Interview: Per Fhager On Combining Embroidery With Video Games
Posted by Damien McFerran
"Video gaming is an important medium that reflects our time"
Video games and art regularly collide with spectacular results, but the work of Swedish artist Per Fhager is one of the most surprising examples of this fusion of interactive entertainment and the world of visual crafts.
Fhager's work has been displayed all over Europe, and manages to capture the pixel-heavy games of yesteryear in a manner which turns already beautiful screenshots into something even more aesthetically striking. We caught up with this talented artist to talk about past, present and future projects.
Nintendo Life: What inspired you to combine video game pixel art with embroidery?
Per Fhager: I’ve been playing video games since I started going to school. I was instantly fascinated by the movement, music, colours, sheer challenge and above all the graphics. I remember being completely mesmerized by the pixel aesthetics and could spent hours with my nose almost touching the TV-screen, copying sprites onto graph paper. Since then the unique world of video games has influenced and inspired my creative expression. I have a textile background based on a genuine interest in many techniques found within the field, including needle point which is related to embroidery. In my early teens I experimented with needle point designs based on video game pixel graphics, and about ten years later I once more made the connection which led up to my first piece which was finalised in 2008. I soon realised this would only be the first of many scenes from video games I wanted to recreate in this way.
NL: What are your favourite video games or series?
PF: I don’t love all games, but the games that have left a lasting impression are the ones creating the foundation of my artistry, hence my taste in games is to a large extent reflected in my artworks.
Some of my strongest gaming experiences over the years include Ikaruga, Zelda: Link’s Awakening, Zelda: A Link to the Past, Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Zelda: Majoras Mask, Zelda: Wind Waker, Nights, Secret of Mana, Metal Slug, Star Fox 64, Xenoblade, Ufouria, Final Fantasy VI, Kirby’s Adventure, Mega Man, Super Mario Bros. 2, Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, Yoshi’s Island, Super Mario 64, Super Mario Galaxy, Front Mission, Super Metroid, Metroid Prime, Chrono Trigger and Klonoa.
NL: You don't shy away from tackling some obscure titles, like Blazing Star - a game which few casual players will have heard of. Do you consider yourself a hardcore gamer?
PF: Someone who knows Blazing Star and sees my piece based on that game sees Blazing Star, just like I do myself and that’s just logic since we’re both dedicated gamers who know this universe. But to me as an artist the most interesting reaction often comes from someone who sees my art and might not know as much of video games, such as the appreciation of the fractal beauty of the bullet hell in Radiant Silvergun, the reference to antique oriental tapestry in Super Mario World (beta) or the comparison between Blazing Star and 17th century battle paintings. These sometimes unexpected reflections make me appreciate these amazing games even more.
NL: Do you have much time for modern games, or are you more of a fan of retro titles?
PF: I enjoy 20 year old games as much as contemporary titles. Even though the visuals change over the years the core mechanics that define a great gaming experience are timeless to me.
NL: Pixel art is enjoying something of a comeback thanks to the likes of iOS and Android. Why do you think this supposedly outdated art style remains so popular?
As setting up boundaries and rules always has fuelled my creativity, the limitation and simplicity of pixel graphics will never cease to attract me. It’s fascinating that such a modern visual expression has so much in common with a craft as old and often very traditional as embroidery. Both worlds interest me, but the combined result when they meet is what drives me in my artistry. Still, to me it’s not all about pixel graphics or specific genres or consoles but about the games themselves. Of all cultural expressions video gaming has without a doubt inspired and stimulated my creativity the most. Video gaming is an important medium that reflects our time.
NL: Can you tell us a bit about your recent exhibition in London? What has the reaction been like?
PF: The dialogue with Belmacz was initiated a year ago. It’s always great to visit the opening and finally see the project come alive. My art combines two worlds — craft and video games — which often creates interesting dialogues with the spectators since they often have completely different approaches and experience with the respective mediums. Some might know a little about games but are crazy about needle point, and vice versa.
NL: Have you had any feedback from the creators of the games you use for your pieces?
PF: Delving into these wonderful games when working on my art makes me realise the incredible amount of work put into them. An intricately detailed background or a boss sprite may be used in a game only for a brief moment and then be gone forever, this transiency is a catalyst in my artistry. I have a huge respect for the dedicated people behind these games, if they were to contact me I would ask them about their creative process when making these exceptional, labour intensive graphics.
NL: What projects do you have lined up for the future?
PF: A new solo exhibition opens late April at gallery Stene Projects in Stockholm; it will feature my biggest piece so far. I’m currently working on a series of works to be published in 2014. I want to continue exploring the unlimited possibilities of needle point while sharing my strongest gaming experiences. I’m doing this out of love for the craft and my love of video games.
Thanks to Per for taking the time to speak with us! Images courtesy of Stene Projects Stockholm.