Needle Work

What happens when you ask two artist friends with very different approaches to take part in a joint project? With Slobodan Zivic and Love Dahlstedt, their results for The Forumist were, unsurprisingly, a visual treat

At first glance, combining the work of conceptual visual artist Slobodan Zivic with that of drawing artist Love Dahlstedt may seem an unusual choice, considering their respective output. Zivic is known for his unrestricted work that blurs the lines between commercial pieces and pure art projects. His creative endeavours include directing music videos, creating art installations and designing logotypes for musicians such as Poliça, Icona Pop and Tove Styrke. To say he’s an art director/artist with a broad audience is an understatement, considering the amount of people who must see his work every day, probably without realising it.



Dahlstedt’s background is less commercial and more traditional, even though his art screams more punk rock than Renoir. An alumnus of the prestigious Swedish art schools Konstfack and the Royal Institute of Art, Dahlstedt has the background of a classically trained illustrator. However, his work is anything but conventional. Since his graduation there has been a steady roster of solo and group exhibitions of his work, with his drawings leaving no one unfazed. His black and white illustrations provoke a myriad of emotions, giving the viewer a nostalgic taste of suburban adolescence and the subtle beauty of daily life.

Zivic and Dahlstedt are makers in the true sense of the word: creating and accomplishing art and visual sculpting, infused by inspiration from their surroundings, just to be consumed by their surroundings again. The Forumist spoke to the collaborators and long-time friends about their art and creative processes and how they ended up making collages out of Dahlstedt’s homemade tattoos.



As artists, what would you say is your biggest challenge when working on commercial pieces versus working with your own art projects?

Slobodan Zivic: “The perks you get from an art exhibition are the ultimate validation, but also super self-revealing. Commercial stuff is something else, where you’re in a context of the client, with briefs, processes, lead times, deadlines. I also love that it’s controlled and structured and the opposite of art, where there’s a lot of uncontrolled creative mess and you have to dig into your own consciousness. I like the variation in doing art and commissions.”

Love Dahlstedt: “I don’t really work with commercial pieces. It’s not necessarily because I despise that kind of work, but I just don’t know how to do it, nor visualise someone else’s vision of creative work. It’s sad, because I do love cash.”

The theme of this issue is “makers” and we want to focus on the creative process, skill and craft behind art. What would you say is the biggest misgiving about the role of an artist today?

Love Dahlstedt: “I love that question. I could fill pages with my answer to that question. If I had the motivation, skills and the pay, I could write a book on my answer to that – The Biggest Misgiving of Being an Artist Today by Love Dahlstedt. However, an honest answer to that question would most certainly jeopardise my career as an artist in today’s Sweden, so I’ll have to pass. I’m not ready to let go just yet. The short answer, though – it’s a struggle. That’s a fact.”



How do you ignite a creative process?

Slobodan Zivic: “Without my favourite music it would be hard for me to be able to create. I have music on almost all the time when I work. I also get inspired discussing creativity with friends.”

Love Dahlstedt: “My process is just an ongoing mess of everything. It’s not like it starts at any given point, like when I walk into the studio or when I pick up a pen. I would really love to work with my art like a normal job and be able to not think about accomplishments and artistic value. That said, I am absolutely convinced that one of many important ingredients of being an artist is hard work. Never wait for ‘inspiration’. Never try to come up with something clever as a prerequisite for working. Just work and try to make it simple at first, and if possible, do exactly what you want. There’s no boss in your studio beside yourself.”

What was your initial reaction when The Forumist asked you to team up?

Slobodan Zivic: “Love and I go way back. We are both from the city of Norrköping and we used to do graffiti back then. I suggested Love for the collaboration. His work is great – it’s dark and gloomy. I love the absence of colours and the roughness. There’s also a dose of nostalgic references with some part of humour that I like.”



How did you initiate your project? Did you find it difficult to share the creative process with another creative?

Love Dahlstedt: “To share my ongoing work with another person is almost out of the question. Although Slobodan is a friend of mine, I’m not ready to let him take part in my everyday mess. Not that he would want to, but still. So anyway, when he suggested this collaboration I felt like, ‘Okay. That feels okay. Still difficult and shaky, but okay.’”

Slobodan Zivic: “It went quite smoothly and effectively. I believe it’s because we know each other from before and originate from the same place – in a sense, we think alike.”

Please tell us about the results of your collaboration?

Slobodan Zivic: “A while a go, Love obtained a tattoo machine and started to tattoo all over himself. The tattoos are his own work and some of it associates with his real art. So we thought, ‘Why don’t we take photos of Love’s inked body parts and do a collage of this?’ So Love’s body became the ‘canvas’, where he expressed himself over a period of time. So in this collaborative context he appears as an object. I don’t photograph and I don’t call myself a photographer – this is more a documentation, where the result presents work from a period of time that becomes new material through this collaboration.

“Our intention was to blur the outlines of the body and we chose to work with collages instead of straight-up images. The purpose was simply to gather the tattoos to get more intensity within the result, but also to erase the person and gender. Now there’s a feeling that there’s a group of different people involved, but it is only Love’s body. We added warped forms to create some gap and space between the photos.”

Love Dahlstedt: “I mainly make my own tattoos. They are what they are. I had a period of dark thoughts, and what started as a hobby quickly became like a substitute for cutting my arms with razors. Initially, I had an abstract thought about making a living from tattooing friends, but the business failed because I can’t take requests. Until I realised this, I mainly practised on my feet and legs. It felt nice when Zivic wanted to mix it up with his own work and do so without taking into account what I’ve done or having any opinions regarding my, in many cases, f***ed-up flesh.”;


Words by Camila-Catalina Fernandez

Artwork by Slobodan Zivic, Love Dahlstedt

Photography by Slobodan Zivic