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Article in the Danish art paper. 2017

Morten Lassen Dances Between the Natural & the Digital

June 2, 2016 by Caitlin Confort

This month Danish painter, Morten Lassen, is hosting a highly anticipated exhibition in London called “Interference,” using oil and spray paint on linen while exploring the intersection between the natural and digital worlds. Lassen likes to think of the paintings as maps which chart the empty spaces of the modern world awash with invisible signals, codes, and pulses of information – an abstract expression of the chaos inherent in both physical and digital tracks.

 

Lassen grew up in the south of Denmark where his mum and dad were teachers, but were really interested in art and were also creative themselves. His passion for art stemmed when his family visited exhibitions and like most kids, he did a lot of drawing and painting at school. His family had a small studio in the basement of their house, and that became the starting point for being creative in his spare time. From the ages of 16-20, Lassen did a lot of experimenting, and his enthusiasm for painting took off!

 

Lassen hosted his first small local exhibition when he was 19, and then he moved to Copenhagen where he worked almost full-time painting while studying for a degree in art education (at the time the artist dream seemed uncertain, so his degree served as a backup plan). As his career blossomed, Lassen was selected for several art accolades and started hosting exhibitions around Denmark. In 2003, he took up a residency at Sydney Grammar school beginning his Australian adventure – and later, he graced the UK, Asia and the States with his artistic presence.

 

Alongside the major works on display in London, Lassen will be launching a book on his art, offering collectors an insight into the philosophy behind his creations. Hailed as an ‘artist to watch’ by the Wall Street Journal, “Interference” will be his fourth exhibition in London, following a show at the Rebecca Hossack Gallery in New York last year.

 

Art Zealous borrowed five minutes with Lassen to chat about London gems & his upcoming book.

 

Art Zealous: Hometown?

Morten Lassen: I grew up in a small town called Graasten in the South of Denmark, close to the German border.

 

AZ: You’re having another exhibition in London – where is your favorite place to frequent in the city?

ML: I started working with the Rebecca Hossack Art Gallery 10 years ago – I think this is my fourth show in London, and I have also shown twice in the NYC gallery. When I am in London, I usually stay close to the galleries in Conway Street and Charlotte street. I love the small restaurants and cafes in Charlotte street and the Soho area. If I want to go shopping, I walk down the small streets to find more local brands.

 

AZ: Favorite travel destination?

ML: I lost my heart to Sydney, and have lived there on and off many times. I love big cities like Singapore, Paris, London and NYC. Day to day, I live on the coast of Denmark, so I get my big city fix when I travel.

 

AZ: What would the title of your autobiography be?

ML: I think, “PAINTER.” Painting is my language, and the way I express myself best.

 

AZ: What is your material of choice?

ML: I work with artist-quality oil paint and spray paint on Belgian linen and coated paper. When I was younger, I worked with acrylic paint, but oil paint just fits my painting process a lot better.

 

 

 

AZ: Please tell us about your upcoming exhibition at the Rebecca Hossack London gallery elaborating on the theme of exploring the intersection between the natural and the digital worlds.

ML: My new show at the Rebecca Hossack Art Gallery is called “Interference.” Over the last few years, I have tried to describe the invisible world around us. It started as an interest in the new digital world with WIFI, GPS, Bluetooth etc, but after focusing on the transport of data, my focus changed to describing the meeting between the digital world and the organic world. What we see, hear, and feel is also invisible and the interaction between the organic world and the digital world is very new and interesting. My paintings are still abstract and I am not trying to describe the invisible world as a scientist, but more to paint the feeling, chaos, order that characterises this meeting.

 

AZ: Tell us about the book you’re publishing.

ML: I have just finished my first book. The book’s focus is on the last 10-12 years, but there also are a few things looking further back. There are photos of my paintings with a timeline, so you can see the change in style and themes and there are snapshots from my daily life in the studio and when I travel. There is some text written by Ralph Hobbs, James Arvanitakis, Søren Solkaer and Rebecca Hossack, and a few of my own thoughts. It is still in the process of being printed, and I cannot wait to get my hands on it.

 

 

 

AZ: What can we expect to see from you in the future?

ML: I don’t look too far ahead. I show with some great galleries around the world and I will do my best to continue that. Perhaps it could be interesting to have a show in a small museum or something like that. My paintings are changing all the time, and to guess their direction is impossible as they develop in the painting process and cannot be controlled.

