Asger Dybvad Larsen

Asger Dybvad Larsen in dialogue with Steven Cox

Steven Cox: Can you tell me a little about yourself, your background, and how/when you first started working full-time as an artist?

Asger Dybvad Larsen: I grew up in a small town called Fjaltring with around 150 inhabitants where there wasn’t too much to do, and I quickly discovered a joy in drawing and painting. This combined with a lot of visits to Museums during holidays. In 2008 I began attending my first art school and have been studying at other art schools ever since. My first solo was in 2013 but I wouldn’t say I was working full time at that point. I would say my career started primarily in 2015 with my first international solo.

SC: Can you tell me about your current studio and working routine? Do you have any morning rituals or habits that contribute towards a productive day within the studio?

ADL: I don’t know if you can call it a morning ritual, but I try to imagine what I want to do during a day and coordinate it as good as possible. For example I can stitch some work while the paint is drying on another piece. It’s a small thing but for me it helps. Other than that I try to answer e-mails in the morning and the evening so I can focus more on my art work during the day.

SC: To what extent do you consider your city as being an influential factor in the shaping of your work? Do you feel that your surroundings have influenced you in one way or another?

ADL: Right now I’m living in Aarhus, which is relatively small and there are not many distractions so that helps me concentrate on my artistic practice. But at the same time there is still a small cultural scene which I try to keep being a part of. So I guess Aarhus is not directly an influence but more in the sense of my social circle who live here.

SC: Can you please tell me about your studio set up? Would you say that your current studio is ideal, or are you seeking a new/better space?

ADL: I would definitely not say that my studio is ideal. Way too small. I’m looking for something bigger at the moment. The best studio I have tried so far was the La Brea Artist in Residence studio in Los Angeles. Extremely large and in a super nice area. But my ideal studio would be in Denmark.

SC: What projects/works are currently in progress in your studio?

ADL: I have an ongoing research of the leftovers from leftovers from leftovers… of these paint tray paintings I make. I’m always interested in adding a new branch to the family tree. It’s very important for me that there’s a direct and physical relation between the paintings’ generations.

SC: Your solo exhibition at Geukens & De Vil is titled A Branch In Relation To Another, are you wishing to refer to this idea of “adding a new branch to the family tree” through this exhibition of works?

ADL: Yes, you could say that. The gallery space consists of two separate rooms, each room with one series of works. The title is referring to the relationship between the works of the different series but also to the relationship between the works in the same series.

SC: Other than your current solo exhibition at Geukens & De Vil, what future exhibitions/projects do you have scheduled?

ADL: I also have a solo at KN in Trento, Italy where Pierluigi Colangelo is going to compose a music piece for the exhibition. I have never been in dialogue with a musician in that way before so it’s something I’m really looking forward to. Other than that, I can’t wait to go to the CCA residency in Mallorca in the end of the year. Staying at a beautiful place for a longer period of time, cut off from the everyday life is something I really crave.

SC: You have recently opened a solo show at Kunsthal Aarhus, perhaps you could provide me with some information about this opportunity and the works you have chosen to exhibit?

ADL: It’s actually not a solo show but three solo presentations under the title Some Advances in Sedimentation/ The Things That Make Art curated by Kristine Siegel. It’s three graduating students from the Jutland Art Academy, myself incuded.

I have tried showing a lot of different kinds of works in the sense of composition, thematics, referentiality, techniques and sizes. Both abstract and figurative. You can maybe see it as a contrast to a more clean gallery presentation that I recently have shown at Rolando Anselmi, False Front and Geukens & De Vil.

SC: It would be interesting if you could shed some light on your work that resembles an iceberg or pile. This particular work, which is currently on show within Kunsthal Aarhus, appears metaphorical in an interesting way...

ADL: This particular painting was first shown at Nordic Contemporary in Paris, October 2016. It comes out of flirting with figurative painting such as Caspar David Friedrich’s mountain paintings, especially the painting the Sea of Ice. For me it’s more about the tradition of landscape painting than it is about the landscape. It’s not the first of these kinds of works. In the show Sense of Space at Pablo’s Birthday in New York, I showed several landscape referring paintings.

SC: There is also a new series of work within this exhibition that I have not seen before; it consists of black and white images glued to the surface of black canvases.  It would be great if you could please tell me about this series of works…

ADL: This is the series of works that I also mentioned earlier, both in relations to the new titles, the fascination of Matisse’s atalier paintings and to drawings of my studio. They’re black drawings of my working space based on photographs glued on black canvas. The works comes out of wanting to make something representative. The idea started with a combination of Matisse’s red monochrome paintings of his atalier and Pierre Alechinsky’s paper drawings on canvas technique in a composition that reminds me of a Kazimir Malevich painting. I also see a similarity between these new works and some of Christopher Wool’s photographs and some of Robert Rauschenberg’s collages. These works are also going to be shown in Spazio KN in Trento in June.

SC: I am interested to know how you plan your works. Do you begin with preparatory sketches of some form, or do you prefer to work in an improvised manner?

ADL: It’s very different how I proceed but I usually have a private work title which sometimes influences the compositions to be more figurative and in that case I make sketches. Otherwise I have different concepts that work more as a recipe that I follow.  And other times it’s a balance between the two. So I guess my sketches are more related to a kind of homemade recipe.

SC: I am also curious about the importance of documenting the progression of a works creation. How regularly do you document the studio and the making of your works?

ADL: Most of my works are process based so because of that it’s a natural thing to do but it’s not something I plan, it happens more by impulse. In a new series of works I actually draw the photos of my studio that I’ve documented over the years. I like the studio as a motive, almost as classical as a still life, landscape or a portrait. These types of motives are almost commenting more on the medium and tradition of painting than on what they’re illustrating. I like this concept in relation to the paint tray paintings because of the similarities in the thematics concerning the whole meta concept built in my practice.

