A retrospection on style, process, and chaos

The Copenhagen-based artist Simon Fensholm dives back through his prolific years to curate a collection of work that expresses the evolution of his style, process, and mindset.

Published: August 27, 2018Words: Simon Fensholm & J.Scott StrattonArtist Link: simonfensholm.comInstagram: @simonfensholm
Exhibition Details: September 1 - 22Gallery Link: KBH Kunst

The curious thing about artistic expression, which may often not be considered, is what that work represents to the artist themselves.

The questions of purpose, concept and how it should make an “audience feel” are often given precedence over how the artist feels about the work themselves. Consider this, if you have the opportunity to visit Simon Fensholm’s upcoming exhibition of works, You make my clouds swim in comfortable chaos – which will be on display in Copenhagen at KBH Kunst throughout September.

As someone that routinely writes and speaks with artists, I find myself sometimes asking the wrong questions. You see, if I look at a painting, or watch a performance, and then ask myself: What is the concept? What is the purpose? What does this mean to me? Then what role does the artist have in this interaction? Are they producer of stimuli for my addiction to stimulus? Are they creator of a commodity that I can then consume? Do they need to quantify their work for my validation?

I often have to stop myself from asking, “what did you mean by this?” regardless of whether I have a desperate desire to know the answer. Because the true inquiry I need to be looking for is what that work means to the artist. It’s a humbling reminder that within artistic expression there is no “me.”

This reverie becomes important in lieu of Simon Fensholm’s upcoming exhibition – simply because the collection is curated look at the evolution of his work over the last 13 years. He describes it himself as more of a personal retrospection of the progression of his style, process and subject matter. Therefore, the questions of What is the concept? What is the purpose? What does this mean to me?….would seem rather absurd when applied to this collection of work.

It’s always nice to be reminded that when it comes to artistic expression, that I am a spectator, not a consumer. The creation, the process, and the research of the work will continue – regardless to whether I’m looking or not.

This is no way diminishes Simon’s work in my eyes. On the contrary, it makes it more appealing.

Simon Fensholm interview for Blacklisted Copenhagen
Simon Fensholm interview for Blacklisted Copenhagen

I’ve always seen your work as viewing a dystopia through a kind of childlike innocence, although I’m sure that your own view of your work is much different. Looking back on this collection of work, what were some of the thematics and concepts?

I guess you are right in a way. I’ve always been fascinated by the darker elements of this world. Not meant as a melancholic view, but as a permanent and important part of the world that I see. The interesting stories are just between the darkness and the sunlight. The blue element is, for me, what makes the art interesting. It makes people vulnerable, fragile and real.

There’s also a lot of anger and frustration in my work, though – a more concrete frustration of the world I’m placed in. Along with all the beauty, I see a lot of superficiality and indifference. I’m tired of fanciness, cafe latès, and fixie bikes. I’m frustrated by corrupt politicians and hypocrisy, racism and small minds.

I try to make my work as contemporary as possible – in the sense of being a portrait of the current time and age I’m a part of. It’s a metaphoric expressive view through my eyes. There’s a lot going on in my head and I just try to let the steam out on the canvas.

This upcoming exhibition You make my clouds swim in comfortable chaos is a curated look at all those past and present explorations. Can you tell me about?

Wrapping up 13 years of collaboration with my good friend, Gallerist Helle Borre of Kbh Kunst, we decided to make a big show to mark, and celebrate all the great memories, with a line of retrospective works as well, alongside brand new paintings and drawings. I’m really looking forward to showing people the whole story.

The title of the show kind of sums up the feeling of the series in the works. It’s about human relations, about love and finding your path through chaos and social discourses.

Did you have any parameters when you set out to curate the collection of work?

We wanted to show a simple, but narrative, storyline, that guided the audience chronologically through my different periods, and thereby tell a coherent visual story.

Simon Fensholm interview for Blacklisted Copenhagen
Simon Fensholm interview for Blacklisted Copenhagen

All the old work from the past years have been really hard to curate and choose which ones to exhibit. So many different experiments and expressions, paintings, drawings, popup books, videos, installations and doodles to choose from.

We tried to represent a line of really different works, that all together gives an idea of my artistic development and offers a rare view of some works that never has been shown before.

Apart from this exhibition, do you typically work with creating a series’ of work, or does a concept develop gradually as you build up a collection?

Both yes and no. I always work on several works at a time, trying to refresh my eyes by variating the work. This automatically seems to give the works a coherent expression.

I like to have control of the works at the same time and steer them in a direction, that gives the works an intern dialogue and relation. They kind of exist as part of each other. The paintings develop gradually, without sketches or planning, through a long session of painting, reflecting and painting again. It’s really hard to put a formula on it.

Looking back and reflecting on the last 13 years of this work, would you have any advice for a fledgling artist who might be inspired by what you have achieved during that time?

I guess the best advice would be to work hard as hell. Fuck the glamour x-factor audition cliches. I really believe you have to put in many thousands of hours to get there. Instead of hurrying to try and get your work exhibited, take your time get your skills right. Practice and be focused and most important of all, find your own individual thing, your own aesthetics or way of telling your story. Be dedicated.