 

Danish artist paints our traces

IN COMMUNITY NEWS, DENMARK, SINGAPORE / BY SØREN ENGELBRECHT 

 

The Danish painter Morten Lassen is having his second solo exhibition in Singapore. This time the theme is the digital traces we constantly leave behind

There’s a heavy scent of freshly painted walls and they are all white. The only thing adorning the walls is the paintings – the main attraction. We are at the art gallery Artspace 222 where the Danish artist Morten Lassen is exhibiting his new series of paintings called Trace.

It’s the day before the big day that I visit Morten Lassen at the gallery. The last preparations are being handled and the mood seems calm and casual. He has plenty of time to talk to me about his new paintings, his old paintings, art in general and Singapore.

His new exhibition, Trace, is about the digital traces we constantly leave behind, and the digital traffic, we can’t see, has been his interest for a quite a while now.

“The last five or six years, I’ve been working with the idea of the things that surround us in the air, but we can’t see – Wi-Fi, the Internet, GPS. Then I thought, ‘what would it look like, if we could see it?’ Not in a technical matter, just how it would make us feel, “ Morten Lassen says.

Facebook knows where we are
He therefore made two exhibitions called Wireless and Surrounded. This time the focus is on the invisible traces that we all leave behind and which float around in the air – invisible to the human naked eye.

“No matter where we are in the world there will always be people who know it. We live in a digital world where we leave traces everywhere. Facebook probably knows that we are talking right now,” Morten Lassen says followed by a small laughter.

“I think it’s interesting that we have a world around us which, if we could see it, would be insane. If it was visual, we wouldn’t be able to see each other. But my paintings are not an exact description, it’s more a sense of how it would feel like,” he explains while pointing at different details on some of the paintings.

All part of a puzzle
The gallery is divided in to four rooms with an open hallway connection them all. The natural light fading in and the white walls create a bright atmosphere where the paintings are in focus. As we walk by the different abstract paintings, it could seem as if they’re not too different at all.

“It’s true, they look much alike, but it’s because they are all pieces in a puzzle. They separate in construction, colours and mood,” Morten Lassen explains and adds that he works on all the paintings at the same time.

They all share a common thread. But they’re also abstract which means that you probably wouldn’t know that it’s about digital traces unless you are told so. And that is fine with Morten Lassen, because if people see something completely else that’s no problem, as long as they get something out of it. The most important thing for him is to share his wonder and fascination through shapes and colours.

 

 

 

A Conversation With Artist Morten Lassen

"A NEW WORLD"

By Jeryl Brynner 

Huffington Post

As Paul Klee the great abstract painter once said, "art does not reproduce what we see; rather, it makes us see." But how do we see things that seem otherwise intangible, even invisible? How can artists make them vivid for us on the canvas? 

Such was the question that intrigued artist, Morten Lassen. The Danish abstract expressionist painter was fascinated by the concept of the digital age, especially as it intersects and coexisits with nature. "The organic or natural world has been around for millions of years, but the digital world is very new. They must somehow interfere with each other," says Lassen who has a global international following from Sydney to Hong Kong to Stockholm. Determined to express the feeling of how both worlds look together on canvass, Lassen devoted a series of abstract paintings in his new solo show, "A New World," at the Rebecca Hossack Art Gallery in New York City. The vibrant paintings combine colors and lines in unique and exciting arrangements. 

I recently talked with Lassen about his life, art and inspiration. 

 

Q: What was it about the digital and natural worlds that interested you so much? 

 

Morten Lassen: The last five years I've been working on the concept of traffic. But it turned out to be more and more mental traffic - the kind of traffic that we can't see around us. But what's interesting for me are these two worlds meeting. In my paintings the thin lines express the new digital world. The {unstructured} sections that appear painted represent the organic world. 

It's almost two kinds of painting with a meeting point between these styles. I find it interesting to have two different styles coming together and making a harmony or a disharmony or whatever happens. But they are very abstract. And because I'm an expressionistic and abstract painter, you can see whatever you want in them. I like to have a theme when I work for myself. But people can make their own ideas. Some people see architecture in my work and that's okay for me. 

 

Q: In terms of your process, I know that you don't sketch first. 

