And so we sit down for a video meeting, to introduce an artist that doesn't want to be introduced, and ask about the background influences he doesn't want people to know about. Or does he?
"Don't worry!," he says merrily. "It's not that black and white. I'm simply careful with what goes online, as I don't want to be pigeonholed. You read an artists' bio and they are tied to this narrative that's too convenient and simple, you know? Artists can be held hostage by a background story about how their culture or economic situation directly led to their art style. And that's never fair, because that's never how art works, how people work."
Still, there must be something that ties the personal life of Johan Åberg to his art? What horror in Swedish life yields the disturbing Cybernosferatu
portraits? He isn't from Stockholm originally, but from rural Sweden, in a Northern region close to the polar circle. A region most people only know (sorry Johan) as the eerie background for Swedish crime dramas.
Åberg understands the perspective. "It's a place where not a lot of things happen, culturally speaking," he says. "It's endless woodlands and tundra, inhabited by people I found restrictive in their views, moralizing even. The saving grace—for me at least–came from television and newsstands. When I was younger, and especially before the internet arrived, that was the only escape. You would walk past a newsstand that sold comics, and there suddenly would be this Wolverine comic cover staring at you, with the claws and everything, and it would just click with me."