Artist Interview: Anika Ramholdt
Anika Ramholdt is perhaps better know as one half of the creative duo Darktopia. Creating under the social tag 'Ginger Darkly' it is easy to think that Anika brought the 'dark' to the 'Darktopia' collaboration with Perry Logan who was working under the name 'Peretopia' but one look at her individual artwork and that notion is instantly dismissed.
Her work is quirky and offbeat. Filled with characters that are fuelled by emotions; autobiographical and relatable. The full gambit of emotions is exposed from those easily identified and socially acceptable to those we try to hide, even from ourselves.
Working in a variety of mediums allows Anika to fully express her creativity in a way that is easily accessible and somewhat comforting: from inserting creatures into vintage charity and antique shop finds to acrylics on panel. Anika doesn't restrict herself or her viewers to one motif, instead embracing the evolution of her art, her emotions and her life.
Interview with Anika Ramholdt:
For those unfamiliar with you and your art tell us a bit about yourself?
Well I’m a soon-to-be forty year-old mother of two. I live in Canberra, Australia but my children were born in Taranaki, New Zealand, where I lived for five years. For us there’s a strong family/work connection between the two countries. Both my children are autistic and we’ve recently switched to home schooling, so that consumes a lot of my thoughts and time. We’ve collected four cats in the past year and that pretty much sums up our collective impulse control.
Were you one of those kids that drew on every scrap of paper you could find or did creativity come later in life for you?
I’ve never been an avid doodler but I was always the arty kid. In kindergarten I did a painting that stayed up on the wall for an entire week (quite the honour back then). In primary school I wrote and illustrated my own little stories but unfortunately, primary school marked the beginning of my creative insecurity. I remember always thinking that other kids drew better than me and inadvertently began emulating their styles rather than fostering my own. I guess I had the reputation for being the creative one because I was often the most prolific, not always the most talented or unique. To this day I get very downcast scrolling through art on social media because I always feel like everyone is better than me.
In high school I would get ahead on my work in other subjects so that I could skip class and hang out in the art room. I was the ‘art’ prefect (even though it wasn’t officially known as such) and I was the first student to do a Year 12 art subject in Year 11. I wasn’t amazing, but I was enthusiastic, focused, occasionally pioneering and knew I wanted to pursue fine art and be a career artist.
After high school I studied Fine Art at university and ended up completing my honours, masters and PhD back to back (11 years in total). At the time I didn’t know what else to do with myself besides follow the path to its end, even though I wasn’t ‘successful’ by standard measures.
You have a background in fine art and as a graphic designer. How does working to a brief compare to having your own creative freedom? How do it effect your routines and subjects?
I hated the idea of graphic design when I was younger. I just wanted to be an artist with complete creative freedom. In the end I studied graphic design to improve my digital skills and ‘formalise’ my creative path. These days I enjoy graphic design because creatively it can be very challenging to work within set parameters and I enjoy testing myself. There are always parameters in this life but figuring out ways to express yourself within them is very satisfying. I also love organization and order so tedious type setting and arranging huge quantities of data into something tidy and pretty is a quiet pleasure of mine.
Honestly I think the two areas inform each other completely, whilst exercising different but complimentary muscles. It’s also really satisfying to produce something that a client is happy with because not everyone has the skill set to bring their ideas to life.
Your work often has an offbeat and quirky twist. Where do you gain your inspiration from?
Everywhere. I guess there’s no denying that my work is autobiographical for the most part and often very personal/emotional in content. Lately that’s shifted a bit and I find myself being more inspired by the visual rather than the emotional. I enjoy patterns in nature and the shape and colour of things, that kind of jazz. My style has been loosening recently and I enjoy the process much more. For a long time I was tense and emotionally fraught and the work was more about the message than the pleasure of making. I’ve learned that the pleasure of making is everything. I admire people who create for the pure joy of it and go their own way without consideration of markets or commercial success. Perry was a big influence in that regard.
You work in a variety of mediums from digital work, pencil, acrylic and working with Perry on Darktopia. Do you have a favourite medium or set or tools you like working with?
At first, when I was a teenager, I wanted to be a photographer, then I studied painting at uni, then I returned to photography, then film and animation, digital comics, pencil drawing and now painting again. I’ve always been predominately two dimensional, three dimensional objects kind of baffle me from a creative point of view. Working with Perry has really expanded my mind in that sense. I always wanted to work with wood and so the opportunity to do that has been amazing. Painting on 3D surfaces is so different and takes a while to adapt to. Now that I’m back to painting on 2D I have so much more confidence and better skills. Wood and paint just work so well together so I have no interest in anything else at the moment.
In addition to your artwork you have an interest in educating others about ADHD, autism and neurodiversity. How do you intermix your two passions?
I’ve come to accept that we can all be many different things at once. I’d like to have a clear and concise identity but honestly I have a lot of different interests and styles and allow myself to pursue them all and let my mind go in a lot of different directions. That’s why I have so many social media accounts! The different sides of me don’t necessarily marry into a singularly consumable package, but that’s pretty normal I’d say. I don’t know how comfortable I am fulfilling the role of ‘advocate’ but I’m creative and if I can use my skills to make things and resources for my kids or the community at large then great. Most things begin as being specifically for my kids but then I see the value in making them accessible to others. If I can’t find what I want then I make it.
If you could work with any artist, living or dead, who would you choose to collaborate with?
I already have to good fortune of being able to collaborate with Perry and I just wish that we’d met at the age of 15 and made all our weird, student art films together rather than separately. He also worked in theatre, designing and building sets, I would have loved to have known him then and worked alongside him. We’re so similar and so different and are constantly exposing each other to writers, filmmakers, musicians and designers that we wouldn’t have discovered on our own. His opinion is the only one I really care about because he gets the entirety of what’s going on for me.
Jane Campion, Taika Waititi and Harukai Murakami are three of my favourite creative minds and if I never got to watch or read anything by anyone else then I’d probably still be happy.
Is there any upcoming projects or exhibitions you can share with us?
I’m about to begin another picture book about autism. Offline resources, like the books in school libraries, can be so naff and dated on the topic. I want to make a book that I’d be happy for my kids to read, to help them better understand themselves rather than feeling pigeon holed or reduced. Young people are so cool, open-minded and inclusive and they need resources that reflect that.
Perry and I are working towards an exhibition of new sculptures in September. We’ve settled upon some concepts we’re happy with so I’m looking forward to starting. Circumstances have prevented us from producing sculptures for almost a year now so fingers crossed we savage it this time.