Simon Stålenhag's paintings are a strange, irresistible mix of cosmic scenes from Swedish countryside and scenes that complicate abandoned robots, mysterious machines and even dinosaurs.
It is the product of his childhood memories – they grow up in suburban Stockholm and paint landscapes and wildlife – and the adult's appreciation for science fiction.
"I'm trying to make art for myself 12 years," she said in a telephone interview. "I want to do something that would make my younger guy see and go," I do not have to look at it because it's for adults, but I really want it anyway. "
"Stories from the loop"
Stålenhag won a cult for his surreal art, which he first launched through Facebook and Twitter. In 2014, he published his first book, in which the artwork is complemented by a historical story. "Art took its own life, because at first I did not publish the words, but it was always there, I just waited until I got to publish a book," he said.
An illustration from "Tales from the Loop." Credit: Simon Stålenhag
The rights to the book, entitled "Tales from the loop", have been acquired by Amazon Studios, which will develop a series of live action with 8 episodes based on it. The pilot will be directed by Mark Romanek, whose previous films include the one-hour photo of 2002 with Robin Williams, one of Stålenhag's favorite films.
The story is in an alternative, retro-futuristic Swedish countryside in the early 1990s and includes children growing up around the robots and a huge underground scientific facility that creates strange phenomena.
The plot also draws "Stranger Things", although "Tales from the Loop" precedes the popular Netlfix series. Both appearances were inspired by classics like "ET" and "The Coils".
"I wrote it almost as a memorandum, where I return and describe how she felt to grow up in this small Swedish city, which is really a real place. There is a general theme of technology that is more advanced in this universe, but there is no big supervillain or something like that, "said Stålenhag.
"The greatest threats in this world are like those we all face in life, such as intimidated at school or your parents going through divorce. I wanted to make a very mundane, realistic science fiction story."
Stålenhag has published two more narrative art books, "Things from the Flood" in 2016 (sequel to "Tales from the Loop") and "The Electric State" in 2017. The last one is not in Sweden but in a fantastic American megastate Pacifica, roughly equivalent to California, Oregon, and Washington. He was inspired by a trip to the West Coast and the pictures he took there.
An image from "The Electric State". Credit: Simon Stålenhag
"I always start taking photos and trying to find cool places that take tons of photo reference photos, then I play with these pictures and draw them on Photoshop and just try things," he explained.
"When I found something I like, I start and make these huge paintings, which are basically traditional media, because I always do them with touches and I do not use any texture of photos."
In "The Electric State," a girl and her yellow robot travel through an alternative reality in 1997, with ruins of giant battle victims scattered all over the US landscape. Movie rights were acquired last year by the Russo brothers, the directors of the film "Avengers: Infinity War," with the authors of Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely working on the script. The director of "This", Anthony Muschietti, is in negotiations to direct.
Among his influences, Stålenhag quotes Ralph McQuarrie, whose art of craft became a visual book for Star Wars and Syd Mead, whose production design brought to life "Blade Runner", "Aliens" and "Tron". As a child, Stålenhag attempted to imitate the work of Swedish painter Auntie Gunnar Brusewitz and wildlife artist Lars Jonsson.
"My style could be described as a mixture of these Swedish painters and the great 1970s art artists," he said.
Today he is working in his fourth book, which reveals that it will be a very grim story for a child and his parents traveling through a post-revealing landscape where everything is just ash.
An image from Stålenhag's forthcoming book, The Labyrinth. Credit: Simon Stålenhag
"Almost all art for this work comes from photos I made during a snowstorm in Stockholm in February. I have all these scary images and look very foggy because of the snow When I started playing with them, really strange open green and yellow colors that inspired the creation of the new book. "
As with previous collections, Stålenhag has already published works of art from this new book online, seeking inspiration and inspiration for the story.
"I start with art and I have a sort of vague idea of the kind of characters I have in this environment, but then I start to upload the pictures and put them out on Twitter and watch (how) other people react and some my idea of history is changing with it. "