Here’s a composite of two different images from the same afternoon in Bangkok. I had told photojournalist Thomas Engström and his wife Lena about a really funky area near Chinatown called Talad Noi that was literally filled with auto parts and invited them to join me on the tail end of a photo shoot I was doing there with a local model in a ballerina outfit.
I just spent the weekend here in Malmö with four of my oldest friends from High School in Göteborg, just a couple of years after I moved from L.A.
Together with Lars Olemyr, Jonas Bratt, Joakim Eklund and Tommy Sahlin (whom I’ve known since 1975 when I from time to time visited Sweden), we’ve eaten and drunken well and enjoyed a plethora of ancient, yet nonetheless laughter triggering anecdotes as we strolled merrily down memory lane.
In addition to an introductory course to Qigong on the 54th floor of the Turning Torso and a visit to Ribersborgs Kallbadhus (a beautiful, rustic seaside bathhouse and restaurant), we also watched the above video.
Excuse the crappy quality, but for the initiated, this is an epic throwback to when we were cast in Jonas Bratt’s contemporary interpretation of William Shakespeare’s drama, Hamlet (where I play Horatio very badly). Yes, that’s younger me with curly hair holding Hamlet (played by Nicklas Giertta).
There was a time when I was a fairly sought after disc-jockey. For a couple of years, before I grew tired of all the late nights and smoke-filled nightclubs, I toured southern Sweden with two CD cases brimming with what I still consider to be some of the best music ever recorded. Fundamentally, my preferred genre was soul and all the cousins therein – including soothing R&B, Funk and danceable Pop.
Once in while I’ll take on a gig if for no other reason to share my favorite tunes at a bar, restaurant and almost any place where good music is welcome. In about three months, if your in the vicinity of the restaurant above, you’ll likely hear a few delicately chosen tracks by Sam & Dave, Aretha, Marvin, Chaka and Blackness. Stay tuned for date and time.
Naming my art pieces has always been something I enjoy doing. This particular painting’s name comes from a mix of Kafka and actual Niigata koi fish that I saw swimming in a pond in Siem Reap last fall. Some of them were breaching the pond water and splashing about – as if they knew nothing of the gravity pulling them back in to the murky water or how limited their life would be should they succeed at jumping out of the water and onto the finely cut gravel where I stood and studied them.
Early this morning, Elle Ingrid Agnes Raboff, our 18 year old daughter, got her driver’s license with flying colors. That might not seem much of biggie if you’re in the US of A where the local DMV will issue a license without much fuss. But here in Sweden, to get behind the wheel of a car is a pretty big deal with an almost preposterous amount of traffic rules and regulations. Stuff you need to learn for both the theoretical test and then prove you comprehend during the practical examination – which takes place on busy urban streets and even busier highways.
So, Charlotte and I are super happy for Elle. And more importantly, extremely proud of our wonderful daughter!
This is a piece I finished a couple of days ago. It’s an acrylic painting on canvas (100 x 140 cm) where I’ve added elevating structure to the surface and made use of the repetitive window patterns to create an abstract landscape.
I call it the Turning Torso Conundrum to reflect how the building’s asymmetrical form and shape isn’t so easily defined or pigeon-holed. Which in turn is something I can easily relate to.
I shot this self-portrait years ago in my old studio here in Malmö. At that time I was training Kick n’ Box at our local gym and sports center, Kockum Fritid, three times a week.
For reasons unbeknownst to me, the class was discontinued and since I didn’t feel like I wanted to spend the time going to and from a different sports center, I went back to running and working out at our gym, usually Mon-Wed-Fri from 06:00 am to 7:00 am.
This morning, for the first time in about a year, I was back at the gym at 06:00 am and spent about an hour working up a good sweat. Just before I left, I happened to notice that there was a full-size boxing bag hanging in one of the gym’s recently remodeled rooms. I have to admit that I got a little excited when I saw it and went looking for a pair of sparring gloves. With them strapped on, I then spent roughly 15 minutes punching away until my arms felt like they were filled with Jell-O. Going to try to create a balanced training regimen this spring – an equilibrium – that includes gym training, boxing and yoga. And maybe some swimming.
