Halfdan Pisket (b. 1985) graduated from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in 2009. After two years of study he got fed up with the structures and absurdities of fine arts and started making comics – now he makes comics and illustrations full time.
We met up with him in his flat / studio to talk about the boundaries of academia and his latest publication, the much celebrated The Deserter – a part real, part historic and part dreamy / nightmarish comic book in which Halfdan Pisket relives the dramatic life of his father.
By Erik Duckert
Photos by Martin Kurt Haglund
PISKET: “Now I feel like no, no, no I don’t want anything to do with art.”
P: “I got into the Academy when I was 17. I’d been hanging out with artist like Fryd Frydendahl and Asbjørn Skou having a great time, so I thought I would meet a lot of like-minded people at the art academy …
The very first week consisted of a weeklong seminar from 8am to 4pm every day.
At the seminar this dude from Novo Nordisk [massive Danish pharmaceutical company red.] talked about self-branding and management.
– Not exactly what I expected.”
Scrapes his thumb with his index finger.
Time passed and the absurdities of certain elements of contemporary art piled up until one distinct experience made Halfdan decide definitively to take his artistic endeavors in a different direction.
P: “At one point my friend died.
I was completely devastated and couldn’t attend classes.
I told my professor about the situation and he replied:
‘I know how you feel. The important thing in a situation like that is to run a marathon, I’ve been running marathons for 10 years and I am never sad, just happy. All the time.’
I was speechless. He just kept talking about running marathons for an hour. He would have continued if I’d left the room, I’m sure.
I just sat there thinking OK this is insane – fuck this.”
P: “I decided I needed to do something that didn’t take up too much space and something I could do anywhere, so I started making comics.”
P: “I turned my attention from art history to comics and television series, entertainment became superior.
– I have learned more from the American TV-series The Wire than any lesson I’ve ever had in art history.”
The first comic Halfdan Pisket published was deemed too artistic by the critics, and even though it was tough to hear back then Halfdan accepted the critique and his new publication The Deserter follows a more traditional format
– but that doesn’t mean it’s been an easy process.
P: “It was an insanely tough process.”
P: “It is new for me to make traditional comics. Because everything is fitted into squares it is a real challenge to make every picture as good as it can be within the boundaries of the frame.
The rhythm, the level of detail, how much to cut away – there are so many considerations when putting together a narrative like that.”
In the build up of the storyline Halfdan has constantly balanced multiple contradictive strata.
P: “One thing is to get the historic facts straight. I wanted an angle that addressed the Armenian genocide, but it had to be incorporated into the depiction of my fathers life, who, as it happens, denies that the Armenian genocide ever took place.
So trying to create a story people understand which at the same time respects history and respects my dad, a story I can concede – it’s been mad.”
P: “I started out wanting to make it strictly biographical but that didn’t work out at all. He kind of needed to be freed from the reality he moved within in order for me to really describe it.
The result is a weird mix of part his story, part my story and part history.
– In a way the whole thing is me trying to relive his childhood.”
P: “I don’t know what the fad is at the academy at the moment but when I went there, it was performance and time based art, everything they spoke about could be applied to comics.
– But the beauty of comics is that no one takes them seriously.”