In the 17th century, Jan Davidsz de Heem painted a Still life that I like very much. The painting is now at the National museum in Stockholm and I look at it very often. The bouquet that it shows looks so real. It is really as if the artist had it before him as he painted. However, that I have been told was not the case. Instead the painting is a compilation of sketches. One can for example in it see flowers that do not bloom during the same season. Also, it is apparent that de Heem has used some of the flowers in several other paintings as well. The bouquet that he depicts, hence, has never really existed, rather it is a kind of collage.
My technique is close to the de Heem's, but in addition to painting I also use photos from old books. There are several reasons why I do this instead of just painting my motifs. People tend to think of photos as true depictions of reality. They do so even though they know that one has always been able to cheat with photos. I want to connect to this realistic feeling by combining photographs with painting in my work. The photographs give the pictures a touch of reality that a painter can never accomplish while the painting brings the old school, lo-tech fun into it. Furthermore, by combining photographed and painted motifs in unexpected ways I hope to create a type of magical realism.
De Heem's picture is also filled with a number of symbolic references. Although many of these today have been forgotten, the flowers and animals still have a lot to say about life, love, loss and death. It is my own experience of this painting – its composition and meanings – that has been my point of departure as I have filled this Vanitas-series with my own symbols and associations.