Markus Åkesson is an artist who has become known in trendy, cosmopolitan underground settings. For example, through his work with Japanese fashion brand Undercover and frequent exhibitions at Da-end in Paris, a niche gallery specialized in narrow contemporary art with dark undertones. His paintings have also garnered significant international acclaim and are represented in many collections all over the world. In Sweden, Åkesson’s work is shown at Berg Gallery in Stockholm and at VIDA Museum on Öland.
Markus Åkesson grew up far from the complexity of the urban scene, deep in the woods of Småland outside Kalmar, with no family connection to art. As a teen, he was engaged with what is known in Sweden as “raggare” culture – a subculture involving a predilection for 50s American culture, particularly the cars of that era. Markus started drawing at a young age, an interest that developed into painting designs on cars in his teenage years. His artistic inclinations were nourished at his first creative job, where he worked as a glass engraver for a company in the Kingdom of Crystal. “It felt like I had started to find my place in life,” says Markus. “I had more and more contact with designers and I was getting to know the artists. Gradually, I realized that I could work with art as a profession.”
Markus Åkesson has no academic training in the evocative, technically sophisticated realistic painting style that has become his signature. He is fascinated by patterns and designs his own, inspired by pattern cultures from all over the world. With his refined, surrealist method, he integrates these patterns into his paintings. “I tell stories with patterns. I’m interested in different cultures and symbols; I enjoy a collision of different design styles in oil paintings on canvas.”
Ever since his time as a glass engraver, Markus Åkesson has experienced what he calls a powerful pull to glass. He has previously experimented with glass sculptures. Through his wife and fellow artist, Ellen Ehk Åkesson, he came into contact with Kosta Boda. When he was asked to work with the glassworks, the answer was obvious. Since spring 2021, the couple has shared a studio in Kosta, in addition to their studios in the old Pukeberg Glassworks in Nybro. They share numerous intersecting points, not just privately but also artistically, having grown up near one another in the forests of Småland. The mystery of the forest is a strongly shared theme in their art.
Together with the glassblowers and cutters in the studio at Kosta Glassworks, Åkesson has started what he believes will be a long-term exploration of glass.
“Glass has a long history in Småland. That includes a tradition of bringing fine artists into the studio. And that demands even more of the craftspeople. It isn’t enough to be experts at what they do. They also have to be prepared to sometimes let go of all traditions in order to try out brand-new techniques. That takes confidence, artistry and incredible professional skill.”
Markus Åkesson is interested in creating art objects in glass that share the same world as his paintings. “I’m currently working with semi-abstract shapes that are blown free-hand, and after that I work on the surface together with the cutters. The more experienced I get, the more I understand the possibilities. Every day with the glassblowers and cutters, I learn something new. It’s a collaboration, an interaction – it isn’t something you can do yourself. As a former glass engraver, I’m very interested in the cold work, the cutting and glass painting. It’s fascinating to work with the surface and to combine raw and beautiful elements. It’s a completely different form of expression from painting, but I’m looking for the same feeling, the same theme.”
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