 

Morten Lassen: That's correct. I work on 15 or 20 paintings at the same time. I have a big studio. I only use oil paint so the paintings need time to dry. If I only painted on one canvass, I would be spending most of time waiting for it to get dry for the next layer. I sometimes need weeks between the layers. Some of the paintings have 25 layers. It's a long process. 

The first many layers are just colors and combinations - what I know will disappear later in the process. But every layer is a starting point for the next layer. Because I work on many paintings they influence each other. I'll take parts from one work and think, this combination works well. I'll try that. Even though they are very individual paintings, somehow they will be connected. In the end, it's more like a puzzle. 

 

Q: Your paintings are really feelings. 

 

Morten Lassen: I'm not trying to paint how things look, like the meeting of these two worlds. I'm trying to express the feeling of how things could look. Think of when Kandinsky tried to paint music which is invisible. With his paintings you feel how music would look if we could see the music. 

 

Q: And your pieces are minimal, yet complex. 

 

Morten Lassen: I always believed that I had to get to a point where I actually felt deserving of being minimal in my expression and going in that direction. If you look at art history, many artists started out painting naturalistic images with landscapes. Then they get more and more focused and paint with not too many lines. You're telling the same story without taking everything. 

 

Q: Ah. You're inspiring me to think of those early Picassos which are much more elaborate than the modernist Picassos most people know. 

 

Morten Lassen: In the end it's just a horse with three lines. That's it. 

 

Q: When did you feel you deserved to paint so minimally? 

 

Morten Lassen: It's only in the recent years that I actually dared. But now I feel that my layering and my structure gives these layers a life so they get interesting, even though they are very monochronistic.

 

Q: Did you grow up seeing art? 

 

Morten Lassen: My dad was very into art and took me to art shows and museums. I loved the Skagen painters from the European Golden Age who painted the light from the north, from beaches. In the summer we have these big fires on the beaches. And there was a specific painting with a big fire in the Skagens Musem. I remember as a small kid standing there thinking, wow, this is actually burning. I felt it was more than a painting and canvas. It did something special. 

 

Q: What artists inspired you? 

 

Morten Lassen: Per Kirkeby is one of our big Danish artists. He had a very Nordic aesthetic and worked with green-blue semi-abstract landscapes that were more abstract than landscape. It had a Nordic feeling to me. I was very influenced by him, especially when I began painting. I was not copying but I was into his painting style. He was my focus point especially when I had my first local show when I was around 17 or 18. 

And Asger Jorn from the Cobra Movement is a very expressionistic, colorful painter. The Cobra movement had wild expressionistic paintings that didn't look like anything. It's just colors coming together. More than trying to describe a specific thing, it was about a feeling. 

 

Q: When did you start to paint? 

 

Morten Lassen: I always painted in school. When all my friends stopped, I just continued. I got very into it during high school and had an art teacher who was very good to me. He had a big budget for the whole class, but everybody skipped the class because we didn't get grades for art. So, he said, 'Morten, why don't we buy some big canvases and some expensive paint and just get going?' That was my starting point. 

 

Q: What happened from there? 

Morten Lassen: I moved to Copenhagen at 19 and got my first real studio. In Denmark big companies have art in the hallways for the employees to see. It's also a way to support young artists. I worked with a lot Danish brands like Bang & Olufsen and Lego. I would have my work hanging in these places and they would buy a work at the end of the month. Then I would move the exhibition to another company. That was how I started and got a bit of income and had money for materials. It was instant show. You're there for a month and then another artist takes over. I had a lot of shows and many people saw me because some of these companies have 2,000 or 3,000 employees. Suddenly people started buying my stuff. 

 

Q: So what's next for you? 

 

Morten Lassen: I'm working on a new series that will be called "Invisible." It's even more about the things we can't see. But I'm not finished with A Whole New World yet. As long as I think it's interesting and I will continue make paintings out of it. When I feel that I'm just reproducing myself I'll change. 

 

Transparent

11 December 2014 - 8 January 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

"We are living among things we cannot see or even feel: the data may well be invisible, hidden in the cloud, but it shapes our lives and our life chances. Data creates contours and borders, defining the map of who we are and what we do. Those without access to information are left behind. Those with too much struggle to keep pace, bringing work home, checking emails at the dinner table or even while lying in bed with those we love".1.

