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Kristian Von Hornsleth

The London art scene has a new, foreign contender. He is Dutch. He is self-prescribed crazy and perhaps shockingly for the British, very controversial. XXXX Magazine presents Von Hornsleth F.Y.A.I.

Over the last few months, Hornsleth has been refused exhibition space by galleries in London and censored by his own clients. His work has been criticised by some and hailed by others. Whilst the manager of London’s Playtime bar, Robert Blake and Morgan Motoring Company have taken a liking to his distinct graffiti-esque style, Hornsleth has struggled to connect with his British audience. Is it because we just don’t get it? Is his work too crude for our British codes of conduct? The questions could go on. Let’s take a look at his projects.

After his arrival into the UK both Playtime bar and Morgan cars commissioned Hornsleth to splash his creative mark on their prized businesses. Since its ‘Hornsleth makeovers,’ the success of the ten customised 4/4 Morgans has rather wained; with one failing to sell at auction at Bonham’s in July. A similar story follows the anti-climactic success of Hornsleth’s painted murals at the Playtime bar where the content proved quite a stir amongst customers, leading Manager Blake to have to censor much of the artwork. Reporting on the artist, Blake stated, “He’s very controversial, but at the same time, what he says is the truth. What’s OK for Denmark is not necessarily the same for London […] He’s maybe too much in your face for some, but he touches quite a lot of people. He’s just trying to make people more aware of what’s going on around them.” What status do these mixed responses grant Hornsleth and his artwork on the London art scene?

XXXX Magazine has had several interesting ‘run-ins’ with the artist. We’ve interviewed him, chatted to him, photographed his work, filmed his Morgan car, visited a presentation at his studio and one of us has even had our hands tattooed (in permanent pen) with his signature – the outline of which still faintly remains! It is time to deliberate.

On May 28th, XXXX Magazine’s Director, Indira Cesarine, attended the closing party of his latest exhibit at the Barge House in London. Featuring a rather eccentric variety of works by the Danish artist, the exhibit seemed to be driven predominantly by themes of sex, death, branding and an unavoidable critique of political and monarchical institutions. With the name ‘Hornsleth’ emblazoned over much of his work like a designer logo, two men posed with machine guns at the entrance added a level of gangster chic to the event. Guests toured through the exhibits various rooms, each one a capsule into another part of Hornsleth’s creative mind.  Paintings featuring reworked celebrity images from magazine imagery were juxtaposed with a porn movie where the actors could only say “Hornsleth.” A series of photographs of a re-enacted high school massacre went in for shock value with their realism, and the images of Africans who were willing to change their name to “Hornsleth” in exchange for livestock only made one wonder how far he could possibly push the Hornsleth branding. These are the types of works which epitomise Hornsleth’s zany, innovative and captivating style.

In August, Quintessentially Art presented a talk with the artist at his W10 Art Studio. The gathering was intimate with around thirty guests huddled into his spray paint covered studio. In between discussion-led statements by the artist, Hornsleth fans/supporters/inquisitors questioned the artist on the morality/immorality behind some of his key works, namely his Ugandan Project and his high-school massacre photograph series. Hornsleth’s responses to the accusations which arose were articulated in a confident, forth-right manner, “I’m not controversial, it’s the audience who have become brainwashed, bored and sedated by political correctness and the consumer market.” The penny is always double-sided it appears: “I’m a primitive and instinctive artist with no agenda other than screaming out from the corner of total confusion. I hate therefore I am, I react therefore I am…”

Describing his work, on more than one occasion, as ‘weird, interesting experiments,’ Hornsleth’s creativity seems to lie embedded in the experimental concepts behind each project rather than his practical skill as an artist. His projects often involve him using members of the public, whether in the form of blood samples or the photography skills of high-school students, to form the main constituents of his pieces. This is not to say that Hornsleth’s work lacks creativity, far from it, his projects display creativity in a raw, idea-stage form.

