An Interview with Sanna Fried

Written by Art & Culture

What are you working on right now? /Tell us about your exhibition during Stockholm Art Week?
Right now I’m showing my new exhibition ”My Grandmother Hedi Fried”, at
Brillo in Stockholm. Its a series of portraits about my grandmother, Hédi
Fried, who was a Swedish-Romanian award winning author and psychologist who
became an important opinion influencer She passed through Auschwitz as well
as Bergen-Belsen. She is the author of several books, among them “Questions
I am Asked About the Holocaust,” “The Story of Bodri,” “Shards of Life.”
Based on family photographs I have collected, the series contrasts what we
expect from a mother and a public figure — two very different characters. As
a mother Fried was absent, she traveled the world for long periods of time
leaving her three children at home and engrossed herself in studies and
consumed culture. Travels, studies and successful work gave her confidence
to share her experience of the holocaust. I always paint from a place of
emotion and this series portrays my struggle to share my grandmother with
the public. Concluding with a portrait from the elderly care home she
finally resided, this deeply personal series portrays a great women’s
strengths and vulnerabilities.

What inspired you to become an artist, and how has your artistic journey
evolved over time?

For me, the epithet ”Artist” never came to me. It was always there. I have
always painted. As a child all I wanted to do was to paint, all the time! I
was lucky to have a very supportive family who let me keep painting. In
fact, it was my grandmother who bought me my very first easel and canvases,
and she asked me, when I was only 12, to illustrate the cover of one of her
Over time, as growing up, my artistry has of course looked different in
different ages. During my entire 20’s I lived in New York, there my lust for
painting developed into a passion for fashion! I put the brushes away for a
few years and worked mainly as a fashion designer with clients such as Vogue
and Vera Wang. Looking back these years in New York was the best education
an artist can ever ask for and in my art I take a lot of inspiration from
photography and fashion editing.
Now, in my 30’s I instead live in Mexico City, working only with my art.
Mexico City is a vibrant town full of life, culture and art. I draw
inspiration from the vibrant energy and diversity of Mexico City. It’s rich
cultural heritage, bustling streets, and colourful traditions provide a
constant source of stimulation for my artistic vision. The city's art scene,
with its numerous galleries and exhibitions, also serves as a wellspring of
inspiration. I can see in my art how I’m letting me be inspired by Mexican
culture and foremost Mexican female surrealist painters.

What is your creative process like, and how do you approach developing new
ideas and concepts for your work?

As a painter with a background as a fashion stylist, my creative process is
deeply influenced by my experiences and the dynamic nature of both fields.
When developing new ideas and concepts for my work, I follow a multi-step
approach starting from extensive research.
I delve into art history, to understand different techniques and
themes. This research helps me broaden my artistic vocabulary. Once I have a foundation of knowledge, I immerse
myself in the world of my subject. I spend time observing, conversing, and
understanding to capture my objects' unique stories and personalities.
I primarily work with oil on canvas. I carefully consider the subject's attire, accessories, and overall aesthetic,
ensuring that they are depicted in a way that reflects their personal style
and character. This fusion of fashion and portraiture creates a dynamic
interplay between identity and self-expression.
In summary, my creative process involves research, immersion in the
subject's world, a fusion of fashion and portraiture, and a dedication to
exploring new techniques. Through this approach, I strive to create
captivating and emotionally resonant portraits that celebrate the unique
stories and identities of the individuals I paint.

Can you tell me about a specific artwork or series of works that are
particularly meaningful to you and why?

The work I have just finished painting my grandmother have been very
special for me. I started working on this project in March 2022, halfway
through the project, in late November 2022 my grandmother passed. To keep
going with the project after her passing was sometimes hard and it changed
the whole charter of the project. Now I was reflecting on and painting
someone who wasn’t there herself to tell me her story. Instead the mission
of painting to keep her story and lifelong work for democracy alive became
my main mission, more important than ever.

What do you think of Stockholm as an art city?
I think Stockholm as an art city is exploding, in the best way possible! In
a very short time the Stockholm’s art scene have expanded enormously, with
new galleries, art fairs and an audience bigger than ever before. It is very
exciting to watch, especially from abroad, where I am, and I can’t wait to
see what the next step will look like. As someone born and raised in
Stockholm I feel very proud and excited.

Do you have a favorite Swedish Artist?
Carl Larsson and Elsa Beskow!

Do you have a favorite bar or restaurant in Stockholm?
When I visit Sweden I have two missions in terms of eating: I want a steak
and Swedish style bearnaise sauce) and a plate with cured salmon and dill
stewed potatoes. The salmon I usually order at ”Melanders fisk” and the
steak I want at ”Hjälmaren” a local pub near where I grew up.