Helena Björkman, who never paints without an alcoholic beverage that suits her mood.
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Helena Björkman, who never paints without an alcoholic beverage that suits her mood.

Helena Björkman, who never paints without an alcoholic beverage that suits her mood.

We started Wet City Sprits here in Gothenburg, because besides the rain in Gothenburg we are also surrounded by water. When we started thinking about design for our bottles, we wanted to work with people who understood Gothenburg, a Wet City and the atmospheres it creates.

Our first collaborating partner is Helena Björkman (@thisorthat.art), who’s artwork Lea is featured on our first Gin Ombibulous. She has also created artwork for Gin number two and three, but more on that another day.

This interview was done a week ago, on Helena’s first visit to the Wet City Spirits distillery, to see her artwork on the bottle first hand, and do her first tasting of the Gin Ombibulous while she was here.

What’s your background?

That’s a broad question, but if we’re just referring to my art, I started 2-3 years ago. Really cause I had nothing to do. I also had a lot of ugly paintings on my wall. I bought some colours and started doing my thing. Really just because I wanted to try it out.

What does your work aim to say?

It aims to say that nothing can be anything, or better yet, everything can be something. I have this devotion for just abstract things. I love the idea that myself as an artist, can do “my thing” and you as the observer, can do “your thing”. I do my thing and you can interpret my work any way you like. That’s why I favour abstract art.

How does your work, or does your work, comment on current social or political issues?

Yes, since I use the upcycling concept. That’s the key, I think, to why I started the way I did. I work with sustainability questions every day and I like the fact that I can take something that nobody wants, and make it something that somebody wants.

Who are your biggest influences?

If we’re talking about other artists, I am inspired by Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Helen Frankenthaler and Hilma af Klint. If we broaden the perspective then any alternative artist that takes a concept and does their own thing with it.

How has your career developed from the first painting, to now? Or has it just stayed exactly the same?

I would say my work is the same, but my attitude has changed. So I see more possibilities and I do more with what I got.

How do you seek out opportunities?

I just do. No plan, I just do.

How do you know when a painting is done?

I don’t. It means that sometimes I stop, what I thought initially, was too early. It means that sometimes I’m done with a painting, and then two years later I take it out and finish it. There’s no rules.

How do you navigate the art world? Where do you fit in?

I’m not sure I fit in. I do not have any training, I don’t have set techniques, I don’t know if I’m using the right materials, the right colours. I don’t know what I do, but I aim to do it well.

Which current art world trends are you following?

I’m not the trend following type, I base my own work on my mood, what colours I have, maybe what I saw on the way home from work. It’s the things around me that inspire me, and my current mood. If I’m happy it is mostly colourful, if I’m angry it might be black or if I’m concentrating or focussed I want straight lines or geometrics. Or if I’m a bit messed up for the moment it’s very explosive. So yes it depends on my mood.

Tell us a bit about this collaboration.

This collaboration started with a question from you. And I was thrilled that someone noticed my work. And I thought it would be an awesome platform, both for me, and for you in this, sort-of unique collaboration. And I love alcohol (laughs), and I’m not sure if I should’ve said that out loud, but I do. I am Ombibulous.

So does drinking influence creativity?

I think so. If I think back, I can honestly say that I have never made a painting without having an alcoholic beverage by my side. It’s never the same beverage, but what I have available at that time. As with my paintings, it probably depends on my mood.

Would you rather sell a painting that ends up hanging on a wall, or see it live a different life, such as on a product?

I love the latter. I like both options, of course, but living their own life is more appealing. My painting on a business card is awesome.

How do you think people will respond to the art on the bottle?

I think they would think it is tasteful. Pretty. More appealing. Something that you can buy as a gift, and perhaps something that has a little bit more value, than just the beverage inside of the bottle. It creates a broader concept, I think.

Do you think we picked the right art for the bottles?

For the three flavours and moods of the products, yes. They fit well with the description of the Gins. Even though you’ve only released visuals of the first Gin Ombibulous, I think people will respond well to the other two when they see them.

After all of this, what does the future hold for your art?

(Laughs) If I only knew. I don’t have this, like, worked out plan. I don’t know if I want to sell art, or maybe rent out my pieces or if I want to do wall-pieces. I don’t really know. But all I know is that I love painting, and I ‘m going to take every opportunity to paint as much as I can. And I hope people like it.