If, for some reason, you happened to turn the chairs upside down in the kitchen of Leif Kristian Freed’s childhood home in Vasa, Finland, you’d discover the artist’s very early abstracts. While he doesn’t consciously recall creating those first colourful shapes as a toddler, Freed does remember growing up in an artistically influenced household.
“Two of my uncles were well-known artists,” Freed said. “And I have traced my Finnish roots to church artists – painters and blacksmiths – with works still in old churches from the 16th and 17th centuries.”
Young Freed was inspired to follow an artistic path, but at first he took a practical route to secure employment. He studied art and commercial art in a college in Helsinki, which led to commercial work, and later completed a degree in advertising and marketing.
However, the muse would not be silenced. “During my years in commercial art I always painted on the side to keep my sanity,” Freed said. “My biggest struggle was to overcome the precision work I did daily for clients and achieve abstraction. I had to work for years to break through the boundaries of illustration to freedom in my expression.”
Freed moved to Vancouver in 1986 and worked for sign companies during Expo, and after that was a partner in an electrical sign company. The work paid the bills and kept the artist busy, but in 2000 he could no longer ignore the push to explore his personal painting vision.
These days, in his studio high above Davis Bay, Freed explores that vision with passion and independence. “My works are all unique to me and I hope that’s obvious to my audience. I have never followed any directions knowingly given by others, though I do get inspired when I view other artists’ works, and unknowingly perhaps bits and pieces seep into my own work.”
The artist starts a new canvas mostly not knowing what it is going to look like, but he does establish a colour scheme from the beginning. “I create drips and runs of colour with a sponge, and then I sit – sometimes for days – and contemplate what it is I see. Next I go wild with a charcoal stick, creating an abstract image. Then I look some more. Eventually I start to fill in the spaces with my chosen colours. I wonder how crazy I am for trying to make sense of this scribble. I might work for days trying out anything and everything until it starts to please me a bit. Then suddenly I can see the end in the wilderness and I get super inspired again.”
Leif Kristian Freed is a member of the Landing Artists collective, and for the group’s upcoming show, he has created a series of works with a new approach. “For this show I tried to make surprising markings and they seem to be coming out soft and rounded so I thought, why not continue and try to create a series? My influence for this show is coming from nature: the waterfronts and streams, sticks and stones, coastal cliffs – all very organic.”
See Freed’s new works, and those of his fellow Landing Artists, at the Gibsons Public Market May 17 to 19. Artists will be on site throughout the weekend.
– Submitted by Ruth Rodgers