UNCIVILIZED 0.1 - Interview with HERMAN
Could you introduce yourself and give an insight into the work that forms ‘UNCIVILIZED 0.1’?
I am a 41 year old artist from Denmark, and have been creating art in one form or another since I was a teenager. Major events in my life have formed the person I am today and the artwork which I create.
‘UNCIVILIZED 0.1’ forms a collection of my artwork from different periods, some going back 10 years, others more recent. One of the main inspirations was the world of the circus – a place of both joy and sorrow, that lures everyone into a surreal space. It’s a place which lifts the curtain on the unknown and welcomes everyone and anyone with open arms. That’s what I’ve tried to capture.
This is the first time I’m seeing a lot of these artworks together - many of them hold specific emotions and memories for me so it’s strange seeing everything in the same place.
What messages would you like viewers to take away from the exhibition?
UNCIVILIZED is about celebrating individuality - the differences between people. I would love visitors to the black box to leave the exhibition reflecting on their own prejudice and behaviors. I have spent a lot of time in my life feeling like I was on the outside, and taking years to find and accept myself as a different human being.
“It’s hard to be a human these days. We’re too busy pointing fingers, acting normal, being civilized. I think we all need more time to be uncivilized.
Everything in the exhibition is a little bit uncivilized. I want the viewer to step out of the box, out of their own comfort zone, instead of thinking about what other people are doing wrong.”
I’d like visitors to reflect on themselves and think “Maybe I should be friendlier to that girl who’s being bullied, or to her with the big nose. To stop pointing finger at people who are different, wearing headscarves, or have the ‘wrong’ skin colour.
But also, I want the visitor to use their imagination like I have done when creating this. I want them to question my work, to puzzle over it and wonder why it looks a certain way, why I included this and what it’s trying to say. With the dolls, I want them to wonder who they are, so you have their story.
Could you tell us about what inspires your work and how you came to create?
I take inspiration from everything: music, films, dreams, people - it might just start with a new material or textile I want to start working with and trying out new ideas based on that.
Since my childhood a huge influence has been the work of Tim Burton. In the 90s I began to create watercolor paintings based on his distinctive style. It gave me the inspiration and ability to create works from a different and macabre, ‘dark places’, yet places I knew were not dangerous to myself.
It wasn’t a lightbulb moment for me when I suddenly knew I would be an artist. I started to create art as a teenager around the age of 14 when I had depression for the first time. For me it has always been my ‘safe place’ where I could go to create, experiment and try new ideas.
It has of course had ups and downs. In fact, the first work I created is really horrible, but it was just emotions I wanted to get out. So that desire to express myself has always driven me to make art.
“Art is my safe place. When I was in treatment, I found out it was important for me to have a safe place in my life. This is where I can express myself freely. Creating is like meditating for me.”
Are there certain materials or forms you like to use in your work?
I play around with everything. With my paintings, I use acrylic, watercolour and pencil. I use varnish a lot with the dolls, they are made of clay. I also make their costumes.
I don’t want to limit myself by using just one medium, I like to play around and use a whole range of textiles and materials. When I first started out I was working just with watercolour so that has followed me all the way through my life. From the beginning I mixed watercolour with acrylic and pencil.
I was a decorator for years, constantly working with my hands. It’s all part of the process - I’ve always been very curious and trying new things has never frightened me. With that said, I’ve also made a lot of shitty work that no one will ever see, but I think life is one big study and you can learn all your life.
Do you have a set process you follow with every piece which you create?
Not at all - it often varies from piece to piece. Sometimes it can be something that I’m creating for years before its finished – maybe I’ve lost interest in it and then suddenly have some inspiration and return to it again.
In ‘UNCIVILIZED 0.1’ there is a pair of new paintings which were unfinished in my studio for a long time and which I’ve completed in the build-up for the show.
With the dolls, I thought I could have them perfect from the beginning but it doesn’t work that way. It’s a long process with ups and downs.
What do you think of this space, Ovartaci Fields?
Ovartaci himself was hospitalized for 56 years. I myself have been in a psychiatric unit, so I feel there are similarities between us.
I have also spent many years of my life fighting with my psyche. He also made dolls, and art has played a major role in the process of building myself up.
So, I love that it is here that I shall host my first ever solo exhibition. It daunting certainly but I’m excited to be putting on this exhibition. I’ve never been fully ready to exhibit up until now.
10 years ago I had a breakdown in my life and it takes time to recover from this. I had an offer for an exhibition last year, but that was in my hometown and I said no to that as I have bad associations with the town.
This project with AARHUSMAKERS came up and it couldn’t be more perfect.
“This is my universe…I have also set up a small studio so I am going to be creating work in the space.
The HERMAN universe (is) created inside a black box, which I think couldn’t be any more appropriate.”