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Sápmi is the land of the Sámi people that covers the north of Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Russia. Per Elof is a third-generation Sámi artist who resides in the southern part of Sápmi.

Per Elof learned early on to search for truth and understanding in the vast, snow-covered landscape of his forebears. Through his art, he aims to capture impressions of his ancestors’ way of life, uncover their untold stories, and create new worlds by merging his perspective into the broader context of Sámi history. He works from life, historical records, and his imagination.

His journey in art has taken him to many places around the world. These experiences have opened his eyes to the fragility of cultural heritage and the importance of preserving symbols and their meanings. Symbols serve a crucial role in conveying the human experience and our intrinsic need for self-expression. Per Elof paints many symbols into his work to serve as mediative landmarks for his philosophies on life. He believes that a life without symbols is a life unknown. Through the scale and many layers of his paintings, Per Elof creates space for emotions and the mind to roam free. His mission in art is to expose the unseen and tell the untold.




My art is my language that comes from my roots and experiences. My voice and how I choose to express myself artistically have been strongly shaped by the people I have met and the traditions I have learned that represent my origins. Many of these paintings would never have existed if it were not for the Sámi village of Talma in northern Sweden. It is there that the sketches for many of these paintings were born. I feel honored to have shared their deep traditions, culture, and land.

We live in a rational world and rational decisions in an attempt to value things based on an objective yardstick. Art is also rational, but it cannot be valued objectively. What is beautiful to me or what evokes a certain feeling in you can be difficult or impossible to explain. This is what makes art so important, through art we can understand that we must make an effort to create a dialogue and understanding of each other.

When I started as an artist, I thought that my drawings and paintings were about my view of my surroundings.  But I soon realized that art is about being the vessel that takes in the world and then shares it with others. This is the world I have brought here today which I want to share with you.

Man as a symbol is the struggle between an ideal and the limits of nature. In this struggle, a complex structure of surfaces is woven that gives us our human features. Just like the surfaces of rocks with their lichen, the bark of trees, or the water of waves, human surfaces are woven for a long time. It provides surfaces with experiences that are resistant and an aesthetic that only age can provide.

My paintings interpret and recreate these surfaces through layers. The different layers of each surface have their history and I listen intensely to what it wants to tell me, what it wants to show me, and what it wants to hide from me. It is important to be sensitive and present because often only faint whispers are heard.

It is not the brushstroke that tries to resemble a person, a stone, or a tree, but it is pigments and oil that are built layer upon layer from the impressions I have received. It is not only the visual impressions that are important, it is how a stone or textile feels.  It can be scents and movements or based on how something is perceived visually, such as its color, shape, and texture.

The tool itself is insignificant, it is the final weave of all layers of pigment and oil that becomes reality in the painting. The painting becomes its creator. Sometimes the painting follows me, next time I follow the painting. It will be a dialogue, a dialogue between me, the motif, and the painting. The reality of the painting is not copied but is a reality as it is experienced and created based on events, experiences, and memories.

Many of the paintings in this exhibition have emerged over the past decade. A painting can take several years to complete. Time is not a problem in the type of painting I do, but rather an advantage. Since I paint in oil, the paint does well to dry between layers. These natural interruptions mean that there is time for reflection and that a motif can naturally grow and breathe.


Painting is to create with light, a light that shapes and gives life. The color in the paintings is a mixture of soil particles and minerals bound in oil. This becomes a hilly landscape that makes the light that reaches the painting become a spectacle of colors, shapes, and emotions that appear over the surface of the canvas. This is what gives the colors their depth and luster.

The message in a painting is an emotion and not something literal. What I as an artist can give is the seed that starts the journey of a painting, but it is you as an observer who reaches the goal of the journey. The most important thing in all of this is to dare to give yourself time to sit down and look at the painting.

A painting is like a book, it consists of many chapters where the plot can take many unexpected twists and turns, to both known and unknown worlds. A painting can offer resistance at first glance, if this is the case, it probably means that the viewer has experienced something like my own journey in creating a painting. Give art time because that's when it gives something back.

Everything beautiful is built in layers. The human body, cells, muscles, and skin. The trees, the leaves, the bark, and the annual rings. Stones, grain, form, and structure. Music, tones, and rhythms are all woven together in a symphony. Each painting is also a web of emotions. Every day, new emotions are introduced into the fabric of the people represented in the works of art.

An interesting aspect of reading pictures is that we as humans subconsciously read pictures faster than words and that there is no right or wrong in how to read a picture. With paintings is the same thing, we see, we feel, and we react. The motif, the size, the surface, everything contributes to the experience.
Painting is a living art form and it is best experienced in front of the work. Just as you are experiencing it now.

By Per Elof Nilsson Ricklund



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