Anders Scrmn Meisner
I really enjoy Anders Scrmn Meisner's colorful, illustrative, or as he describes as somewhat "decorative" paintings, typically made in gouache, which balance somewhere on the boundary between painting, drawing, and illustration. I love the patterns, the bright colors, and the addition of mysterious titles that hint at what the scenes may represent -- also sometimes taking on a post-like quality. Happy to share a wonderful interview here, and be sure to checko ut more of his work at the links below!
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I would love to know more about you. You're currently based in Copenhagen? Are you from there originally?
Yes, born and raised here. I moved away from Copenhagen when I was around 21 or so. First to Sevilla, Spain and then to Amsterdam where I ended up staying for about 8 years. I moved back to Copenhagen when I turned 30, and while I love and consider both Amsterdam and Sevilla homes away from home, I am happy to be back.
What first interested you in painting?
I have always been interested in creating. I was in a band with my good friend Mical Noelson, who is also a painter, and I guess he sparked my interest. After a few years of playing music and making art on the side, the art took over, and these days its only painting.
One of the things about painting I really like is that it's quite an individualistic effort. It's you and a blank surface, its quite primitive that way. Which are the same reasons that make painting difficult I guess. The situation, "painter vs. surface," can be quite dramatic, peaceful, fun and boring. It changes all the time. Its really an addictive situation for me to be in.
You consciously use a lot of symbolism and iconography in your work; can you tell me a bit more about that? Do you have an interest or background in art history that has informed your style?
My interests change all the time. I'm quite curious about historical events and art history, but I have no background in it, say like education or so. When I get interested in something I tend to read what I can about it. For example, if I want to draw a surfboard, I want to know how it's made, who made it, and where it comes from. That leads into more questions: Who surfs and what does it mean to surf? Then I try to look for a story and a contrast to that specific object. Like the Ku Klux Klan, or Adolf Hitler, or a papal hat for example (I don't think I ever painted those together though). When you bring the objects together you get a story or a tension that you can build your painting around. I have a fascination with objects and how they co-exist in our history as humans. They tell a lot about how different our lives are and how the world is really one big circus. After the beautiful girl hanging from the Trapeze come the scary clowns.
Your work also straddles the line between lighthearted and seriousness, as the images are first glance are cheerful and bright, but suggest underlying, darker ideas. What draws you to the tension in that dichotomy?
For me the tension is vital, and I prefer it to be subtle. When you make paintings with historical references, I think you need to sugarcoat the subject a bit. I know that the word "decorative" is often used as a bad word for painting, but I don't mind decorative if it's a disguise. You can't see the Devil if he is hiding in a cave; you have to bring him out into a field full of spring flowers and hide him there.
Can you tell me a bit about your process? What is your research like, or how do you decide on the imagery?
I often start with the titles actually, so my sketch books are mainly full of words. I may even write what is supposed to be in the painting. Then I edit when I get into the studio and re-read old notes to see if anything is sharp enough. When I see the title, I often see the painting. Then while I paint, I alter the image I have in my head and try to make it better, and make sure not to stick completely to my first idea. Sticking to the first idea can be good, but it's not as fun as making stuff up and reacting to the painting.
What is your studio space like?
I recently moved my studio down to the basement of the building that me and the family live in. It has been a big change for me since I always had a studio inside the apartment. The last eight years or so, both in Amsterdam and Copenhagen, I've been working in my home. So even though it's just down the stairs, it still feels like it is far away from home. I'm still getting used to it and have already brought big paintings up into the house to finish them up there, even though it's a bit against the idea of getting a bigger space downstairs. We have to see, it might never work out for me to work outside the house.
Is there a tool or object in your studio that you can't live without?
I'm very happy with my old staple gun. But apart from that, I'm quite hooked on HKS designers gouache, flat tipped brushes, water based oils, and rabbit skin glue for when I work on canvas, and Silberburg hand made paper for the gouache works. I rarely deviate from those, and I can get hysterical about using other stuff. They all work a bit different, and it annoys me when things perform different that what I'm used to. Especially gouache, they dry a bit lighter so you have to know whats in the tube before you mix them and paint.
What do you do when you find yourself in a creative rut?
I carry on. Sometimes it helps to destroy works that have caused the rut, which can be devastating and disapointing given the amount of time you spent on it. But for me it helps. Get them in the bin and curse at them. Then go back and start again. It has never helped for me to take a break or a drink. I will be annoyed until I'm back doing something that's going in the right direction. Sometimes, of course, I have to go to bed knowing that I made nothing of value in the studio, even though I was in there for hours. But it's part of the process of getting to the end of the next painting.
What is the most challenging part of pursuing art seriously, whether creatively or professionally? Have you overcome any obstacles that have taught you a lesson going forward?
I guess my main lesson is consistency. Doing something every day, paying attention to it every day. Not letting the idea of painting slip. If there is a problem with the paintings, you can work yourself out of it by putting in the hours. I never made anything worth looking at that was easy to make. Painting is quite revealing that way. Professionally it can be hard not being influenced by feedback from all sorts of opinions, art fairs, and the art market. I think the best way to go about it is to go to the studio and paint, and see what happens, and try not worry too much about other things. Then when you come home and lay in bed, you can worry about the rest.
What do you consider the most rewarding or exciting aspect of doing what you do?
I'm always curious about what I will be painting next month or next year. There is a strange excitement about creating a body of work and knowing there is more to come and more paintings to paint. I don't think there is a big, golden reward in being an artist; the real reward I guess is the freedom of doing something you like doing every day. I can get a real buzz from finishing a painting that I'm happy with. But it only lasts a day, then I have to start again.
Do you have any upcoming exhibitions or projects you're currently working on?
I have two solo shows, one in Amsterdam at Francis Boeske Projects and the other at Hans Alf Gallery in Copenhagen. Both early 2018, close to each other, so 2017 will be mainly about creating those two shows. Then of course some art fairs and such. I would like to finish some writing as well but we have to see about that.
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