Constantly questioning, ‘What is art?’ and ‘What makes art?’ in his work, when asked how he first started practicing contemporary art, Hornsleth replied self-satirically and with all seriousness: “I have no idea how I started, I studied Geology and Architecture and became intrigued by the idea that ‘a painting must drag you in, manipulate you and then kick you in the balls!” – A notion which seems to be at the heart of his own work.

Most of Hornsleth’s artwork is based around an art form which he invented (of course) and namedFutilism. Of the many ‘isms’ that have existed in art history, it is hard to say whether this one will become a bonafide art movement in the future. However, in order to give Hornsleth credit for his attempts, Indira Cesarine caught up with the artist in between filming his Morgan car in a fashion film shoot for the XXXX Magazine Voyage issue.

IC: Tell me about the Morgan Car project and your inspiration behind your art.

KVH: I call it Futilism and it is about taking things out of the futile, we are surrounded by noise and things we think we don’t use and dragging it into an art pass and suddenly seeing that there is a lot of unused information that we can use which we would normally never use because we are caught up in an ideal where we only use squares and rounds. If you look between the shapes, it could be a possibility to go this way.

IC: Can you tell me about the art motif behind your art of Futilism?

KVH: Well the starting point is the tradition of abstract expressionism from Pollock etc but now it is trying to join the noise of society where nothing is up and down. The basic idea of my approach to art is my concept called futilism and I work with the idea of taking things out of the futility around us and emulating it into a process and making something that is non-futile out of it, something useable out of it because usually we are taught to use triangles and squares and round shapes and use the official building stone of making art, this way I can produce a piece of art and an art style which has no immediate relation to human culture. There are lot of things we don’t use around us, like the whole idea about white noise.  It also related to the political situation which isn’t up and down anymore. There is a very big pack of information in the noise. It is also about playing around with abstract expressionism after the big boys, such as Pollock. You don’t see abstract expressionism very much anymore so this is a possible way to take the movement forward in art.

IC: And what about this spectacular car? It is quite something…

KVH:This is my Morgan car which I have been working on with the Morgan Motor Company. We are going to put up for auction at the Bonham’s auction for the Goodwood speed festival this year. It presents a clash between contemporary art and a very classical car

IC: how long did it take you to paint the car?

KVH: I think I spent about 4 weeks on it, but I can’t work it all the time because you go crazy as all the patterns are interacting. I wanted to create the most excessive confusion as possible on this limited space and of course a very thick lacquer to tone it up as much as possible. The meaning is to make the colours as confrontational as possible. It seems to be very popular.

IC:Where can we see your work?

KVH: My work is mostly in Scandinavia. But I also have work in the GGGalley in Notting Hill, at the Hay Hill Gallery on Cork Street. I also have pieces in Germany and Copenhagen where I used to live.

IC: Any exciting projects coming up in the future?

KVH: The big worldwide project I am working on right now is called the Deep Sea Storage Project for which I am currently collecting five thousand blood samples from people, art lovers, all over the world. These blood samples will go into a 30 foot large sculpture which will then placed on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean as a monument for the future. The sculpture will contain 5000 blood samples and the idea is that in thousands of years to come, when humanity is under risk of extinction, the Deep Sea Storage Project presents the opportunity, for an alien perhaps in 2000 years, to regenerate our identity.

IC: How does the sampling work?

KVH: We give you this form to fill out, take some of your hair and a blood sample and put it in a container which will then go into the sculpture. The whole idea is to try and make a capsule for the future. There is also the idea that part of you is under the ocean and if god’s work doesn’t work then this us here so it is a backup plan. The sculpture will last fifteen thousand years according to the engineers. So there could be another Indira in year 6011!

Whether selling shares in arms to eager investors for thousands of pounds, collecting blood and hair samples from thousands of people around the world or naming hundreds of Africans after his self-celebrated brand name, one thing is for sure: Hornsleth certainly likes to do things in mass and be as controversial and as challenging as he can be. Good press or bad press, to Hornsleth it is the press he wants to provoke.

Article by Emma Corbett for XXXX Magazine

Interview by Indira Cesarine