Danish artist Morten Lassen's latest and boldest exhibition in a ten year association with Australia pushes the boundaries in his relentless search to represent the space between reality and that which we cannot touch; the world of infinite data. Lassen's large canvases speak of the possibilities of the universe of code, but his code is colour and form, he gives definition to the invisible. It is a reinvented modernist idea of representing the new. Lassen's work is not only beautiful but it is important.  One of the fundamental purposes of art is to challenge the viewer to see the world differently.  Lassen leads us to the edge and we can gaze out at the view, it is a new world landscape, beyond the signs of Pop or the meditative qualities of Abstraction. This is art for and about a new world that touches everyone.

The small canvases in this exhibition are not studies, rather they are significant moments, grabs of information from Facebook or Twitter… often powerful beyond their scale, they cohabitate the exhibition space with the large works speaking of the enormity of our digital world. Painted in his studio outside of Copenhagen, Denmark and exhibited in Sydney Australia. This is an exhibition about our world by a truly world artist.

Ralph Hobbs

1. Living among what we cannot see: A reflection on the work of Morten Lassen
James Arvanitakis

 

Morten Lassen

8 - 23 March 2012

 

Danish artist Morten Lassen and I first met in the small French village of Buis-les-Baronnies in the shadow of the mythical Mont-Ventoux.

The random encounter led to a few glasses of local red wine and a viewing of photographs of his paintings. Immediately captivated by his work, I asked the artist if he had ever considered coming to Australia. His answer in deadpan Nordic English was an empathic "No...Never."

Ten years on, Morten Lassen has exhibited every year in Australia and lived off and on in both Sydney and Melbourne. His work has been collected by public and private collections throughout Australia and he has firmly established himself as one of the premier abstract artists in the country. This should not be a surprise as his work is in constant demand around the world.

In the last two years Lassen has shown with great success in Sydney, Melbourne, New York, London, Copenhagen and Stockholm. Indeed his influence in Australia extends beyond collectors. A generation of young local artists are looking to him, not as the oracle, but as an artist who has been able to capture the ethereal nature of the contemporary world.

This is an important challenge for our artists, our politicians and economists. We are constantly reminded that we are a world community and technology has made this practical and real. Indeed, Lassen is the personification of a world citizen; his work transcends borders, race and language. It is beautiful and it is powerful; it is work of our time.

In recent months, Sydney has been treated to the extraordinary career of modernist painter Pablo Picasso. In my various viewings of this great artist's work, it is his constant searching for the essence of modernism that is so integral. For Picasso wanted painting to survive photography and the moving picture and indeed society itself.

Lassen continues this theme. He is a painter who wants to show that the ancient medium of oil paint can influence our society now. For Lassen, painting must remain relevant and his works show us that technology is still a function of humanity.

In these new works, the juxtaposition of organic Rothkoesque shapes is anchored by intense gridlines like a matrix tethering and connecting humanity. Lassen embraces technology to link his work to disparate cultures, yet unlike Wikipedia or Google, he doesn't give us all the answers. Ultimately you have to work it out yourself- the (often over looked) ultimate human condition of creative thought is required.

It is work by artists like Morten Lassen that ensures painting will never die.

 

Ralph Hobbs
Art Equity, March 2012

Morten Lassen

29 March 2011 - 8 April 2011

 

Art Equity exhibition showing at: Iain Dawson Gallery, 443 Oxford Street, Paddington 

 

Båndbredde is a dynamic exhibition by Danish artist, Morten Lassen. Lassen is an artist who is dissolving boarders both culturally and geographically. He splits his time between Australia and Denmark enjoying representation in London and New York, as well as major northern European cities. Apart from the obvious acknowledgement that his work is sought after worldwide, of more interest to me is the fact this work has relevance across the globe. This is not an exhibition that is anchored in one visual tradition, rather it borrows from many and then injects an electric quality that entices closer investigation.

The paintings in this exhibition not only explore the nature of abstraction in a visual sense but give this aging aesthetic a new voice. Lassen delves into the ethereal world of the internet transfer and data communication, whilst maintaining his connection with oil paint and canvas. Worldwide instant connection to anyone everywhere at anytime has irreversibly changed us as a global community. So intense is our involvement with media transfer that many of our own thoughts are given little more than abstract acknowledgements as we strive to keep in contact with the world. Indeed although Lassen is working in the abstract, one can argue that he is actually working in a representative manner. He is directly representing the abstract world that we live in today - not abstracting the real as has traditionally been the methodology of the 'abstract' artist.