I call this piece “Calatravism”. It’s an abstract collage made from over 30 photographs of the Spanish architect, engineer and sculptor Santiago Calatrava’s skyscraper, Turning Torso located right here in Västra Hamnen. It’s one of my most popular pieces, especially when printed on thick acrylic, like the one hanging right now on display in my new studio.
If I step out of my studio and walk 20 feet to the left, I’ll have the magnificent Turning Torso right in front of me. It’s quite the sight. And where most skyscrapers are often anal-retentively symmetric, towering above us as monuments of our incorrigible hubris as well as physical insignificance, Calatrava’s contribution to Malmö’s skyline has a uniquely asymmetrical, organic, approachable feel to it. Which is likely why I’ve never tired of photographing and interpreting it.
Based on his marble sculpture, “Twisting Torso”, the 190 meter tall building was upon completion in 2005, the world’s first twisted skyscraper and continues to attract visitors from all over the world. I ride my bike past it almost every day and even when it’s pouring down, there’s almost always someone standing in front of the entrance, struggling frenetically to come up with an angle where the entire structure will fit within their smartphone’s screen.
For me, the Turning Torso serves as a consummate reminder, a mnemonic device to keep me bold and daring – and not wait around for things to happen on their own. For an artist, nothing could be more creatively catastrophic than slipping into the role of the passive bystander. Only when I act will there ever be a reaction.
I’ve had a long and amazing relationship with Turing Torso. In late 2014, I was commissioned by HSB Malmö, the cooperative that owns and operates the mostly residential building to produce a coffee table/interview book that would commemorate the 10 year anniversary.
But already back in 1999, just a year or so after moving from Göteborg to Malmö – and way before the skyscraper’s construction began – HSB hired me to shoot footage from several heights of Turning Torso while sitting in a harness of a helicopter.
The transformation that Malmö has gone through over the past two decades is remarkable and certainly noteworthy. Yes, there is still a lot of stuff that needs attention, including the devistatingly high crime rate, thoughtless and therefore mostly unsuccessful attempts at integrating immigrants into society and arguably one of the country’s worst inner-city traffic situations.
But not entirely unlike New Yorkers who live in a city that’s had to redefine itself time and time again, most folks in Malmö feel unapologetically proud of their city. In last week’s interview with a French TV team, I mentioned that it takes time for Malmöites to embrace change. But once they do, it’s nothing less than a love affair with no end.
Speaking of skiing… I’m currently thinking of heading down (and then up) to Zermatt – my favorite alp village bar none – in a few weeks. Though by no means as easy to get to as Chamonix Zermatt has quite a few other benefits that I think by far out-way the logistical demands. And if you’re lucky, the train ride’s last hour, when it makes its ascend to Zermatt, is spectacularly beautiful.
The village itself is quaint, cozy and quiet as only electric mini-buses are allowed on the streets. Especially gorgeous are the ancient buildings know as “Hinterdorf” (rear village) with 30 or so traditionally constructed wooden barns and stables from the 16th and 18th centuries.
The slopes below the majestic Matterhorn are as one might expect in Switzerland, well-maintained and, more importantly, the mountains surrounding Zermatt with Monte Rosa being the highest, offer an almost infinite amount of off-piste options.
Now, given this isn’t exactly a budget-friendly destination. Zermatt is tucked away way up at 1600 meters, so you’ll unavoidably be paying more for the secluded location itself, and it’s still considered one of the alp’s most exclusive ski resorts. Not as exclusive as, say, Gstaad, but not far off. Still, I wouldn’t say that Zermatt is ridiculously expensive. Fact is, I’ve eaten, of all things, a few sushi meals there which were both well-made and reasonably priced.
It’s about this time of year when I start remembering what it was like to take the train or fly up to Lapland and start a new ski season at Hotel Riksgränsen.
As the train from Kiruna would pull away from the very last stop before the route’s final destination in Narvik (Norway), an almost eery silence would ensue. Only the muted sound of snow being compressed under my boots could be heard as I walked towards the hotel from the station. As soon as I passed under the railway tunnel, I’d turn left towards the small cluster of staff houses spread out at the foot of the mountain – one of which would be my home for the better part of the next five months.
This is the train station in Chamonix from last year’s visit for www.airlinestaffrates.com