Swedish Fredrik Saker paints driving licence picture

Fredrik Saker's driving licence
Image caption The likeness was good enough to be approved by the Swedish Transport Board

Fredrik Saker's driving licence does not look exceptional.

His severe face stares out from the plastic issued by the Swedish Transport Agency. It does not flatter him.

But it is highly unusual because the likeness on the licence is a self-portrait, not a photograph.

The 29-year-old Swedish artist wanted to prove to himself that he was good enough to paint a work that could pass as a photograph.

And, as he told the BBC, his work now has an official seal of approval.

"I was a bit surprised but very satisfied when I received the licence.

"I was happy with the painting, but I was nervous. Perhaps it would not get through."

Mr Saker had studied the code of the Swedish Transport Board before he submitted his likeness. It required a photo to be submitted that was a recent likeness. But nowhere did specify that the photograph had to be of the subject.

So Mr Saker thought a photograph of a self-portrait would do just as well.

The Swedish Transport Board told the newspaper Dagens Nyheter: "We have examined the original documents and compared them with his previous driving licence. The picture we have received looks like any other photo, so we have had no reason to question it."

Image caption The artist's impression of himself - a photo or a painting?

To get the official stamp of approval, Mr Saker worked on his self-portrait for about 100 hours with brushes he termed ridiculously fine, with barely any bristles.

The technique may hark back to the art of the 16th Century miniaturists like Nicholas Hilliard, but Mr Saker's inspiration has been technology and questions of identity.

"The picture's title is 'This is not me'," he told the BBC, "after Magritte, whose 'Ceci n'est pas une pipe" sat beneath a picture of a pipe.

"Like Magritte, I want to question of what is true and what is false, and question what a picture or a photo actually is.

"Since I have a history of Alzheimer's (the most common form of dementia), strokes and other brain-related illnesses in my family, I know that the human mind and perception can change in a matter of seconds, and what appears true to one person can be exactly the opposite to someone else."

Image caption Saker has been inspired by Rene Magritte

Another inspiration was the Norwegian-born artist, Kjartan Slettemark, who made a career through questions of identity and travelled round Europe in the 1970s on a passport in which his head and beard had been superimposed on a photograph of the US president, Richard Nixon.

For his licence, Mr Saker deliberately set out to paint himself as he is - on a bad day.

"I don't look good. My face is flushed and I am having a bad hair day.

"None of my friends ever says, 'Look at my driving licence, don't I look good?

"This picture is a milestone. It's a sign that my painting is getting better. Now I am embarking on another eight to 10 similar paintings. I start shooting a couple of people in the next couple of weeks and we will soon be reapplying for licences."

Mr Saker intends to exhibit all the paintings when they are completed, but for now, policemen can get a free viewing if ever they stop him on Sweden's roads.

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