Rose Eken collection of work for Blacklisted interview

The micro universes of Rose Eken

Catching up with a woman who is quickly establishing her mark on the Danish art scene before her last solo exhibition 'CAN' at V1 Gallery.

Published: November 26, 2016Words: Rose Eken & J.Scott StrattonArtist Link:

In the nearly hyper-speed—consume! comsume! comsume!—lifestyles that we surround ourselves in modern first-world societies, we have, in many ways, completely lost touch with our immediate surroundings. It can be argued that we fabricate, structure and destroy our personal environments at a rate so fast that we are left in this almost perpetual state of chrysalis—one where we never fully awaken to anything.

Our relation to the objects that nature provides us has become so profound that we see them simply as supplies or sustenance. And our relation to the objects that we ourselves have created is nothing but shed skin from our Ouroboros-like state of consuming our own necessity for consumption. In order words, we have completely forgotten the traces of ourselves that we leave on the objects that we cast aside—and which are piling up like mountainous monuments of our collective denial of the effect we have on our immediate and distant surroundings. We are are all unwittingly (or ignorantly) contributing words and phrases to a grand story of ourselves being written in piles of beer cans, cigarette butts, last season’s fashion, diapers, condoms, broken phones and never ending sea of human shit.

Now while that all seems horribly dystopic and melancholic—and is starting to sound like the writings of a fifteen year old goth kid in the throws of teen angst—my point is that “who we are”, and “where we have been”, can be found in the simple and mundane objects that we leave in the wake of our being. And this is what drew me to the work of Rose Eken, whose work is has been often influenced by the derelict material that we leave behind and the objectification of our surroundings.

Rose: I’m interested in the spaces in between – in the moment just before or just after something occurs. Basically what we leave behind tells a story about us – about who we are, about human behaviour and relations. I aim to set a scene – to use the proverbial or the common object as a tool in order to spark the audiences own ideas and memories. As such it is the individual spectator that conclude the narration through his or her own association and memory.

My work points to our desire to give meaning to the world around us – the way we project our personal stories on to objects and places and create our own subjective reality. I work with flashes of memory, with moods and states of mind, fragments of individual and collective history that can be assembled into a picture of our past and thereby also point to how we perceive ourselves here and now.”

When looking over Rose’s oeuvre, these pictures that she recreate come in many different mediums—sometimes blurring the lines between artist and artisan. It could be said that her work is cross disciplinary, but not in the traditional sense of the work. She is not a self-taught artist—having frequented the halls of both Edinburgh College of Art and the Royal College of Art in London—but she admits to being self-taught in many of the mediums that she uses to intact her craft.

When she conceptualizes an idea, she looks at an exhibition as a whole, or piece within a larger framework, by which she create a series of stories under one larger story. The objects within each microcosm of work could each be relocated or grouped differently to tell another story, as this reflects how we are defined—a collection of objects left in our wake. Within the scenes that she creates, the mediums are chosen by which would best represent the story she is trying to tell—whether that be through embroidery, sculpture, paint and canvas or drawing.

“I don’t have any former education in embroidery, but I have been sewing since I was a child so it was not all that remote. Basically, I started to make embroidery because I realized that pretty much everything I did and still do are very time consuming and in some way or the other reiterates – either in the actual process of making or in the actual work itself – i.e. 10 bar stools in a miniature bar, 100 miniature guitars, or more than 500 ceramic objects to create an artist studio. At the time, I wanted to take that to the extreme – so hence I started to make embroidery as it was the most time consuming and repetitive thing I could think of. Similarly, I just started to work with ceramic and have learned and developed knowledge about the material as I went along.”

For her forthcoming exhibition CAN at V1 Gallery, Rose is tapping into yet another of her collection of artisan talents known as tinsel-painting—a technique of painting directly on the backside of a piece of glass which was a popular craft amongst American women in the mid 19th Century. The craft—as it was more often taught to young women whose parents wanted to provide a refine upbringing fro their daughters—was an amateurs art-form at the time, and had a practical use. The lighter area of the painting would allow light through, especially allowing for more light in a candlelit room.

For the work of CAN, Rose also taps into her own collection of work for reference—specifically, a piece entitled Homage á Pollock.

“A year ago I created a large ceramic installation ‘Tableau’ – I crafted a fictive artist studios, made up of objects belonging to different contemporary artists from all over the world. I came across Jackson Pollock’s paint cans and photos of his studio in the process of making this show. This resulted in the making of ‘Homage á Pollock.’ The artist table or studio, the tools of the trade, brushes, turpentine, paint tubes etc. fascinates me just as much as the debris left behind by the musician or music audience. All objects tell a story – they are laden with history because of our relation to or idea about them. CAN explores this. The pieces are all still-lifes of cans and paint tubes and brushes. The story of the artist and of the process of making art.”

As it is rare for me to see an artist directly reference a previous work to build a greater work, I found this incredibly intriguing. It was almost as if her reference and history with music culture—where artists often revisit and remix work—has inadvertently effected her thoughts on revisiting her successful Homage á Pollock. To put it metaphorically, it’s as if Homage á Pollock is a song that she is revisiting and adding to its complexity and beauty by adding other instruments—in this case her tinsel paintings.

It made me curious as to why she chose this particular craft, tinsel-painting, to accompany a work that was created in physical sculpture. Was there a specific reference to Pollock himself, or an unseen reference to the previous work Homage á Pollock?

I wanted to push the way I work with tinsel-painting. I wanted to emphasize painting more than tinsel – if you like – but still working with that depth or extra layer the glass and the glitter creates. It seemed quite natural for me to develop ideas from my latest solo-show Tableau and thus to use one of my ceramic pieces as a starting point.

I’m fascinated by the aesthetics of these paint cans and tubes from the 1950’s – I simply find the graphic design and colors inspiring. Also I found it interesting to decipher and translate the work tools of a very expressive male painter through an old feminine folk art tradition.

Rose Eken collection of work for Blacklisted inteview

There is no doubt that Rose Eken is a woman that is carving her own path through our massive pile of discarded rubbish, forgotten memories, family heirlooms, and stories that are left abandon when our physical presence is absent—be it through the stories that she recreates or the forgotten mediums that she chooses to use to tell those stories.

She is not orchestrating reactions, but remembrance—leaving the spectators of her in work dwelling in place that is both recognizable and foreign. She welcomes people to freely interpret her work and impart their own reference to the objects, thereby allowing the viewer to finish the story through the personal experience and memory.