„Art offers total creative freedom!“ INTERVIEW with Michael á Grømma

… I am very happy to present another interview with a young Danish artist who is working with architecture in his paintings: Michael á Grømma, whom I  mentioned a little while ago. Actually a graphic designer,  he has found his way to painting only last year when he came back from a trip to California. His experiences there flew into his works. The impressive paintings are collages of prints of skyline photos taken in California, mostly San Francisco.

Currently he is just presenting his first solo exhibition  at Gallerie Rasmus, one of Denmark’s major galleries, in Copenhagen.

In the interview Michael tells us more about how this experiences in California inspired him to paint,  about his work in general and how he finally found his way to art – even though both his parents are artists as well :-) – and shares his ideas about two of his paintings with us.

Thanx very much, Michael!!

all illus. © Michael á Gromma

INTERVIEW

Michael á Grømma, Coast of California, 2008

Michael á Grømma, Coast of California, 2008

… to start with, no I have no architectural background, but I have always had great interest in architectural design.

What is the objective of your paintings?

The „objective with my paintings,“ or what I want tell with them, is a wide variety of things…

It all started when I visited California last year (2007). I loved the cities and I loved the whole vibe and feel of the place, and also the people living there.

It inspired me a lot, and when I got home I wanted to tell people about my experience! Painting was a very natural choice of expression, and all of my motives are in someway connected to my experience in CA. I also include things like my huge fear of flying, and therefore the dilemma of me wanting to go back to visit again. There’s also a lot of my general view on things such as religion, and the big city versus the country. I grew up in a small boring town in the country side of Denmark, and I have always wanted to move to Copenhagen. There is a lot about that „struggle“ in my motives as well. Last but not least I have played music most of my life, and music has a big part in some of my paitings as well. For example I often use songtitles as titles for my paintings, and even some times do interpretations of songs.
I guess you can compile it all down to that my paintings are about me, and what I think.

The highrise buildings in your paintings, are they painted or is it collage?

The buildings are prints of pictures I took during my trip to California. Most of them are from San Fransisco, but a few are fom L.A.

I’m really looking forward to going back and getting new photographs to work with.

Michael á Grømma, Chocolate Jesus, 2008

Michael á Grømma, Chocolate Jesus, 2008

Since your work also deals with urban situations: What do you think about the recent urban developments? What about San Francisco in particular?

Well I must admit that I don’t know much about the urban developments in San Fransisco, but I can tell you about my impression of the place when I visited.

My very first impression was that it was a very dirty town and that it had just a bit too many poor people begging for money… it seemed so sad.

But after a while I came to like the city more and more. It has some of the most amazing bars and some fantastic architecture, and then of course the landscape which the city is built upon makes it incredible! When you get to higher grounds and can look down on how the houses are built on these massively steep hillsides, it looks great with the small roads running between the houses down these steep hills.

With that being said the tourism has taken over a bit too much in some places like for example the pier.

But all in all I love the city, and especially the nightlife with the most amazing bars I have ever visited. :)

Most of the photographs I use in my paintings were taken in San Fransisco.

Could you tell us something about particular paintings?

 

Michael á Grømma, God is in the House, 100 x 100 cm, 2008

Michael á Grømma, God is in the House, 100 x 100 cm, 2008

God is in the house
This painting has a specific „concept“. It is an interpretation of a Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds song called „God is in the house“.

I was working on this painting, and couldn’t really see where I wanted to go with it. I started playing songs on my iTunes playlist, and the Nick Cave song came up. The lyrics just captured me, and I sat down and started to read through them trying to „understand“ them and get my own view on them. Then I started painting ideas from the lyrics, with this manlike face in the top right corner looking down on the world, hanging right above this small town, where all the houses look alike and the church is the „main attraction“. Then I added the contrast to that small town via the big city print, and thereby added a bit of where I originally came from and where I wanted to go. I have always hated the boring life of the country, and have always wanted to leave for the big city.

