Walking into Marquee on Brunnenstrasse for my interview with Swedish artist Marcus Appelberg, I feel like I have stepped back in time. The décor is dim and includes a leather sofa, a quilted leather wall and a gaudy chandelier. A large plant sits dejectedly in one corner, its leaves brown and drooping, deprived of oxygen by the stale smoke which hangs in the air. The place is strangely cosy.
Attached to the main bar area are two extra rooms completely covered in tiles––the setting for Appelberg’s latest show “No More Shall We Part,” which consists of an installation and a group video. Appelberg arrives and we settle down to the interview, a few rays of springtime sunshine creeping across the floorboards of the darkened interior. Dressed in a kimono-esque outfit with a beautiful hair piece, he lights a cigarette before leaning back into the sunken leather sofa. Lured to Berlin to study fine art at the UdK, Appelberg feels at home in Berlin. He explains, “I love the culture and the atmosphere, and you can be who you want to be and no one will care about it.”
Shedding Old Skin
His latest show “No More Shall We Part” reflects on his experience of moving to Berlin and features one room dedicated to an installation of the same name. Three paintings hang on one wall and a bowl of water with a yellowy-pink material suspended in it sits in the middle of the room; the unidentified material is actually part of Appelberg’s skin. He talks me through the process of creating the piece: “I got a latex material from a friend who’s a make up artist and covered my hand with it, and then I dragged it off to try it. I covered my body and dragged it off, just in parts; I wanted to make a video with my whole body but it was too painful!”
Marcus Appelberg with his suspended shedded skin. Photo: Chris Phillips
Making a video of the process also didn’t work for Appelberg because his medium focus is painting. “I’ve always wanted to be an artist and paint. It’s always been a part of me, and I’ve always known it’s what I wanted to do. When I was five years old I painted a lot of horses and listened to Spice Girls and painted them most of the time. I had a lot of different idols that I painted.” Moving on from iconic nineties pop stars, Appelberg’s current subjects are now more varied. His latest project is “a series of scenes from growing up, with paintings from my hometown of Jönköpings about being isolated and harassed. The pictures are very cold. I’ve made a lot of pictures now, and I will exhibit three of them in Sweden in my hometown next week.”