SC: By casting the motif visible on paint trays, and using the physical cast to monoprint each unique design on canvas, you showcase an interest in exploring themes surrounding appropriation, duplication, repetition and the reinterpretation of DIY home tools.  I am interested to hear how these ‘paint tray paintings’ first came into existence…

ADL: I’ve always been fascinated by one specific paint tray that looks exactly like a Frank Stella painting, and I find it funny comparing the paint tray painting as a motif to the statements of the artists in between abstract expressionism and minimalism such as Frank Stella, Ad Reinhardt, Agnes Martin and so on. Especially the text Art as Art by Ad Reinhardt where he talks about art being non-representative. I find it interesting the way the paint tray painting both has a formal quality as a painting and is representative of an everyday object, but an everyday object that points back to a process of painting. So in a way it’s a dialectical version of Ad Reinhardt’s text.

SC: Conceptually, there are multiple entry points into this series of work, but is there a specific way in which you would like the paint tray paintings to be interpreted by the viewer? Do you feel there is a personal responsibility in ensuring a correct interpretation of your own work?

ADL: For me there isn’t really a correct way of reading it. But of course I like it when people start thinking when they see my things. I don’t expect that everyone who sees my works know all the same references that I use so in that way I can’t assume that they read it in the same way I do.

SC: Looking closely at your works, it appears that the canvas you use has been dyed or stained in order to achieve an aged or dirty aesthetic. What process does the canvas go through prior to becoming ‘pressure paint tray’ paintings?

ADL: I guess they don’t just look dirty but are as well. Most of the finished works are made of paintings I didn’t like or leftovers from other paintings. Some of the fabric has been lying on my studio floor for three years now. If I have stretched a painting and don’t like it and am in desperate need of either canvas or stretcher bars I often just pull the canvas off the frame and that leaves holes in the canvas. So in many ways the fabric becomes “damaged” in many parts of the process until it becomes a finished work.

SC: Stitching together various pieces of canvas, your paintings are formed in a collage like manner. Within Denmark, I find that the process of hand stitching or collaging pieces of fabric together has been made fashionable by the likes of Sergej Jensen. To what extent has other artists impacted or inspired your approach towards painting?

ADL: I don’t think it’s a typical Danish thing to stitch works. I see it more as an Italian thing with artists such as Alberto Burri and Piero Manzoni. Actually a lot of paintings before modernism were stitched together canvas in order to make a larger painting.

If you divide an artwork into form and substance I guess my form is related to Sergej Jensen’s formal techniques. But I’m looking at tons of other artists, I’m also really fascinated by Matisse’s cutouts and lately I’ve been looking at his red painting of his studio. But to name some other artists I also look at; Albert Mertz, Christopher Wool, Peter Bonde, Theaster Gates, Sol LeWitt, Wade Guyton, Martin Erik Andersen, Sterling Ruby, Stefan Müller and Eva Hesse. But of course I also keep a closer eye on my own generation. To name a few; Graham Collins, Maximillian Schubert, Peter Mohall, Cody Tumblin, Linne Urbye, Wolfgang Voegele, Ted Gahl, Max Frintrop and of course Steven Cox ;)

SC: You smoothie ;) Some really great artists in that list I am sure many can relate to. Moving on, It seems that most of your work is left Untitled; do you feel that it is unnecessary to individually title your works? Generally, what is your feeling towards titling your paintings?

ADL: I guess untitling my work at the moment comes from my first solo exhibition called; Title where all seventeen works in the show had a 500 word long sentence title. After that show I was fed up with giving my works titles.

At the moment I’m actually working with a more conceptual way of giving my new works titles where I use pieces of paper with text that I’ve written from the exhibition Title and cover the words with a black and white image that becomes the painting. The words that are covered by the black part of the image become the title of the work.

I also spend a lot of time finding titles for my solo shows. Sometimes, months.

SC: Do you have any dream projects in mind that you would like to do in the future? (Spaces, size of works, environments, installations etc…)

ADL: My instant thoughts are doing a residency in Japan or exhibiting at a museum. But it’s not something I think so much about. I try to focus a lot on the projects in the near future.

SC: In relation to social media and more specifically Instagram, what are your thoughts on this as a platform to engage with new audiences? Do you have a love/hate relationship with Instagram or other online social media platforms?

ADL: I would definitely say that I enjoy the possibilities that Instagram has to offer. I really like how easy it is to initiate a relation to other artists; I think it’s a nice modern kind of business card and I think it’s a nice way to discover other upcoming artists.

SC: What do you feel are the pros and cons of Instagram, and do you consider Instagram important for artists working today?

ADL: I think one of the pros is that it’s very easy to reach a larger audience with a simplified version of your artistic practice.  And one of the cons is that some people see it as a replacement for experiencing the physical objects and not as a representation of these. I don’t think Instagram is important for the artists or the art alone. I think it’s important for the relation between artists who have a geographical distance to each other.

SC: Any last points or thoughts you would like to share?

ADL: If I should share any last thing, it could be some recommendations. Watch the movie Synecdoche, New York by Charlie Kaufman or listen to Help Recordings on Soundcloud or read the new Phaidon book about Sterling Ruby written in collaboration with Kate Fowle, Franklin Sirmans and Jessica Morgan. Other than than, thanks for a really nice interview.

SC: Yes, this Phaidon publication of Sterling Ruby has been featured on Hunted Projects!

Asger Dybvad Larsen

Images Courtesy of Asger Dybvad Larsen, Geukens & De VilKunsthal Aarhus and Pablo's Birthday Gallery