Peter Sköld was injured during the Balkan conflict in the 1990s, when he lost all feeling in his right arm due to damaged nerve endings. As part of the recovery process, he began to paint, laying his canvases on the floor and using a wooden pin to drop and move the paint on the surface.
His work is currently on show at The Fairmont Bab Al Bahr, Abu Dhabi in an exhibition called Crazy Earth. We caught up with him there:
Q: How difficult was it to perfect your painting technique?
A: It also took several years to get it to a level that I felt completely comfortable with. Once a layer of paint is put onto the canvas, I need to wait until it fully dries before adding the next layer so it's a tedious process that can take weeks, even months.
Almost 6 to 7 litres are used for each painting sp by the end, the entire canvas weighs 20 to 25 kilos. I’ve also trained myself to visualize what the painting (from flat on the floor) will look like once propped upwards like a regular painting. It’s a completely different perspective than the conventional painting process
Q: Would you say your injury made you more determined to paint?
A: Art was a form of therapy for me when I returned from the Bosnian war as a prisoner of war and as an abused and injured soldier. Unlike other European countries, Sweden does not have a long standing history that is rooted in conflict or war. When the Bosnian crisis erupted, I enlisted and shortly thereafter was recruited as a UN Peacekeeper. When other Swedes like myself returned from the war, there was no counseling service, no one to talk to about the experience or to reach out to for emotional support, since as a country, Sweden was unprepared for its war veterans. That is when I went back to art.
Q: What is your general subject matter?
A: I was a fairly adept sketch artist and painter prior to the war, but the experience made me reach for paint to express the inner turmoil and to come to terms with what happened all around me during that time. From the start, I painted in dark colours and with very dark subject matter. When I started to see the therapeutic benefits of my work, combined with announcement that my wife was pregnant with our first child, transformed my paintings to what they are now – depth of colour and subject that is no longer so overtly about my war experiences, but is rather subconsciously informed and manipulated by these experiences and other encounters I’ve had since then.
A: Yes on the surface level you can say this, but it also has to do with the chance encounters in life and the fact that anything can happen from one moment to the next, which makes it all very crazy and often times random. This exhibition is the culmination of two years of my life and chronicles a progression revealed through 40 canvasses. Of the hidden nuances of people and things are also animals, in the form of eagles and falcons.
Q: Do you think people in this region relate to stories of war?
A: It’s a universal theme that everyone can relate to in one way or the other. Closer to home in this region is the Syrian conflict, and when the victims of war (and more often than not) are women in children, it really draws out the inhumanity and the cruelty of it all. One of my larger canvasses during is of an experience that I encountered during the war – a ballet dancer took to an outdoor stage in Sarajevo in the open, amidst the chaos of mortar shells and the violence. This is a canvas that is up for auction at Fairmont Bab al Bahr, where 100% of the proceeds will be donated to the Big Heart Campaign, which assists the children of the present day Syrian conflict.
* Crazy Earth will be on show in the Fairmont, Bab Al Bahr, Abu Dhabi until April 1st