Simon Granshorn interview with Blacklisted Copenhagen

The shapes of desire

For the Danish artist Simon Ganshorn, art is a gateway to an alternative reality where the artist’s deepest thoughts and feelings are connected to human desire. This is my experience from a conversation with an artist who uses his abstract art to give form to his personal desires, creating a space where excerpts from reality are displayed for us – regardless of whether or not it is recognizable to us.

Published: Nov 19, 2018Words: Mia Granhøj & Simon GanshornPhotos: Various (stated on photo)Artist Link: simonganshorn.com

The time was 10:20 when I arrived at Simon Ganshorn’s studio, located in a listed building in Carlsberg Byen (a historic quarter in Copenhagen). Wearing blue coveralls covered in paint spots, the 33-year-old artist welcomed me and immediately invited me to stay for lunch. The menu consisted of yesterday’s vegetarian dish; quinoa and assorted vegetables, but no carrots. I contemplated the lack of carrots, because the carrot has been a recurring element in Ganshorn’s works for years. I couldn’t help but wonder where the carrot has gone – both in the food and in his works. I’d save that question for later.

“I let whatever wants to come out, come out”

Ganshorn works within a wide spectrum of genres, but whether it’s a painting, drawing, installation, video or sculpture, it’s always “desire,” and the conscious versus the unconscious, which makes itself known. For Ganshorn, art is the nexus where it’s safe to open up and create a debate or a dialogue about the uncertain and the suppressed. With a smile on his lips, the young artist tells me that in an often self-absorbed selfie-era, he endeavors to reveal his true self through his paintings with a brutal, at times almost vulgar honesty:

“I let whatever wants to come out, come out. It’s like taking off your clothes – but it’s actually more honest than that, because large parts of me manifest themselves through the different gestures on the canvas. Things like traces of old thought patterns are still smoldering beneath my works. It’s that voice that tells you that you’re not good enough. I’ve become good friends with that tiny voice, but it still makes itself heard every now and then.”
Simon Granshorn interview with Blacklisted Copenhagen
Simon Granshorn interview with Blacklisted Copenhagen
From Ganshorns' studio at Carlsberg Byen in Copenhagen, September 2018 • Photo: Gregory Fieldson

Reflection upon the moment

I could sense the layers in Ganshorn’s works, as well as their emotional transparency. The words flowed out of the artist’s mouth, and I found myself having to make an effort to follow the conversation, as my eyes wandered the studio we’re in. The raw, cold walls of concrete were covered with colorful art, and after a few moments I finally got around to asking about the missing carrots in his recent works.

“The carrot in my earlier works symbolized the ego and desire. The hunt for that something in life, which will do you good. I used to be very frustrated that I couldn’t keep hold of things that were good, but nothing lasts forever. I can only enjoy what’s in the present, which is why I take things one hour at the time.”
“I feel that I present a room, an alternative reality, where reflection upon the moment and what it means to desire something is encouraged. A desire for the object or the subject that you can’t have – the unfulfilled desire that creates suffering, longing and the urge to satisfy this desire. It’s the carrot that hangs in front of your desire-driven being and taunts you until death.”

Ganshorn elaborated that in several works he has replaced the carrot with broken off branches, and that these branches are connected with the notion that these days he sees himself as a tree that’s grown deep roots. This stands in contrast to his earlier perception of himself where he saw himself as a plastic bag, constantly in danger of being blown away by the breeze. I get a strong sense that Ganshorn has been through a substantial process of personal development. He told me that he went through a number of years of drug abuse, which he has now successfully left behind him:

I became clear headed when I went from abuser to consumer and started to eat a healthy diet and get some exercise. I still get the feeling, however, of chasing the carrot – I am all that exists and I determine the value of that. I understand that 70% of the time, but 30% of the time I am still consumed by an existential anxiety.”

The branches in Ganshorn’s works also express the many different paths that can be found in his artistic universe. He hasn’t limited himself to something specific, instead he experiments with a wide range of artistic expressions, and seeks to confuse the audience:

“I get claustrophobic when works are too similar. When people see an exhibition with my work, I’d like them to think: ‘What the hell is this group exhibition?! No, wait, it IS the same artist!'”
Simon Granshorn interview with Blacklisted Copenhagen
'No title' • oil on canvas, 2018 • Photo: Gregory Fieldson

In regards to Simon Ganshorn’s more recent works, they are part of a series of artworks juxtaposing calm backgrounds with occasionally disturbing, almost incomprehensible objects. The paintings appear as a series of fast energy discharges of artistic expression, simultaneously adventurous and schizophrenic. When looking at Ganshorn’s oil paintings, I almost wanted to scrape off a few layers to discover what that buzzing thing is that lies beneath.

Desire in all its forms

The conversation took a turn towards the aversion some people have towards abstract art, or towards the concept of understanding abstract art.

“People really want to have an explanation of the abstract. I often find that people get irritated when observing abstract paintings, but instead of getting irritated, people ought to think: “ This doesn’t look like something I know – how great and alien-like is that!”
“Most of my works don’t have titles precisely because I don’t want to affect people with a predetermined interpretation. That shape can mean anything, but to me it’s about constantly shifting desire”, he says as he points to a painting adorned with an undefined purple object splattered with insulation foam.

Ganshorn uses his art to titillate his own curiosity and that of his audience. He wants to capture everyday moments with recognizable and unrecognizable objects and elaborated:

“It’s gymnastics for the brain every time you observe an abstract painting. It’s something that challenges you and the curiosity that it stimulates is a tool that you carry with you and use to decode your reality in other places.”

I asked about what art means to him, and if it has always been important to him:

“I started making compositions with my toys at an early age because I saw it as a way to create peace within chaos. And I found it incredibly stimulating to observe interesting compositions. Art is important to me because it is a space in which I feel free. It is an important space for reflection and free-thinking, and a space that I want to share with everyone. In this space, it is possible to create new ways of looking at the world, the past, and the present.”
Simon Granshorn interview with Blacklisted Copenhagen
Solo exhibition at Grand Theatre, Copenhagen September 2018 • Photo: Gregory Fieldson

Throughout our conversation, it became obvious that Ganshorn dreams of bringing fine art and people closer together. According to Ganshorn art should be for everyone, and the comprehension or appreciation of art should in no way be restricted to the upper classes of society.

“I want art to reach a broader spectrum than it does today. For example by exhibiting in churches, supermarkets, stores, swimming pools, nursing homes, and private homes. Places where the aesthetic sense might be affected by plastic plants, leather couches, and glass tables. My art shouldn’t be restricted to any kind of elite, and I am very dedicated to bringing art into a new context where I won’t say right or wrong.”

I asked him if what he really wanted to was to revolutionize the world of art from the inside out, but he answered me without hesitation:

“No, I wouldn’t call it that. But I would like to keep articulating what art is and what uses it might have. I don’t want a mere small percentage of people to grasp the importance of it, I want to encourage it all around and enlighten people about the importance of art. It is essential to reflect upon important things in art. Reflection occurs in many settings of course, but when it comes to art, you can learn to reflect even deeper – compared to a something like reflecting upon the result of a handball game. You have an opportunity to go deeper and that is what it’s all about – to reflect upon life itself within the context of art.”