Issue:
Nº 3
Week 33, 2014

For this issue of Opaque we’ve interviewed two very different artists both addressing the limits and complexities of social spheres. Our featured space section this week actually profiles a space that recently closed down.

John Kenn Mortensen doesn’t claim to be an artist, doesn’t really care what you call him; he has thrived on being a misfit all his life, and his doodle-inspired monster drawings display a healthy, humorous doze of ‘whatever’.

The work of Swedish/Serbian artis Danilo Stankovic dives into the relational identities of contemporary society with a subtle and mystical approach.

Newly closed MOHS exhibit had the peculiar trait of being run by a gallery owner who closed it down to pursue a career as an artist.

Inside with the outsider John Kenn Mortensen

Category: Interview

Artists:


OPQ_JOHNKENN_20140110_0049_CROP

All work photos courtesy of the John Kenn Mortensen corporation.

THE DOODLE-LIKE quality of Danish John Kenn Mortensen’s monster-drawings caught our eye, so we paid him a visit in his flat in the southern area of Copenhagen.

The hung over artist greets us with a big beard, very small eyes and a mild giggle.

By: Erik Duckert
Photos by: Martin Kurt Haglund

Door Phone: “Who?! – shit, that’s right … come in, come in.”

Opens, closes, collapses.

John Kenn Mortensen (b. 1978) has a vast experience within comics, TV–production, filmmaking and doodling.

He breathes heavily, gets up.

MORTENSEN: “Coffee!”

M: “My Work is kind of a salute to the misfits of the world.”

 

M: “I feel like a misfit on the Danish art scene myself; there is a certain ‘jargon’ and code of conduct that I don’t really fit into.”

M: “Guess you could describe my work as low-brow art, if you’re into categories.

But in Denmark low-brow doesn’t really exist as a mainstream genre …

 

I don’t think they qualify as ‘illustrations’, I mean, illustrations illustrate something: a storyline or some sort of temporal process, whereas what I do are singular pieces, so it falls between categories

– a misfit in the true sense of the word.”

Yawns and inspects his empty coffee mug.

M: “It was like that in school as well actually: if you don’t fit in you end up with all the other misfits

and that’s actually pretty cool

– then you get to make up your own rules within the various groups of oddballs.”

M: “It’s not like I was a criminal or anything like that. I just doodled and listened to heavy metal instead of playing soccer – instant outcast.”

John Kenn’s high pitched voice curls into laughter.

M: “Nowadays you have various diagnoses for that kind of behaviour like Asperger, ADD and crap like that – it’s all just an excuse to say ‘he’s not like us’.”

M: “I don’t have a clear intent for each and every drawing. But, hey, I hope the lonely and unadapted can see something in the stuff I do – I mean the best thing for a comedian must be if someone to actually laughed them selves to death.”


For more art work, info and a trip to the bookshop visit John Kenn Mortensen’s website here


Mailing with: Danilo Stankovic

Category: Q&A

Artists:


Danajlo photo by Annette Stankovic

All images courtesy of LOYAL gallery, Gallery Steinsland  Berliner and Danilo Stankovic.

What and who are the major influences behind your work?

STANKOVIC: “Clouds, mountains, sun and snow. Folk art and folk traditions. Stave churches. John Bauer. Shelter I. Shirley Collins. Symbolism and psychedelia.”

Could you please elaborate on the significance of mythology in your body of work?

S: “It inspires me to create alternative worlds, to invoke fantasies and stories. I’m interested in why something that has been fundamental for cultures through the ages, suddenly looses it´s meaning and is forgotten with modernization.

Even though mythology has lost connection to people’s beliefs in our part of the world, I think there is still a vibration left, like an echo of a long forgotten memory, and maybe I’m trying to catch that vibe in my work.”

What is the connection between your fascination of the forest and the Empty Head series from 2013?

S: “Black Metal and romantic painting. The teenager possessed by music and idolatry. Perhaps lost and disconnected from nature, society and family.

The Empty Head series has a similarity to the faceless figures in the paintings of Caspar David Friedrich, who turn their backs to the viewer, contemplating the great landscapes.

But in my paintings there is nothing to contemplate on, there is no landscape, no nature. Only some patches and band logos stitched on the guys jackets.”

What role does your nationality play in your art work?

S: “Probably a lot, though a bit ambiguous. My Swedish background has (probably) contributed with a frustration against modernity and rationality while my Serbian background has created a nostalgic and romantic view of peasant life. So the outcome in my work is a kind of romantic-melancholic psychedelic post-folklore.

I think it’s exciting to find the same symbols and imagery in folk art all around Europe and even around the world. For me it is more thrilling to think of the mystery of images and the mystery of the human mind than of nations and nationality.”


For more of Danilo’s work and individual titles please visit his website here


Closing time: MOHS exhibit

Category: Spaces

Artists:


the future isnt what it used to be

Featuring MOHS exhibit in the section for artist run spaces might seem weird since it started out as a conventional gallery and well, it’s never claimed to be otherwise. However, MOHS tells the opposite story of most artist runs: where most artist run initiatives consist of artists acquiring the roles of gallery owners MOHS consisted of a gallery owner who turned artist, and now Morten Hemmingsen Sørup has closed down the gallery to pursue his artistic endeavours.

Besides, for almost eight years MOHS exhibit nurtured a certain segment of the Copenhagen art scene; initially the ones rooted in illustration and print but in time he widened the scope including all types of media – and he has never been afraid to show the misfits, which earns him an spot in this issue.


All images courtesy of MOHS exhibit.

Morten Hemmingsen Sørup.
Morten Hemmingsen Sørup.

Why are you closing down?

MOHS: I am closing the gallery because I have a burning desire to concentrate on my own art practice. It has always been secondary to the gallery, and I really want to see how it will develop if I’m able to give my full attention.

Why did you start MOHS Exhibit?

M: I started MOHS exhibit because I need a change in my life. I visited the art fair FIAC in Paris and in the wake of that I bailed on my studies and decided I wanted work with contemporary art.

 

The initial focus was illustration and prints, but it quickly widened its scope, still with the love of detail in the craftsmanship particular to the world of illustration.

In what way do you feel you’ve contributed to the contemporary art scene in Copenhagen?

M: “MOHS exhibit has been part of the Danish scene for 7,5 years. For many artists MOHS was the gallery offering their first solo exhibition.

Besides I think MOHS has contributed a fair amount to the ‘food chain’ when it comes to visitors; we’ve had quite a few guests through who don’t normally pass through gallery doors: young people who were presented with something that actually spoke to them

– that’s huge, I think.