Mysteries of Life
When experimental Swedish comics artist Knut Larsson met up again with David Lynch in Stockholm in 2010, Lynch dedicated a copy of his Catching the Big Fish (2006) to him in big capitals as ‘KNUT the GREAT’. Akin to entering Lynch’s worlds, reading Larsson’s imagistic myth-making feels like a hypnotising dream, or perhaps a daydream. As Larsson admits, “I sometimes write my dreams down, but I don’t remember them very often. My comics are daydreaming primarily.”
In his graphic novel The City of Crocodiles (2014) from Borderline Press, Larson envisages the waterworld to come, when global warming and rising sea levels submerge and transform our planet into someplace strange. With landmasses flooded, cattle-farming has been replaced by crocodile-hunting, using every part to make into shoes, chess pieces, soup, burgers, ornaments and more. Stranger still are the masked cultists who tie the living beasts to their backs for ritual combat, and a siren with a crocodile tail who seduces a widower fisherman. His speechless, soundless ‘crocotopia’ brims over with eerie elegance and eloquence.
Trained at film school but unable to get projects funded, he turned to comics, where he felt a huge creative freedom. Over more than a decade of shorter strips and longer albums, Larsson sees them all as “a mixture of conscious and unconscious decisions. I try to work intuitively.” There’s also a highly sensual charge to his characters, both male and female, a quality rarely found in male-created fantasies.
As a boy, Larsson studied at a French school in Stockholm. “My parents are Francophiles, so they thought it was good for me studying French. I believe it has helped me a lot since I could read French comics from a relatively early age. Franco-Belgian comics have always meant a lot to me.” He now lives in Stockholm above the Sven-Harrys Konstmuseum. Over the weekend of May 24-25 he is once again turning his home into a gallery for his third solo exhibition Das Heimliche, German for sinister and a play on ‘unhomely’.
He is also putting the finishing touches to another music video, this time for Stockholm band Principe Valiente, and to his 29-minute live-action film debut Hypnagogia: Send me the pillow that you dream on, about a narcolepsy sufferer who becomes paralysed in her sleep. “We are doing the final touches on the film right now. So it hasn’t been officially released yet. We have shown a working print to some people and they liked it very much. I hope that it will be out at festivals soon.” One of the film actors has posted some photos of the shooting online (above). He is also working on a new book: “It’s based on the sci-fi epic poem Aniara by Harry Martinsson. Earth is evacuated and the spaceship Aniara with 8,000 emigrants is heading for Mars but goes off course. And they just keep on going into deep space for 25 years.”
For his new Strip for ArtReview below, ‘Forest Boy in the Magic Garden’, Larson has revived his loinclothed Forest Boy who first adventured in 2008 in the Swedish anthology From the Shadow of the Northern Lights. “He died at the end, but I had to go back to him. He’s my take on Mowgli from The Jungle Book, some kind of alter ego, a sort of wild boy in the forest investigating the mysteries of life.” With a further new story for the second volume of From the Shadow of the Northern Lights (above) from Galago, rest assured, Larsson’s imaginary forest hides many more secrets.
Posted: March 23, 2014
An edited version of this Article appeared in ArtReview magazine April 2014.
Photo portrait of Knut Larsson © Idha Lindhag.