Swedish Painter and Sculptor Richard Winkler Expounds His Art

GARDEN OF EDEN. As one of this year’s participant of Art Jakarta, DA MAN catches up with Richard Winkler to talk about the inspiration behind his artwork, his influences and more

Richard Winkler

In Richard Winkler’s world of paintings and sculptures, ideas are born out of his fascination of the human body, soul and nature. Together, these elements has created his own “Garden of Eden”—a place “where nature and man were most alive in a strong, wild and passionate climate,” as the artist described it himself. DA MAN had the opportunity to chat with Winkler—a long time participant of the Art Jakarta fair, including this year’s—about the depths behind his artwork.

Colors of the Fruitful Land, 145×200 cm, 2017, Oil on Canvas

DAMAN: What is the idea behind your painting and sculpture at this year’s Art Jakarta?

Richard Winkler: My creativity is all based on a daily “flow”. I don’t really work with conceptual ideas or plan out too much about what I am going to create. My aim is to be spontaneous and follow whatever my subconscious will present to me. I work more or less every day from morning to evening. But because sometimes one painting takes about a month to finish, I don’t produce a large number of works every year. Nowadays it seems like it actually takes longer and longer to finish a painting. I believe with age I become more and more particular and critical about my own work. You pay more attention to details and you want something more than yesterday.

This year’s works are a bit more detailed and I have used a lot of warm colors. But I have tried to keep the color intensity down a bit. Some works are more monochromatic staying within a color tone.

I never really think in words when I create. I use my intuition and feeling. It’s almost like creating a visual music. You feel it when it’s good or not. I don’t analyze too much what I’m creating. What’s important to me is a continuous flow of creation.

Fruits of a Successful Harvest, 190×140 cm, 2017, Oil on Canvas

DAMAN: Your artwork often illustrates images of a distorted human body, juxtaposed with a background depicting nature, can you tell us how both these ideas come about, and how they work together as one?

Richard Winkler: Ever since at a young age, I was always fascinated by plants, flowers and nature. I spent a lot of time playing in a wild and beautiful garden close to my childhood home. The area was full of wonderful fruit trees and unusual flowers. It was beautiful, fascinating and sometimes a little bit scary too. But we loved to play there. It was kind of a Garden of Eden to me and my friends. We played there all year around. Summertime it was all green and lush, and winter was all full of snow. It was an awesome and really exciting place for children to play.
At the same time during my childhood I had to do several surgeries and spent quite some time with doctors and in hospitals due to a bone problem I was suffering from. I did many surgeries with bone corrections. It was sometimes a painful time. But it all made me very aware of the human body and soul, and created a fascination for the relationship between the two.

When I was in my garden I was free and happy. I planted seeds at home and watched them grow into wonderful plants which produced stunning flowers and seeds. Those seeds were grown to new plants. There was a Circle of Life. And the whole process was very beautiful to me. Not seldom without some pain and struggle, but as a whole beautiful and holy. Life was not to be taken for granted, it was something we had to nurture, appreciate and to be humble about.

When I went to art school I loved to draw after life models. Again, I was fascinated by the lines and curves of the human body. I started to play with the forms. They became abstracted, stretched and twisted around, but still always kept an organic form and feel to it.

During my art school time I made my first trip to the tropics. I went to Sri Lanka where I discovered a real tropical paradise full of beautiful trees, plants, fruits, colors and amazing sceneries. There was my Garden of Eden for real, where nature and man were most alive in a strong, wild and passionate climate.

A Dream in the Garden
Detail of Sculpture

DAMAN: Who would you say is your biggest influence?

Richard Winkler: I have had many influences and inspirations of artists, designers and illustrators throughout my career. When you are young you go through many of them, absorbing knowledge and ideas. But as you grow as an artist eventually all of it come together and you develop your own identity and language of expression.