This idea has precedence; the great Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) in the early part of the 20th Century changed forever abstraction as he explored colour, line and movement. One of his great achievements is to have created works of pictorial harmony that represented what is like to see music. Lassen takes the next step and gives us a vision of just what the world of ethereal world of data transfer feels and looks like. And I can report that it is beautiful. All that information, sound, and visual stimulus passing around the world in some extraordinary vortex, and the artist represents in the age old medium of oil paint.

When looking at art, it is important to view it within a historical context for all art has a genesis. One key influence that Lassen cannot avoid is his connection to CoBrA. It is interesting to note that typically major art movements are created out of an urge for change, to look at things differently and introduce new ideas on culture. This certainly the case with the CoBrA group (1949-51), an eclectic and passionate collective of northern European artists and writers. The group worked in the context of the Twentieth Century with all its unprecedented change in communication and travel as well as its dramatic social upheaval. Ultimately CoBrA rebelled against centuries of artistic tradition, after all in their minds what had the great cultures of Europe given its people - two world wars? As Constant Nieuwenhuys wrote in 1949, as part of an associated manifesto in published in CoBrA no.4:"For all we know of the realm of our desires is that it continuously reverts to one immeasurable desire for freedom." 1.

In this revolutionary charged environment the northern European collective of CoBrA unleashed it anarchic primitive aesthetic, and it has stuck. From Europe to the USA, from DeKooning to our own John Olsen. And now Lassen leads the latest generation to morph the ideas from over 50 years ago. For us living today, visualising and understanding this intense new world that we live in, creating harmony in the chaos of the world - we go some way to giving us the freedom Constant sought in 1949. After all, how can one harness what one does not understand? Båndbredde is an important exhibition as it shows us what we don't understand, and ultimately that will as give us freedom.

Ralph Hobbs
March 2011


1. Essay originally appeared in CoBrA no. 4 Amsterdam, 1949, p. 304. This reference taken from Harrison, Wood Art in Theory 1900-1990. p.650 Brackwell Press.

The Sentient Paintbrush

 

One can no longer call expressionistic expression or abstract painting an ‘ism’ at this point in time. The era of the major isms is definitely past. Both expressionism and abstractionism are living under completely different circumstances determined by the development of art itself.

 

If anything, one could say that abstract painting signifies a way of understanding the painting, more than a method. And expressive painting, per definition, is the artist’s own deeply personal struggle with the matter.

 

That brings us to painter Morten Lassen and his way of painting. He moves in both directions, or, more precisely, dimensions. Abstract, in that he creates a universe that defines itself in every single painting. Expressive, that is to say that he paints extremely subjectively, almost spiritually; sensually and exploringly.

 

He has obviously been painting for many years, and seriously so since the mid-1990s. In this branch, that is almost a generation, because the inconstancy of art is more rash than ever. The latest news quickly becomes old news. 

 

Morten Lassen has sensibly held on to a sort of point of reference for his paintings. In a way he is nearly classical. For him, a painting is a sensitive voyage of discovery into the colors and forms. His talent is instinctive, not calculated.

 

His paintings are plainly filled with temperament and contrasts. The elements and colors of the paintings play up to each other as in a piece of music in which the musician allows him/herself to improvise on some given themes. It is this particular sense of improvisation that makes the difference between an ordinary talent and an exceptional talent.

 

If one looks more closely, there are many feelings in his paintings which are revealed in the nuances. In art, as in so many other relationships, God is in the details. Morten Lassen’s paintings ought be perceived and experienced slowly, almost pleasurably. To a convincing degree he is able to allow his colors to flow and flash and between them they form arabesques as well as less familiar

But he knows his visual grammar. All of the

colours in the world are kept in reign by the forms that are created around them. Colors die in chaos.

 

Once again a duality enters, which often balances between chaos and equilibrium. Colours function as breakaways and forms as adherents. In a sense, colours are the equivalent to the spiritual and forms are the material that it can all be built upon, the foundation that gives rise to stability and coherence.

 

Morten Lassen is both certain and uncertain in his paintings. Certain in the way he works his craft, and uncertain in the delightful way he dares to let the improvisations unfold.

 

Once could call it the music of chance.

 

 

Ole Lindboe

 

Editor of Magasinet Kunst (The Art Magazine). Author of a number of art books. Guest professor at the Venice International Summer Academy.

 

Translated from Danish by Pamela Starbird

© Morten Lassen.