Meline H​öijer Schou

I came across Meline and her work by browsing Instagram. Initially, I couldn’t grasp what was going on. Looking at art is incredible, but understanding it is even more so. I was a bit overwhelmed, which naturally meant I had to get to know this artist. After studying her work and speaking with her—I’ve become more intrigued with every bit of information I receive.

There’s so much in what you create; the things you capture. I have researched your website through and through and need to know more! I really admire yourwork.
Your internet presence is minimal. I know, personally, it gets difficult to determine how much social media is necessary, if any at all. What are your thoughts on social media to promote artwork?
Thank you, it warms my heart. Very much so.

Regarding social media and my lack of appearance…I wouldn’t call myself techniquely hostile exactly, but I’m just not awestruck by new ways of getting in touch. I find the old ones sufficient, even though I have put some effort into adapting. I still find that handwritten letters are among the most respectful and adorable of things. I’m still able to set up a meeting seven years from now, at a particular spot during l’heure bleue, and remember it and be there.The Instagram account is not personal but rather a practical window where I can display my work. Nothing else. Amongst my followers there’s only three people who know me, and they found out by chance, which annoyed the hell out of me at first. As a way to display artwork it’s truly effective and wonderful since it can lead to fine moments like our conversation.Where did you grow up?
I grew up as a bona fide working class kid in a high rise building in a small town named Karlskoga, Sweden (Charleswood in English). A very Twin Peak-ish town surrounded by wide spread pine forests. Three things defined the town – hockey, a saw mill and a huge weapon factory with the name Bofors, founded by Alfred Nobel (as in the Nobel Peace Prize.) When the town celebrated 400 years, they put on a hell of a show with fireworks (that actually were light grenades which lit up kilometres after kilometres) and some huge sculpture that was to be revealed. Well let’s just say that the investment in monumental art in my hometown showed to be a gigantic 11 foot canon from a war ship.How did you feel about growing up there?
To make it short – first day in school our teacher asked us to write or draw something about how we wanted our future to be, what we were dreaming of. The other kids drew houses and German Shepherd dogs and wished for this and that. I had written, as I later found out, “I will be moving”. On our last day before entering high school she handed over our drawings. I had sketched the high-rise building I grew up in and had written the words all over the picture. I can appreciate it much more today though and the people who live there have a severe kind of humour and attitude towards the kind of life that I admire.

Do you have the desire to branch out of Sweden?
Indeed. I’ll branch out wherever my art stirs something in someone.Who or what are your inspirations?
I’m inspired by words mainly. I have this Dictaphone that I speak into and sketchbooks into which I scribble. Fragments from within me or conversations I’ve overheard when sitting somewhere sketching. I borrow some parts and remake them.  I love to hear what people think, and it’s been like that as long as I can remember. I wanted to be a brain surgeon when I was little, I truly believed that when sawing them open, I would be able to see what they were thinking about.  People are always worthy of your attention, there will be something to behold. I also love how people somehow become a singular shape that reappears on them if you only look. A form that somehow defines them – becomes function and form. Some people are like the top of a cherry, where the stem attaches. Heart shaped and full of immoderate possibilities. I can’t stop thinking about such things.​What attracts you to crude art? I love the word itself, how it feels in my mouth when saying it. 
I love it’s synonyms: uncouth, immodest and raw. I love that it disturbs how we define what has a value. I love it because, yet again, it connects to some of my own questions regarding beauty. Does it exist? What are its inducement? Can it survive anything?Could you walk me through an average day in your studio?
I always start with clearing some space, if I’m to paint. I want the table completely void of anything but the knives and the colours that I have prepared. I walk around drinking coffee, stare out of the window, walk past my refrigerator a couple of times and listen to music or a podcast. I clear some more space in the studio, look at some old drawings or read something that’s written on the floorboards. Then finally realize that my refrigerator does not withhold any remarkable stuff, change music and at last, I start to work.When at it, I work very long hours without interruption. Apparently I stand like Hannibal Lecter while working. One hand on the back and being very concentrated. I’ve seen pictures of it and it is a most unappealing vision.
I think I’m like that because of the technique I use. Only knives, and an upward twist with my hand. It has to be a very controlled yet forceful movement to get the impression I want to within the texture of the paint.
When making short stories or other art forms I’m much more at ease. More playful and actually enjoying the work. When I paint it’s a mere struggle, with a few happy sighs thrown in over some millimetre where two shapes or colours meet each other, which probably only I can perceive. Even though it’s a battle, I’m never driven by Kierkegaardian angst or anything like that, even though it would have sounded really cool.

