Atlanta-based abstract artist Bob Landström (boblandstrom.com) creates colorful, whimsical artwork through volcanic rock. Here, the artist shares how he came to find the rather unusual painting medium and the motivations behind his art.
Bob Landström, “Mogotrevo” (2021, pigmented volcanic rock on canvas), 48 inches by 60 inches; art courtesy of Bob Landström
Where are you from and how does that affect your work? I was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pa. When I was a boy, that part of the world was all about heavy industry. I can remember looking out of the window of the bus or the trolley, and always seeing smoke and the glow of molten metal—fire and brimstone, literally. I think the connection with my chosen painting medium of volcanic rock is hard to ignore here. Looking inwardly, though, I think my strong work ethic is the most tangible thing drawn from that environment.
The artist; portrait by David Clifton-Strawn
Tell me a bit more about your medium, working with volcanic rock. During an excursion to the American Southwest studying Native American petroglyphs, I found myself strongly attracted to the rock formations there. The idea of using volcanic rock as a painting medium clicked for me. I use a number of different grain sizes by sifting the pulverized rock into different groups of gravel. I apply a pigment to the gravel in a way that each individual grain is colored. If you visit my studio, you’ll see dozens and dozens of containers with different colors and sizes of this rock. I apply the gravel to the canvas with an emulsion using trowels, knives, nails, sticks and my fingers. When you look at the paintings, you’ll see a surface made of small grains of gravel of different sizes, each individually colored by themselves, and arranged to form the composition of the painting. I’ve been painting this way for well over two decades.
“Available Attraction” (2022, pigmented volcanic rock on canvas), 36 inches by 36 inches; art courtesy of Bob Landström
What is the purpose or goal of your work? Each of my paintings is sort of like a page torn from my mental notebook. They’re snapshots of a moment of time of what I’m thinking about, reading and listening to, all together. Think of a one-page time capsule of one human being in the early 21st century. To put that in the context of a purpose, I suppose you could say that the act of making the painting is a way for me to work things out and put all these thoughts down together.
“Raven of Ganymede” (2021, pigmented volcanic rock on canvas), 36 inches by 36 inches; art courtesy of Bob Landström
Where can Atlantans find your work? Presently, I’m with Alan Avery Art Company in Atlanta, Chase Edwards Contemporary in Palm Beach and The White Room Gallery in New York.