But I have to say that my biggest and earliest inspiration and influence was my Grandfather. He was a great artist and loved to sit down with me to draw together. He never had the opportunity to become a professional artist, even though that was one of his dreams. I admired him very much and he meant a lot to me. I always wanted to be like him.

My Grandfather also loved nature and used to take me out for walks in the forest teaching me about plants and animals. He was truly my biggest influence and inspiration.

Vermillion Morning, 200×145 cm, 2018, Oil on Canvas

DAMAN: Essentially, is there a message, or a feeling that you hope to arise from observers?

Richard Winkler: I want to remind people to see and appreciate the beauty of life and everything around us. The journey of life itself can sometimes be hard and difficult, unfair and painful. My works should be a window to dream away in our thoughts and feelings. Many of us dream about the Garden of Eden, a paradise, or some other place somewhere else than were we actually are at the moment in our lives. I believe this place is somewhere in our mind rather than in an actual physical place.

When people see my works, I want them to forget about their own life for a moment. Stop, watch, feel and dream for a little while.

Drawing on paper

DAMAN: When you’re beginning an artwork, where do you routinely start?

Richard Winkler: Technically my working process is slow and consumes lots of time and patience. I often spend one month and sometimes more on one painting. Usually the work begins with lose and diffuse sketching straight onto the canvas with charcoal. Slowly I build up the picture and the composition with a drawing, which become more and more defined. Once I have composed all the elements, I start the painting itself. The paint is applied in many layers slowly building up the three-dimensional forms with light and shade. It is a time-consuming technique, which requires lots of patience, a steady hand and a clear mind. Focus and discipline is crucial.

Drawing on paper

DAMAN: Does the original plan of your artwork usually translates differently from the end product?

Richard Winkler: In the beginning during the sketch and drawing phase the picture can change a lot from the original idea or what I had in mind for the work. I can sometimes work for hours sketching and drawing, and in the end just erase all and start from the very beginning.

Once the drawing is set there’s not too much changes in the composition anymore. The changes will instead be in the colors. But also, once I have set the color tone, the paintings progress naturally and by itself.

Drawing on paper

DAMAN: What would you say is the hardest part on developing your artwork?

Richard Winkler: Once you have found your own voice and language for your expression, your work finds its own natural “flow”. Your work becomes an extension of yourself, your voice, your song and melody. It becomes you.

I believe the work develops with your own character and life. Slowly and a little bit every day, just like ourselves. I never aim for dramatic changes or something completely new. I am not there to shock or to shake you around, or to provoke. I want to give the audience a dream, a feeling and an ambience, a kind of visual music to enjoy.

Lately I have started to travel a little bit more. Trying to find more time to absorb new places, people and ideas. The most important thing to find new ideas and inspiration is to do nothing, to just daydream, let the mind wander. But it can sometimes be hard to find that window of time and space to do so nowadays. But I have promised myself to try to find more of that.

Life of the Farmer, 190×140 cm, 2017, Oil on Canvas

DAMAN: In your own words, what does art mean to you?

Richard Winkler: Art can be and mean so many different things to so many people. For me, to create art is necessary to live. It’s like air for my lungs. Since I was a young boy I always had to create something with my hands. If not, I would feel unfulfilled and unhappy, almost like empty.

And when I see art it has to touch me and grab me emotionally. It has to seduce me. I love shapes, forms and colors. Anything visual that attracts me. And I find it everywhere in objects, nature, trees, plants and the human body.

Blue Boys from the River

DAMAN: Finally, what can we expect from you in the future, are there any other materials or medium that you want to experiment with to create your art?

Richard Winkler: What to expect in the future I believe nobody really knows… I don’t know either what will come out of me tomorrow. But sometimes I can feel that there’s something waiting around the corner, something that needs to come out. It usually starts almost with like an abstract feeling that can hang around for quite some time. But what, and if anything eventually will come out of that I don’t know. I can’t really put my finger on it yet…but I see black and white, I see lines and simplicity…..but what it means for tomorrow, I don’t really know.


Interview by RICKY RONALDO