Sweden

Moley Talhaoui

Writer

Tala Habbal

Photographer

Gustav Mårtensson

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In the Stockholm studio that he also calls his home, artist Moley Talhaoui spends his days experimenting with charcoal, graphite, acrylic and oil. Located in the immensely populated, industrial area of Södermalm, Moley’s earthy 100 square metre apartment, with its sparse white walls, cold industrial feel and warm North African textiles, is anything but a reflection of his rather dark artistic aesthetic.

Minimal and bare, the studio, located on the second floor of an industrial building (his neighbours include a carpenter and a fashion designer), is saturated with peace and light – quite the opposite of the artist’s rough and rugged paintings. ‘My environment is kind, but my art is angry and dark,’ he says of his pieces, which range from drawings of distorted human faces to large, abstract monochromatic paintings on canvas.

The cinema chairs are from the Göta Lejon theatre, circa 1940

An ideal spot for Moley’s home and studio, the patina of Södermalm, or ‘Söder’ as it’s colloquially referred to, is creative and trendy, with an abundance of vintage stores, cafés and eclectic shops.

‘The art scene in Stockholm is quite small and limited,’ explains the 29-year-old. ‘But art that comes from Stockholm is growing.’ And Söder, he says, with its influx of art galleries next to the historic homes on Hornsgatspuckeln, is testament to that.

Born in Sweden to parents of Moroccan and Berber descent, Moley traces the beginnings of his passion for art back to his childhood. ‘Drawing was always my hobby and I just never really stopped,’ he explains. ‘The things that inspire me are feelings and traumatic events. My art is related to psychology and based on intuition.’

His Berber heritage, however, is also a point of inspiration for his work. ‘I’m influenced by Berber art, especially the artwork you see in handmade fabrics and carpets,’ he says. Although Moley grew up in Stockholm, he briefly lived and worked in London before returning to Sweden permanently and setting up his own studio in the alternative live-in work space that he now calls home.

‘My apartment is close to the port. It used to be an old industrial area – I think they used to build parts for trains here. There are still a few old buildings,’ he says, commenting on the former history of his relatively new neighbourhood. ‘I got it a year ago. I moved in and rebuilt it for my studio.’

Although living in one’s workspace is technically considered illegal in Sweden, it didn’t deter Moley from calling the studio his home. The majority of the empty space is dedicated to his art and practice, while only a small part serves as Moley’s simple makeshift living area, comprising of a small daybed and a few kitschy vintage chairs – including two old movie theatre seats and one from an old tattoo parlour that was given to him as a present by a friend.

‘The cinema chairs are from the Göta Lejon theatre, circa 1940’, he says. The theatre is an institution in Stockholm. ‘I bought them from a couple that lived in the area at the time of the theatre’s renovation who had bought them at an auction. They wanted someone with the same energy or spirit to own them.’

Moley’s bedroom is just as basic. An exercise in Scandinavian minimalism, the room contains nothing more than a mattress, copper clothing rails and wall-mounted wooden boxes for his massive shoe collection (he has a weakness for sneakers).

‘It’s very minimal,’ he says. ‘When it comes to furniture, I prefer Swedish or Scandinavian design, teak wood or hand-picked vintage items from flea markets, auctions or Blocket [a Swedish version of Amazon].’

Moley counts Hans Bergström, Hans-Agne Jakobsson, Arne Jacobsen and Josef Frank as just a few of his favourite Scandinavian furniture designers. ‘During the ‘60s and ‘70s, the Scandinavians were quite good with furniture,’ the artist says.

While Moley doesn’t display his own art in his apartment, other than the pieces he is working on, he does like to collect original Christian art. ‘Although I’m Muslim, I collect religious, iconic Christian art. I’ve always been fond of the aesthetics of it,’ he says.

Balancing his home and work life in the same small space has not at all proved a hindrance to Moley. The combined work-home space is ideal for his creative process, allowing him to do what he does best whenever the moment takes over.

‘I have a work pattern so sometimes I get ideas in the middle of the night in my sleep, and if I lived in an apartment away from my studio then I would be limited.’

This article can be found in Brownbook’s September/October 2014 Issue.

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