Artists We Love: Tom Cullberg

INTERVIEWED BY Amelia Brown IMAGES Barnard GalleryVanessa Cowling Photography


Stockholm-born, Cape Town-based and Michaelis School of Fine Art-graduate, artist Tom Cullberg shares his exciting upcoming local and international exhibitions, what he’s reading at the moment, and who we should all be following on Instagram. 

How did you develop your style?

My current work is an amalgamation of the different styles I have explored over the course of my career, from early figurative paintings composed of narratives of people and places, to striped paintings, book portraits and abstract works.

How much has the South African context influenced your work?

Coming from Sweden to South Africa in the ’90s, I was met with a very different society from what I was used to, but also a radically changing society with many contrasts. With my work I try to make sense of these impressions and identify places of connection, communication and belonging; foster an awareness of history, both private and public. There is a play between these dualities: the insider and the outsider, the notion of home, the past and the present.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? 

I am happy where I live now in Cape Town, but if I could, I would like to spend some time in Japan.

What are you working on at the moment?

My new solo show Finding New Life in an Old Form opens at Barnard on 21 August 2018. I’m busy with final preparations for that as well as finishing off paintings that will be presented by Barnard at START Art Fair in London, which takes place at the Saatchi Gallery from 13 to 16 September 2018. I’m also in the planning stages for paintings that will be included in Barnard’s forthcoming presentation at Also Known as Africa (AKAA), the first art fair devoted to contemporary art and design from Africa to be organised in Paris from 9 to 11 November 2018.

What, or who, inspires you? 

My kids, friends, music, books and films, architecture and furniture design, cities, memories/ remembering and perhaps most importantly the act of painting in itself.

Describe where you create your pieces/your studio? 

My studio is located at the Side Street Studios in Woodstock. It’s a calm space, usually quite neat and fairly ordered. I have geraniums growing in the windows and quite a lot of books. A daybed is my favourite spot for looking at the work and contemplating my next moves. A few of my artist friends work nearby and it’s great to break the solitude with a coffee or a chat.

What time of day do you prefer to work?

I like the late afternoon. I start painting in the morning, but I find painting takes a lot of warming up time. By the afternoon I have usually found my pace.

Tom Cullberg in his studio in Cape Town.

What are you reading at the moment?

I’m “reading” Haruki Murakami’s Dance Dance Dance and Donna Tartt The Secret History – one is an audiobook and the other paperback.

If you weren’t an artist, what would you be? 

I can’t imagine being anything else!

Aside from @visi_mag, who should we all be following on Instagram?

Artists Jules de Balincourt, Sara-Vide EricsonCameron Platter and Tom Sachs, Bill Powers of Halfgallery, and The New Yorker.

Follow Tom on Instagram and catch his latest exhibition, Finding New Life in an Old Form, from 21 August until 2 October 2018 at Barnard, 55 Main Street, Newlands, Cape Town.