MARTIN AAGAARD HANSEN
Nature provides a fantastic feeling of being lonely in a positive way; the contrast of quietness and rumbling. -Martin Aagaard Hansen
Martin Aagaard Hansenon Home, Materials, Symbols, Studio and InspirationHome: How was it growing up in terms of culture? What does the idea or concept of a city mean to you?Painting cityscapes was always in the back of my mind. Coming from a very quiet suburban town, going to any city was always something special. The first time I ever saw a city depicted in a painting was in the waiting room of my primary school dentist, there were these odd prints of wobbly, old houses towering over each other, as if battling each other for the right to stand. I remember liking the simple depiction of a block with square holes signaling a situation within. I remember it struck me quite deep back then, the slow burning potential of it. The grandeur and the aesthetics of architecture tends to mask any simplicity of a city as just a collection of people. But with it there is so much poetic value, the coming and going, the memory of people, the coexisting of so many souls. And how many people have lived in the same place that you call home. The vastness of that feeling has always fascinated me.
Materials: could you speak further about the salvaged wood you use for your paintings, the chalk based primer, and how you utilize cloth and paper to use as a brush. How that process came into being.
It started as a means of using a tool that could both add and remove simultaneously. I constantly wipe color off the surface, to create gaps between the different figurations and plans that in the end-result can seem fragmented or left open, it feels like digging and finding elements that I left for myself, different pictorial anchor points working with and against each other, paper and fabric cloth could fill both those roles for me, so I stuck with it. Brushes sometimes feel as if I am meant to use them, I also do, but mainly in the beginning of the painting.
The wooden panels allow the necessary shifts I do in terms of adding and removing, canvas always gets too tired and full in the end, the wood offers the resistance I need for the way I paint. Salvaged wood panels are interesting to me in terms of format, it started as just a study of painting on panels, but then it became a method of a constantly changing format, depending on what sizes I could find and what possibilities that format could hold.
The symbols in the works shift but also keep mumbling the same phrases over again, they may start as possible motifs for the sake of their visual appearance but with the repetition they gather meaning.
Symbols: the hidden staircases seen in paintings, the long limbed figures… how figuration plays a part in the work.
The staircase windows came about one evening. I was looking out from my balcony and noticed that all the windows of the neighboring building were dark, and the only lit ones were the hallways with empty staircases. The only warmth of that scene was also the coldest (an empty staircase) I really liked how little it was revealing.
The symbols in the works shift but also keep mumbling the same phrases over again, they may start as possible motifs for the sake of their visual appearance but with the repetition they gather meaning. For example a wheel hovering over a building or a clock always showing 2 o’clock, the wheel, the turning, time creeping.
It’s also nice not always knowing exactly why I place things in the works. It can start almost like saying something to yourself in your head that sounded funny, and then you realize later how relevant it actually was for the trajectory of your day or the mood you were in. Other times it’s just nonsense but at least it got thought through. Visions also arrive late sometimes, the chronology of thoughts that goes into a painting doesn’t always move as linear as people sometimes think.
Figuration was something I felt I negotiated into my painting, coming from a more abstract style of working. It's as if the figuration needs to be okay with their scene for them to appear in the composition, almost as if the surrounding elements are shaping the figures. In that it feels as if the whole thing is breathing together somehow, and it’s not so much just figure and background.
Studio: What is a normal day at the studio like for you? Perhaps you could talk us through your commute, people you may be in contact with (lunch, coffee etc) and how you work (silence? music or podcasts?), do you spend time with source materials (old catalogs or internet searches)?
I keep a very unpredictable studio schedule, I go in here and there when I feel like I have something on my mind. It can be a hint of something, but I need to be curious about what can happen. Painting for me is all about searching, with or without it, I search for content all the time, but it needs to be somewhere beyond the studio too, otherwise I can waste time being there.
I need that sense of urgency or focus, that’s kind of a deal I made with myself. The most consistent thing is that I’m either in the studio or in the forest. Nature provides a fantastic feeling of being lonely in a positive way. The contrast of quietness and rumbling.
When I work it's usually quiet. Listening to music while working can sometimes affect the mood in the studio a bit too much, so i try to leave as much as I can at the door, and then keep the studio to a place of working and not too many other things. Then the overload usually starts again when I leave.
...the right kind of dead end can sometimes be full of light and mystery
Inspiration: A big question, but what is inspiring you now? As in books, history, place, art, nature, etc…
Old obscure paintings and prints, mycology, publications, town history, tales, personal memory and personal fiction.
Lately I have spent a lot of time in Oslo. Being relatively new to the Norwegian realm of painting is quite lovely, lots of great painters popping up in that search, for example: Lars Hertervig and Bendik Riis have made a big impression on me of late. Obviously it is the town of Edvard Munch so there are all the fantastic works by him, but so many interesting artists besides him too.
Another means of generating inspiration is to selectively “misplace” myself to find something that holds a certain feeling I'm after, instead of always going directly to the source of already existing art. I might putter about in old thrift stores in a part of town that I have never been in. I like the feeling of spaces that seem in between. That dusty melancholy it holds. Just being available to whatever can happen, whatever I see, people I meet and talk to and how conversations can feed the work in the studio.
So much of painting is about looking at stuff, even the insignificant, that you never thought would hold any meaning, and then years later it feels like the most important thing, and can pave the way for a whole exhibition or a body of work. It can also be incredibly draining and can lead to tons of dead ends, but the right kind of dead end can sometimes be full of light and mystery.
Works on viewThe Eternal Village
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