Swedish artist and skater Jacob Ovgren of Polar Skate Co. turns his weirdest and most twisted thoughts into fun, light-hearted animations in his new show Sick Emotions X-ibit (SEX) at Beach gallery, Shoreditch, London.
Having grown up in a Swedish small town, Jacob Ovgren moved to the city of Malmö with some friends when he was sixteen. Ripping as hard on a skateboard as he does in his sketchbook, his doodles were noticed by Polar head honcho Pontus Alv who invited him onto the skate company’s art team.
From drawing really crazy album covers for his friends’ punk bands to designing deck graphics for Polar’s manufactured boards, Jacob is constantly jotting down ideas in a small sketchbook that he still carries with him today. Hours before the opening of SEX, his first exhibition in London, he took a minute to let Huck pick his brain on how he learnt to draw in school maths lessons and how doodles become deck graphics.
Hey Jacob. So, what’s with the name of the show?
Most of the drawings are fucked-up things. I’m trying to get out some crazy feelings we have, like the crazy stuff you think about. I feel the need to draw it because it’s fucked up. I think most people would think, “This looks sick or disgusting,” but I promise you people think the exact thing or worse. We all think a lot of crazy stuff but you’d never tell anybody about it, except maybe if you go to a psychiatrist. There are quite a lot of dicks and nudity – I kinda like this stuff!
Sounds fun… when did you begin to draw?
I had a really cool maths teacher who would tell me if I finished all my equations then I could spend the rest of the lesson drawing. So I would do that real quick and have almost a full hour to sit and draw. I was really bad at actual painting lessons; I went to printing school but I failed because as soon as I’m supposed to do it then I’m like, “Nah!”. I learnt a lot from school but I only wanted to do woodcuts and screen-printing. I didn’t really give a shit about all the other stuff.
Was Polar your first outlet for art?
I did some record covers and T-shirts before Polar. Mostly for punk bands and some skateboards for small brands from Sweden. I was getting a lot of inspiration from the record covers. Some of them were really crazy. There was one with a giant demon behind a mountain with a chain in his hand – in the foreground there’s a drowning priest in chains and he’s just sinking into he water. It’s a really rad cover! I’ve always done that in my free time; just sat and draw. I always carry a little sketchbook as well just to put things down.
So is that how the ideas for these pieces started?
Yeah, most of them were doodles. It’s cool to look at an old sketchbook for something in it that you can later turn into a drawing. Then you put it on the computer to change it even more, and in the end it turns out as a graphic. There are always quite a few changes in-between. When I do bigger pieces and work on a computer I usually put all random things in the same document so I can mix them up together. I could put in a guy smoking a joint together with a drawing of a car, and somehow you look at it and it fits so well! You might not know the connection between the two yet, but then you have to put some more pieces in there and it might work.
When did you start getting involved in Polar?
I did one of my first graphics in 2012, I think. I knew Pontus and he saw some of my drawings in my sketchbook at the skatepark one day. He’d just started Polar the year before and we started talking about graphics, and what would suit it. So I fixed a few doodles up to be a comic style with nice lines and stuff. I’ve done one board which is quite different from the other stuff; it’s just a watercolour painting that I did in five minutes or something. It looked like it was done by a child but I thought it was sick! I sent it to Pontus and he said it was perfect. It’s kinda different from the other ones but people like it, and I like it. I try and make all the guys happy with their deck graphics, because at the end of the day it’s their board and they should be happy about it.
Usually I just draw all the time. Even more in the winter when it’s bad weather and you can’t really skate – I just focus on drawing and trying to make a lot of graphics in the winter so you have them stacked up, because in the summer you want to go out and skate. But since I’m working full-time with this I can skate all day and work from six until midnight. I work a lot during the night.
Do you get into a similar frame of mind when you draw as to when you skate?
When I do art stuff I think quite a lot but when I’m skating I don’t think at all. It’s different. I like a lot of different kinds of music as well. I listen to this very nice Swedish pop singer and the song afterwards can be some crazy black metal band from France. It’s so different but I can always find something good about it. Even really bad bands, I listen to it and it’s a really bad song but there can be one really good part in it. I dunno, it’s just trying to find the best things in stuff because usually there is something that is good.
Sick Emotions X-ibit (SEX) opened February 27 and runs until March 23 at Beach London, 20 Cheshire Street, E2 6EH.
Keep up to date with Jacob on his Instagram.