On Tuesday this week I was invited along to the Danish Embassy for an opening celebrating the winner of the Embassy Award 2013.
Being the curious and sometimes opportunistic guy that I am I agreed for two reasons. The first to see some good art, the second to have the opportunity to go inside an embassy!
The artist whose achievement we are celebrating here is Asger Harbou Gjerdevik. He is currently in his second year at Central Saint Martins and I took the opportunity to ask him a few questions about the images that he makes.
DC: How is it to see your work in the context of an embassy?
AHG: To exhibit my work in an embassy is definitely different in comparison to a more conventional gallery space. Mainly because of the space and location. For this exhibition my work is located in the Embassy’s canteen, two corridors and two conference rooms. The work is going to hang there for a year where the people working at the embassy will have to look at it everyday.
When I came to make the three paintings for the canteen I had to think through how I could integrate my style, topics and visuals into works that worked in the context of the Embassy and what that represents but also it is a place where people came to eat everyday. So I toned down my usual figurations and symbols e.g. body fluids, penises, flames, graves, dead animals etc. essentially all of the stuff that I usually like to paint and had a more abstract approach to them.
However, in the corridors it’s cool – because if people don’t like it they can keep on walking. In a way, the drawings that contain my usual figurations on display in the corridors, which are way smaller than the paintings, engage with the viewer on a different level and its interesting to see what they represent.
DC: Does it change the way you see the work in anyway?
AHG: No – not really.
DC: Can you please explain the title ‘Without Transition‘ a little further?
AHG: I think that titles are always difficult. All my work so far are untitled – and when I had to come up with a title for the exhibition – I didn’t really know what I would call it. To begin with I wanted to call it Heavy Liquid, I think it has a nice sound to it, and it can refer to the material used to make the work – paint – that is also a heavy liquid. It is also a title of a song by The Stooges which I also reference in some of the works in the exhibition. Unfortunately the embassy didn’t really like that title so much – so I had to come up with another one.
So I recalled the old Surrealist trick to find a title. Where you take your favorite book, close your eyes and scroll through the book. You then place your finger on a random word on a random page and use that word as a title. At the time I was reading Naked Lunch, so I took the book closed my eyes and scrolled through and pointed at the title Without Transition. I thought about it, and felt it had some poetic feel to it and I kept it at that.
Without Transition can be applied what I do as well as where I have come from. In connection to what I do, I have the same approach to painting as I have to drawing or to woodcuts. This is that same with my approach to materials, I don’t limit myself by only using acrylic, for example, there can be pencil, markers, ink, spray paint, bleach, epoxy, resin and so forth.
DC: Can you briefly describe any influences that have contributed to your style of image making?
AHG: Tough question… I will try to answer briefly. Anything from Larry Poons to Robert Crumb or from cave paintings to sci-fi films.
DC: I noticed that your work has quite a graphic feel to it and I was just wondering how you see your work in relation to graphics in general?
AHG: I see my work very much involved with graphics. It might even be more involved with graphics than traditional painting. Or actually it is. Yes I use geometry, lines, symbols, illustration and text – yes I am quite interested in form and anti-form and the dualism of the visual elements. Creating a space or a language that is more than a one to one representation.
DC: And finally, what’s next for you?
AHG: For now I am just going to work and have fun. Then I have been asked to participate in a group exhibition at The Danish Cultural Institute in Edinburgh. The exhibition is showing young emerging Danish artists living and working in the UK. So I will work on that. It is on in September/October 2013.
Then hopefully I can spend more time printing at Byam Shaw!
Firstly, CONGRATULATIONS to Asger once again for winning the prize and also a huge thank you for the interview.
Secondly, I would also like to mention Mette Hammer Juhl and thank her for inviting me into her country’s embassy, a place that I am very unlikely to have access to again.
Finally, I apologise for my terrible photographs but check back soon and I shall have the most marvellous images of Asger’s fantastic work for your delectation 🙂
UPDATE: Installation shots added.