Spirit animals and watercolour snapshots

What do you get if you ask an illustrator and a photographer to explore the juxtaposition between human and animal? Or if you ask an artist to capture moments in the modern home inspired by paintings from the 19th century? We talked to Elisabeth about the coming art print collections FUSION and MODERN LARSSON.

When Elisabeth Marttala, Product Design Developer at IKEA, started looking for inspiration for the coming collection FUSION she dove deep into the Scandinavian folklore tradition and artistic depictions life at home. She arrived at the work of Carl Larsson, a 19th Century Swedish artist known for his portraits of family life, and she asked herself what his art would look like if he lived today.

“His most productive years were at the time when people hadn’t begun using cameras. He displayed the family and the everyday life at home, and the paintings were snapshots of his time. It wasn’t common to depict family life this way, he was a pioneer,” says Elisabeth.

FUSION and MODERN LARSSON.

Helena Frank, a Swedish illustrator and print designer based in Denmark, has always been interested in making careful observations of people and the situations they find themselves in. When IKEA asked her to interpret daily family like a modern Carl Larsson, she also took on a new challenge — watercolour — because Helena usually works with pencil.

“I really wanted to involve Helena in this project because she has got an eye for portraits and the dynamic between people. Her illustrations are expressive,” says Elisabeth.

This is the first time Elisabeth Marttala and her team has produced an art collection, and they decided to follow two themes. A modern Carl Larsson was one theme. The other theme was the juxtaposition between human and animal.

“Most of us can identify ourselves with an animal, and in folk mythology we can see that this has always been the case. I wanted to make a connection to that using Scandinavian animals. This idea ultimately led me to connect an illustrator and a photographer,” says Elisabeth.

Elisabeth Marttala.

For photographer Isabell N Wedin it was the first time collaborating with an illustrator, and for illustrator Julia Szulc it was the first time collaborating with a photographer. Together they created portraits paring human and animal, resulting in works that conjure the idea of spirit animals.

“Isabell’s photographs have a dreamlike quality, and I really like her way of working with the tension between human and nature. Julia is really good at capturing the folklore aesthetics in her illustrations and her detailed pencil work makes beautiful animals,” says Elisabeth.

Julia Szulc.

It was important to give Isabell, Julia and Helena a lot of freedom even if Elisabeth worked closely with them throughout the whole process. When it was time to select the final six images for FUSION and MODERN LARSSON, some of them spoke to her immediately.

“I really wanted to continue with the one for MODERN LARSSON where who girls are playing dress-up. Children play similar today as in the 19th  century. I also love the one with friends gathering around the kitchen table with the pizza boxes and two children hiding under the table with a smartphone,” says Elisabeth

Will we see more printed IKEA artwork in the future?

“I would love to see more art. Hopefully, we can build a library of print work in collaboration with talented artists in the future.”

Where in your home do you picture the art in this collection?

“Oh, I would definitely place the work by Isabell and Julia in my living room and the illustrations by Helena in my kitchen … or in the hallway. They work pretty much everywhere!”

FUSION and MODERN LARSSON  will be in stores in October 2019.