly from underneath the rich textures imparted by their creases and the layers of paint laid on top of them. The crisp gold that demarcates the egg is enveloped by grades of saturated hues.
© Anna Maria Johansson
The golden egg has historically held its religious reference as a symbol of fertility, resurrection, and eternal life. Just like the cosmogonies of several proto- Indo- European cultures, in ancient Egypt, an egg was considered to be the origin of the world. In several cultures, the world has been believed to have begun when a “world egg hatched” and the universe came into existence. Depicting it as a standalone motif in the center of the canvas, Anna-Maria Johansson directs our undivided attention to it. The golden color represents that what is nestled inside the egg- the life bringing, nourishing yolk that is cocooned inside the hard crack- able shell. The appearance that the grooves and folds of pasted texts impart, remind one of opening eggs
Anna-Maria practices that what is called as “Vedic Art”, a term introduced by the Swedish artist Curt Källman who developed the same from the teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s "The Seventeen Vedic Principles of Art and Life". This practice allows her to create works that are free of any judgement. Her practice includes works that reinterpret other natural elements such as leaves and flowers.
In an interview with the Swedish artist, here’s what she had to say-
How did your journey into art begin?
I had not painted before; I was 50 years old when I started painting. I was in a crisis and I thought that life was not worth living any longer. Then, one summer I thought that I would like to paint. I went for a course in Vedic art and my life went a whole other way. I got meaning to life, I would say, because of the art.
Can you Define Vedic art and the aesthetics of your work?
Vedic art is a method where you focus what is inside yourself. There is nothing right or wrong. You will follow your impulse and nothing and no one can say that what you have created or made is wrong. It flows feel and builds up your soul, you feel very strong. I can say this for myself- I feel very strong, calm and pleased with life. I have always been a creative. I have worked with textile and ceramic. But, when I started painting, I felt that it was the right medium. It’s all about Vedic art, because you find yourself in your art- you could call it a therapy! It’s very important so that I can feel well.
Why are eggs the recurring motif in your work?
When I create my eggs, it starts when I visit the studio of the female artist Herta Hillfons. Her sculptures were famous all over the world. She is dead now, but she used gold, black and blue very much and I got inspired. When I visited her studio, it came to me that I should create eggs. To me, the egg is the beginning of all life and I always go back to create egg whenever I find that life is difficult, hard and you are deep down in your black hole. I use sides from the older Holy Bible and fit them on canvas with glue to form it into a different structure. Then I paint three or four layers of paint on top of it. I always have some seeds from dried flowers in these eggs as well. For me, this is a like a spirit’s message, because to me, the eggs and the seeds are always the beginning of a new life.
You use a variety of natural materials and references; how do they contribute to your practice to make the work a comprehensive whole?
My thinking, creativity and job is like a process. I can feel if a painting is not ready. I use seeds, bulgur, flowers and grass. I like it when it is unusual, I always like to be a bit different. I look around me, I don’t like to be like all other people. I think, that’s why I use other material in my art too. I always follow my impulse.
© Anna Maria Johansson
Which artists inspire you?
Biggest inspiration is Hilma Af Klint. I am so excited by her work. Whenever I see some movies about her or read some books on her, I feel that she was a little bit like me. I always go my own way, and so did she. She is a great inspiration for me. Even Herta Hillfons. I look more at female artist’s works, I don’t know, maybe they have a more exciting feeling in their art. In the art world, there are many big male artists, so maybe I am being a bit of a feminist.
Which is the most cherished painting you have ever created?
That painting is the front page of my website. I am very pleased with it. It means a lot me. That painting has opened a lot of ways in my art and my career. People in art galleries have asked me for exhibitions after seeing this painting. I also have another abstract painting which is older that I cherish.
How have you spent your time during this Pandemic?
In the beginning I did nothing as I felt that it was a lockdown, and nothing was happening. But it gave me time to think about what is important to me in life. I had been in Stockholm for the past 16 years, but I thought about it, I moved back to my island Gotland. Now that I am here, I am very pleased and feel calm. I have never sold so many painting before corona times as I have in 2020. I think people need art; they need something beautiful to look at. They need a greater thing in life, another way and they can find it in art. That’s why I think I have sold so many paintings last year. People can feel the love that I put into my work.
Which would be the most ideal space to exhibit your work at? Maybe New York?
Yes, I want to exhibit my art in New York. It was planned that I will be in ArtExpo New York in April 2020 but because of the lockdown it got rescheduled to April 2021. I don’t know if it will go that way. But, it would be amazing to exhibit my art in New York!