Uncovering figures in the vivid and viscous

Swedish Artist Mikael Takacs reveals his fascinating technique for expressing the human form through his own variation of an ancient Turkish printing technique.

Published: March 9, 2018Words: Mikael Takacs

If you are at all familiar with some of the articles that I have written covering visual artists, you might have seen me mention that one of the things that will instantly draw me into an artist’s work is if I can’t decipher the technique in which it was made.

And this is exactly what sparked my interest with Swedish artist Mikael Takacs.

I was first introduced to Takacs’ work last year through an exhibition at Gallerie Wolfsen in Aalborg, located in the far northern reaches of Denmark. I often follow their exhibitions and their stable of artists, because the share a curatorial style that I appreciate. With Takacs’ work, it was love at first sight, because – and this is a rare thing in this day and age – I had never seen anything like it.

His work is something that you can admire purely for aesthetic appeal alone. It is completely style and technique over substance, and I find that to be wonderful. With so much of the art industry driven by conceptualism, abstractness and obscurity, it’s refreshing to be taken in by work that is just aesthetically beautiful. The complexity lies in how it was made, not by what it means.

There is no doubt that Takacs’ knows his craft. Not only in his technique – which I later learned was his own personal approach to an 16th century Turkish printing technique called Ebru – but his choice of color palate. It’s clear he knows how the colors that he chooses will play with each other in liquid form.

A rare thing happened when I dived a little bit deeper in Takacs’ and his work, and got a chance to ask him some questions about his style and process. I was not only exposed to style of painting that I had never seen before, I was introduced to a technique of working with paint which had complete avoided my radar.

Let me just start off by saying that the thing that intrigues me the most about your work is that when I first saw it, I couldn’t decipher how you did it. So, take me through how you create one of your paintings?

I use pipettes to distribute acrylic paint across the canvas to create my subjects, which I then distort by dragging the paint around using various tools, like sticks and combs. By doing the marbling directly on a canvas, instead of transferring it from the surface of water gives me much more control, and makes portraiture possible.

Mikael Takacs interview for Blacklisted Magazine
Mikael Takacs interview for Blacklisted Magazine

You work is based on this technique called Ebru now more commonly called ‘marbling.’ For those who are reading this that might not know, can you tell me what “marbling” is? And how did you first come in contact with the technique?

Looking back, I think I first came in contact with paper marbling in elementary school. Paper marbling is a little bit different from what I do, but it’s the classic way to marble. You drop paint onto the surface of the water, drag it around with tools similar to the ones I use, and then you dip a piece of paper or fabric in the water, to transfer the pattern onto it. This technique has been around for several hundred years.

You work with a lot portrait and figure, and from what seems to be the same model. Is this muse a real woman, a creative fabrication, or simply me projecting?

I thought I distorted my portraits so much that it would be hard to tell that many of them are the same models, but you have a sharp eye! You are right; I have a few recurring models.

Tell me about your selection of color palette for your work.

I tend to use all the colors of the rainbow, steering far away from any realism when it comes to skin tones. I enjoy playing around with all the different colors, instead of having all my paintings ranging from beige to brown.

Can you tell me how you keep the acrylic in liquid form on the canvas long enough to use your tools to create the uniformed patterns in the paint?

I add some retarder to the paint, which makes it dry a lot slower.

How long does it take you to complete a piece?

It varies a lot depending on the size of the piece. After I start pouring the paint, I have to get it done before the paint dries, so I have to prepare the mixed paints and a finished sketch, so I know there will be a minimum of interruptions after I start the process of pouring and marbling.

Are there any other techniques that you are exploring for the evolution of your work?

Not really other techniques, but I try to evolve within the marbling. Right now I am experimenting with cutting out shapes in wood, which I then marble.

Mikael Takacs is represented by Galerie Wolfsen in Aalborg, Denmark. He is quite active in exhibiting his work throughout Scandinavia, but his work can be enjoyed internationally through the old interwebs.

Website: mikaeltakacs.works
Instagram: @mikaeltakacs
Representation:Galerie Wolfsen