Munch was just as important in the development of how we read emotional states as psychotherapy is today, says contemporary artist Bjarne Melgaard. This winter he will exhibit side by side with Edvard Munch, an artist he describes as his favorite.
You have been compared to Edvard Munch in the past, both in terms of artistic problems and thematics, as well as in terms of painterly style. How do you feel about this comparison?
I don't think that much about that comparison, because I don't compare myself, or what I do, with other artists. I am much more interested in creating an individual universe than putting myself in historical contexts way to early. I think there is a danger in writing your own history during your own time. But Edvard Munch definitively remains my favorite artist and it's an honor to be able to show my work next to his.
What are your thoughts on exhibiting together with Munch in a museum dedicated to the artist?
I think it's really great to have the opportunity to do a show at his museum and to have my work next to his, but I also think Munch's legacy could be a bit more updated. He was a much more controversial figure in his lifetime than he is seen today. I think it could be interesting to try to bring back some of the actual themes he explored during his day. He was in fact a single artist who set parameters for how we read and describe emotions today. In my view, Munch was just as important in the development of how we read emotional states as contemporary psychotherapy. Also, he was not afraid of describing emotional states that, even today, people have difficulties with.
Your art works are often described as provocative and controversial, terms that were often used about Munch´s works as well, what do you think about this side of your art?
I think there is only a part of my artistic practice that is provocative; it's possible too that it's the side most people want to see. But I don't at all think that I deliberately set out to provoke. I just work with people and themes that I am interested in at the time and that are part of my lifestyle. Also, what seems so provocative in my work isn't necessarily provocative to me as a person. It can simply be something that I am fascinated with and want to explore, and that's it. And the art world is not very hard to provoke anyway. People are pretty easy to upset. It's fun sometimes to stir things up a bit.
You and Munch share subject matter like sex, illness and death. Are these subjects that you feel are important to explore in your art?
The many descriptions of mental states in Munch's work like jealousy, melancholia, depression and loneliness are just as important to me as the subjects of sex, death and disease. My own contribution to the exhibition will touch on those themes for sure. Nonetheless, the themes of death, sex and disease are kind of unavoidable in a civilization like ours that has just gone to hell, so I guess it's not possible to ignore them. I really feel we are at our wits end and that we live in a civilization that has already just gone straight to hell. The end of it all has already happened. So I guess in that sense life and death will be very present in the show.
You will be showing new works, could you say a bit about that, and does it relate to Munch in any way?
I am showing a series of paintings done in collaboration with the fashion label 69, which is located in California, primarily working with denim in very marginal and explorative ways. I wanted to mix in a fashion reference to kind of take away a bit of the dusty feel of the atmosphere surrounding Munch. There are also some other paintings which have hooks drilled into them, with everything from bath towels to jewelry hanging in front of them. I don't really plan out my shows in very much detail until just before I am about to hang the show, in order to leave room for more improvisation. I think the end result is pretty dense in juxtaposition to Munch, and also in a way does not really refer to him at all as the historical figure we all know him as. I have my own very personal relationship to Munch and think this will be clear when you see the show and my own contribution to the show.