Marie Irmgard took several years’ break from artmaking of any kind as she pursued academia, then returned to it with force. I love the energy in these paintings, and the way they balance between representation and abstract. More at the links below!
Can you tell me a little bit about you?
I was born in Denmark in 1976 and I have always made art, except from 1997 to 2002 where I took a complete clean break from everything even remotely connected to art. I studied formal academia those years and ended up with a bachelors in English Literature with primary focus on narratology. But after 5 years away I went back into art, and graduated from Funen Art Academy in 2010. I am currently based in Berlin and have been for the last 5 years.
When did you first discover art, or realize you wanted to make it yourself?
I always drew on everything and then in first grade our school had a visit from the deceased Danish artist Jens Joergen Thorsen. We were all sitting on the floor in a very run down school gym and I remember my (slightly conservative) teacher was furious that we had to watch “that man” I guess because he was kind of out there with signature leopard-printed spandex and wild big hair and beard, and he was very loud and he put on loud music and then started to paint over a huge light-projection of a cow. And everyone thought he was silly because he acted silly but I just felt a wordless belonging, like a sense kind of like “okay there is something for me somewhere, there is something I can do” but it was a complete wordless realization, I just knew.
What ideas are you exploring in your practice?
I started out with an undefined wish of being a sort of conceptual artist, working with social justice issues but in art-school so many people did that as a sort of formula and I realized that way of making art didn’t truly interest me. And then I went back to my original interest and role models; Goya, Velazquez, Singer-Sargent and that lead to my discovery of Wilhelm Van Aelst’s Stillleben that I have been looking at and working with now for over 5 years. A lot of my work is directly based on his work – others more loosely. I am particularly interested in his hunting scenes and what they say about us today, when I see them I think we lost some important knowledge. Formally I work in what is sometimes called in-betweens the abstract and figurative. But I don’t see it quite like that – I see it more as a matter of perspective – if you zoom in close enough everything is abstract.
What is your process like?
I do research in the sense that I choose which one, two or three still-life images that will be the starting point of that particular work, it is often a certain detail in that still-life that catches my attention and I want to do something with it. I print out the old master still lives in A5 and I have them either hanging or laying around in the studio, I use them so much that in the end they are so thin and crinkled. Some of my pieces only takes a few months but some also take years, for the last years I have been working with very thin layers of oil so I usually have about 20 paintings in rotation at one time. Because it’s oil-paint it’s the paint that decides not me because I cannot manipulate the drying times. Before I started with my current work I worked with one-go paintings either in ink or in acrylics so it a very different process a work that is done in 6 hours or in 6 months but it was something I needed to explore, especially because I felt stressed out about how everything has speeded up in pace, I got tired of bigger, better, faster, more.
My interest is what lays beyond words, beyond language, you understand with language, but knowledge is wordless. And I am interested in why painting is still relevant in an black-mirror world, we have A.i but we also still have painting, more than ever. I don’t mean it as an artist trick when I say I am interested in what is beyond words, but I do believe stokes in paint, or lack of strokes is a wordless language of its own. So maybe one could say I am interested in the semiotics of painting. Above all I think the only real question is that of Agnes Martin who said “beauty is the mystery of life” and I completely agree, why is there so much beauty coexisting with atrocities? I mean there is a reason that color exist and I don’t believe it exist purely for hunter gather reasons
Do you have a mentor, or a piece of advice (or both), which has influenced your practice?
My mentors are the painters of the past primarily, I look at those images incessantly, trying to decode them. I was lucky I got into the Art Academy I did and at the time I did, we had 3 different principals in the 6 years I was there and the professors were each very good in their fields, and the Academy made sure that there was always guest-professors – artist working in their own (high quality) practice to give workshops there. At one point when I went there we had a guest professor who is a photographer, at that time I wanted to be a bit like Elke Krystufek, to combine painting and performance and the abject – but this teacher told a story about how he had been in Saks Fifth Avenue and his girlfriend had been looking at facial powder and one bottle had exploded over the floor, and all those little powder piles had given him the idea to photograph dots that looked like that. And there I realized that that is also closer to my own interest than performative painting that delivers a very specific message
What is your studio like?
My studio is very small and very, very, very cold in winter and since I am usually working at 20 pieces at a time I have to climb around and jump a lot. I have switched studio a couple of times since I moved to Berlin, and I don’t like to move in general, but I have found away around it; I put up my favorite images on the studio wall and then it feels right, I always put up a little A5 of Goya’s Don Manuel Osorio first, no matter where I work.
What do you find most daunting, challenging, or frustrating about pursuing art?
Well I find it daunting that I am a painter because I am a loner, I am not by any means a misanthropist but I enjoy to work alone but one needs to socialize a bit in order to not just paint secret paintings that are never shown – to have some kind of network and that can be a challenge – to get out of the studio – and show the work.
What are three words you would use to describe your work?
OPAQUE, TRANSPARENT, ALIVE
What are you working on right now?
I am working on a series based on Wilhelm Van Aelst still-lives that I combine with quotes from Joy Williams novels, particularly The Quick and the Dead