Interview with Alexander Klingspor, an exclusive reprint from the archives of Manner of Man Magazine


Interview with Alexander Klingspor

Image provided by Alexander Klingspor. All rights reserved.


This exclusive interview with painter Alexander Klingspor was conducted by Nicola Linza and Cristoffer Neljesjö in New York during November 2018.


Why did you become a painter, what is your background?

My background is in illustration. For as long as I can remember I always knew I wanted to create art in one form or another. When I was sixteen I decided to become an illustrator. At the time I wasn’t sure what I wanted to say with my art, much less had I found my own “signature style” and what I wanted to express. So illustration made sense to me. At first, I studied with illustrators in Sweden and the US. As I progressed I quickly realized I wanted to paint my own images instead of depicting others stories and concepts. In my early twenties I developed a personal way of expressing my own visions on the canvas - at first very much influenced by the solitary Stockholm winter nights. This was the beginning of my artistic career.


Are there any particular artists of the past or present who have inspired you? If so, who are they?

In the late 1990’s I studied with artists and illustrators John English and his father Mark English in Kansas City, Missouri. I was deeply inspired by them and some of their colleagues like Gary Kelly, an excellent artist/illustrator who also became my teacher. I also discovered the great American painter Edward Hopper during this time. Hopper’s esthetics echoed in the deserted Kansas City downtown, which basically looked like a giant had taken a gorgeous chunk of Manhattan and dropped it in the mid west. At the time nobody was interested in living downtown Kansas City– most people lived the American dream in suburbia, leaving downtown looking just as empty as Edward Hopper’s paintings. Hopper became my big inspiration, and the solitude in his work resonated also with the solitude I experienced working by myself all those long wither nights in Stockholm. To this day Hopper is one of my favorite painters, but over the years I’ve come to love painters like Titian, Rembrandt, Rubens, Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec, and NC Wyeth, to name some of my heroes in art history. I’ve always liked the works of Walton Ford and John Currin. They are contemporary painters who I also find are great artists.


Do you have a preferred medium?

Yes, I prefer the oils above anything else. I enjoy the diversity of the oils and the luminous qualities it offers. For a while I worked in dry pastels, which I enjoy very much, but the nature of the pastel can be quite fragile, and I dislike transporting finished pastel works.


Much of your work seems to be reflecting loneliness and narcissistic profligacy, why do you find these subjects intriguing?

The loneliness comes from the isolation that I as an artist can experience working alone. The narcissistic profligacy is a mere (self) reflection on the self-centeredness people seem to develop in urban environments. We live in a consumerist society - everything is for sale, and almost nothing is sacred.


There are really two different worlds, one that goes on during the day and one at night. Which one do you prefer and why?

For me personally, creativity flows at night and productivity is best at day. From midnight to the earliest hours of the morning I’m able to connect with the dream world if I’m staying up working in my studio. That is when I have the best ideas and feel the most inspired. However, I work better in the daylight, executing the ideas that came to me during the nights I stayed up late. These days I choose carefully when to stay up and come up with new ideas, simply because I have a vivid imagination and so many canvases waiting to be finished.

Could you briefly describe the different phases of a painting from beginning to end?

After an idea or vision has presented itself in my mind, I immediately sketch it into whatever sketchbook is at hand. If the idea holds up to my own criticism, I develop it further by bringing in models, references etc. into the studio. From there the paintings grows, first into a colors study if necessary, and then to the canvas. Many times I paint over certain parts of the painting that I’m not happy with. This somehow gives the painting more life, rather than working out everything in a meticulous sketch or drawing first. I like the painting to tell me what it needs as it grows, and the many layers give it texture and life – it becomes an organic growth process, not an assembly of mechanical parts.


And through the process, are there any psychological revelations; do you learn something new about yourself?

Yes, I’ve learned over and over again that the subconscious is always faster than the intellect. When an idea comes into my mind it does so as a vision. This is kind of like a daydream that hits me like lightning. I then turn the idea/vision into a painting.  It is usually not until much later after the painting is finished that I realize and can formulate in words what the image and narrative in the painting was really about. I’m very fascinated with how my subconscious works in a visual symbolic language.


If you could have your portrait done by anyone, whom would it be and why?

Probably Jesus or Buddha. Not sure they were great painters, but I have so many existential questions I’d like to ask them whilst they’d try to paint my portrait.



The above interview with Alexander Klingspor 2018 © Manner of Man Magazine. All rights reserved. Reproduction is strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher.