Mathias Malling Mortensen

Mathias Malling Mortensen 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?

Mathias Malling Mortensen: I am 36 years and since I was a child I wanted to become a painter. I grew up part-time with my mother and part-time with my father. My father’s house was full of my grandfathers art and other artists and I think living with art like that made want to paint and draw. I am not sure when I became a full time artist but recently I realised that it would be difficult to go back to working a conventional job.

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?

MMM: Right now I have a relatively small but good workspace, it is very close to where I live and it is in a very old house so the atmosphere is fantastic. I share the 1st floor in the house with two other artists, Kristian Touborg and Albert Grøndal, perfect for when you need a coffee break. Normally I get up early, I like to work in the morning at the time when your head is still thinking clearly. I also work 3-4 hours in the evening when there is no e-mails or phone messages to answer to.

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

MMM: Right now I am working with a print shop (Printers Proof) on a series of mono prints on canvas and work for a group show in Essen Kunsthaus. I will be showing alongside Pierre Knop, Simon Laureyns, & Taomina Amadar. The three artists Colin Penno, Pierre Knop and Wolgang Voegele have curated the exhibition. After that I will begin working on a solo show for the Copenhagen gallery Sunday-S.

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?

MMM: My Studio is small but it has the poetry that I want from a studio, it is in an old building in Copenhagen. Its close to where I live and because I often work at afternoon and night its important that it is close to where I live. So in many ways it is ideal to me at the state I am currently in.

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?

MMM: When I start a new series of work it often begins by taking photos of things I see and sketching. That doesn’t mean that the sketch results in what I end up painting but it means that I have an idea of what mood I want the painting to own. I often work with the same motif on several canvases in different sizes.

SC: Your paintings today reflect your past and continued interest in abstract paper cutting and irregular pattern making. Simultaneously, both your paper cuttings and paintings on linen showcase an interestingly delicate investigation into materiality. To you, what are the important aspects of your work that you are continuing to examine and explore?

MMM: I investigate forms and how they react to one another, also as you mention the irregularities in what seems to be a regular pattern. In the process I also try to re-translate forms that I discover into forms that I can use in a painting. Also the poetry in a painting is very important, because I view paintings as poems that of course have different voices depending on what the poem is trying to say.

SC: Focusing on the titling of your works, how do you choose your titles? For you, what is the role of an artworks title? Also, do you feel that titles can alter a works interpretation?

MMM: When I give my work titles it can either have something to do with the direct source of inspiration that I painted or a place. But, it can also be something I get from reading a book or newspaper that makes sense in that period of time that when I am working on a painting. A good title can make a new but still open view on the work, and also point you in a direction where you didn’t expect.

SC: I am also curious about the documentation of an artworks creation. How regularly do you document the progression of your paintings?

MMM: I sometimes take photos of my paintings but it is not something that I do a lot.

SC: I am interested in the notion of preciousness and at what stage a painting becomes discarded in the studio. Do you have a tendency to destroy failed paintings? Or, do you aim to be as accurate/efficient as possible when planning a work so to avoid destroying anything?

MMM: I own lots of my old paintings that I do not want to show but at the same time I do not want to destroy the historical process of how I work. When I start a new work I of course try aim for the idea that I have in mind but at the same time I don’t know what the final painting will look like. I aim to be accurate during the paintings evolution.

SC: What are some of the key art materials within your studio that you always need to have close to hand?

MMM: Simple, my sketchbook, ink, black liner pen and painting materials.

SC: Earlier you mentioned that when growing up you lived amongst much of your grandfather’s artwork (Richard Mortensen). Personally when viewing his works, I can feel some subtle aspects of his paintings feeding into your paper cuttings and paintings. Do you consider his work influential on how you perceive shape, colour and line within your own works?

MMM: Yes I do. His works were some of the first paintings that I saw and tried to understand. But he was also an interesting opener to understanding abstract painting and art in general. By reading about my grandfather I found his inspiration in Kandinsky & Miro amongst other. And today, I also work with some of the same thoughts that he had.

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?

MMM: I think that it very much depends on how you are as a person, that will define if using Instagram is a good or a bad choice.

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

MMM: The Pros of Instagram are that you meet new people around the world, and you discover new artists. The cons is that when you work with art on a platform that moves so fast you judge a piece of art on a small screen that doesn’t give justice to the work…both in a negative and positive way.

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?

MMM: Yes I think Copenhagen has been influential shaping me. I have been going to the museums since I was a kid and by that seeing all the great Danish artists.

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

MMM: I don’t have any last thoughts, but look forward to hang soon.

Images courtesy of Mathias Malling Mortensen and Printers Proof