You work a lot with the human form, do you study people in particular? Take time to observe them, or do you create them on your own?
I observe a lot. I spent my childhood watching people as if they were characters in scenes. I would go like: Oh, I must remember this posture, or that mimic, when saying those sentences. I felt strongly that I shouldn’t estrange myself from noting, if not partaking, in all that is human behavior.

I got a note from this girl once whilst sitting in a café sketching as I often do. Suddenly this note landed on my table with the words “being spectator and yet the spectacle”. She might have been spot on.

I never work with models when painting. The character who rightly should be on the painting, finally gets there, even if I sometimes have a different opinion at first. A live model would merely become a nuisance which I would feel obliged to be nice to, and when I paint I’m in an alliance with myself and that twosome is a too coarse surface to expose someone’s skin to.

Have you always added text to your work? When did you decide you wanted to use it?
It’s a completely new concept for me, something like seven months I’d say. As said earlier, words are important to me, but I have actually always hated words near paintings. I’ve seen them as a sad way of expressing what the hand missed out on. When sketching or illustrating, it has always been more logic and thus acceptable to me.

​So, why have I changed my mind? It began during a massive working period with an exhibition. When taking a break from the work at hand I got this urge to view earlier work. I lay them on the floor and started to experiment on them with the words that they meant to me there and then. I’m very unsentimental with old darlings…what is done is done. I liked to get to know them again though, and I think it was a healthy act on my behalf. It opened me up for the possibility of playing around a bit without painting over them, which has been the modus before. I also love the idea that artwork can be truly versatile. Conditions and people change and so do my paintings apparently, as of lately. They evolved and thus survived.

How do you know when art is fucking with you?
The same way we all know when someone is fucking with us. A presence we can hardly ignore but have to act upon. Somehow. Intention/action-/reaction. Very dialectical.

I just love your quotes. I read them and have to take a moment to enjoy a smile. Your words are raw.
When you choose these words, are they a reflection of your questions? Or a reflection of what the pieces themselves might say?
Some of the words that made me wonder are “defining art is like embracing fractals”
It’s almost as if you’re explaining the works of art.

It’s as you say, the words are usually a reflection of a question I’m pondering or something that came to me as soon as I saw the finished work. Its intention can truly scream at you; very Master and servant…  It differs a bit from piece to piece and also depending on if it’s a sketch or a painting.  Regarding the quote “defining art is like embracing fractals” – I’m truly astonished by your words, I take a bow. Feeling suddenly understood is somewhat a horror but also an honour. A line from a song comes to me…somewhat altered…”oh god, please let me be misunderstood…” Much more comfortable.
What message, if any, are you hoping that people will grasp from your work?
I’m not a messenger. I don’t sell meaning. I merely react in a visual way to what seems to be an everlasting theme I explore – Is there beauty where I live? Questions I have. With that established; I work with visual art and it gets in people’s way. It doesn’t just mind its own business, since I let it out there. I am fond of the idea that it might shift the viewer to some degree. Minor revelations or revolutions.

What kind of responses have you received from your audience?
The most extreme reaction I’ve had was when I went to theatre school. I come from the theatre world originally, a natural path for curious ones. I put up my first play at the age of eight, with the horrific name Assault. With intro music by Black Sabbath, the song “N.I.B.” Pardon, I went astray, It’s still a great song though.​To your question; I had never painted or sketched in my life, but as a prep for a play I directed, I had quickly painted a thing to better express how I wanted the scene to be performed. Some days afterwards a woman from my class came up to me and said. “Your painting made me go home to my husband and file for divorce.”  A few months later I felt I was finished with the education. I went to the headmaster and he agreed that I could go home but still get the certificate, I went by her door that night and nailed the painting onto it. I have never heard from her since. Later on that year I applied to an art school.If there was one artist, living or dead, you could collaborate with – who would it be?
I have to say Picasso. He had the all over craftsmanship and, I like to think, an endless curiosity which probably would have made him an un-boring company in the studio. I also think we both would have hated to collaborate, but rather have fetched coffee for each other and know when to be quiet and when to let in the Mariachi band.I’m excited to see what Meline has in store for us in the future! Her work is so real and straightforward. It was a delight speaking to her and feel honored to have been able to pick her brain!