 

Michael á Grømma, The holidays are here and we're still at war, 120 x 100 cm, 2008

Michael á Grømma, The holidays are here and we’re still at war, 120 x 100 cm, 2008

The Holidays are here and we’re still at war
Again this is an interpretation of a song by the American sing-a-song writer Brett Dennen. The title really says it all, and I have tried to capture that obscure reality in the painting.
But with this painting, and in almost every painting I do, this is not the only thing it’s about. It’s just the „main theme.“ The painting also portrays what I like about the city, and what most people dislike about the big cities (like dirt, graffiti tags & crowded roads) is what makes it interesting to me.
If you look closely and use your imagination, you can find many other small „stories“ hidden in the painting, and that is really something I try to do a lot – not just to have one thing, but multiple small stories in my paintings, and lots of things that calls for the viewers imagination.

A general question: Why art?

Because it doesn’t set up perimeters that I have to stay within, it offers total creative freedom!

And why painting in particular? How did you find your medium?

The thing is that my mom is a pretty well known painter here in Denmark, and my dad paints as well, so I have grown up with it. I guess that’s why it came so natural to me. Then I am an educated visual designer, so looking at colours and compositions are not new to me. They just used to be on a computer screen… :)

So who is your mother?

My mom is called Majken á Grømma, and she is probably most known for her landscape paintings of the Faroe Islands. She also does ceramics, where she uses her paintings directly on the ceramic. Her website is www.majkenagroemma.dk

How you want to go on? Any particular interest want to follow?

Well I have planned to go back to USA within a year to visit new places like New York. I really want to try to use some of the massive buildings from New York in my paintings.

Also just going there with the works in mind, contrary to last time where it was pure holiday. I only got the pictures of the buildings by chance, while taking „tourist“ pictures. Next time I can go look at the place and the buildings with the knowledge, that they are going to be used in my paintings. I’m really looking forward to what that is gonna bring to my work.

My ambitions are to get recognized as a serious professional artist, and hopefully continue being able to earn a living off of it.

Who / What are your role models? Who / What influenced your work?

Well I don’t know if I have any particular „role model“, but a lot of different artists have influenced my work, starting of course with my mom and dad. But the first artist who really got to me was Robert Rauschenberg. I was stunned by the massive paintings and great use of colour the first time I saw them at an exhibition at AroS (Aarhus art museum).

Also the fact that he used photographs and foreign objects really caught my interest.

I am also a big fan of Andreas Golders work and lately I’ve discovered an American artist called Rosson Crow.

What – in your opinion – is characteristical of your work and your working method?

The thing that I love the most about my work is when it is exhibited and families bring their children to the exhibition. It often happens that the children are dragged around by their parents and just moan about wanting to go home. But very often it happens that when the children see my paintings and see the small funny men jumping in parachutes or flying with balloons, they light up and start searching through the paintings for more funny stuff that they can relate to. That I think is amazing and I can really relate to the children as well. I have been that child who didn’t have any interest in art whatsoever and was dragged along by the parents. :) Of course, now I’m glad they did, but back then I hated it, and thought it was boring! :)

Children are so impulsive. They don’t like or dislike a painting because of the artists‘ name and are not that controlled by rules and regulations! I think it’s amazing that children like my paintings! :)

Where can we see your works?

Well, every exhibition I have is related to Gallerie Rasmus. I just recently finished my first solo show in Copenhagen, and the next thing I have coming up is in Skagen (Denmark) with Gallerie Rasmus also.
You can follow me on facebook or check www.gallerie-rasmus.dk (danish language) for updates on upcoming exhibitions.

How did this cooperation with Gallerie Rasmus happen?

My paintings were standing at my mom and dad’s place, because I live in a small apartment, so I don’t have room for many paintings at the time… and then Rasmus came by my mom to pick up some of her paintings and he saw mine… and I guess he was hooked instantly :)

And some personal questions at the end:

Who is / are your favourite artist / s ?

I kind of mentioned it earlier, but I would have to say Robert Rauschenberg and Andreas Golder.

Where is your favourite museum / gallery /….? Or: Which exhibition / exhibition space impressed you most lately?

The MoMA in San Fransisco is the best museum that I have visited but in close combat with a museum that I visited in Los Angeles for a Dali exhibition, I just don’t remember its name… But the museum that has always been my dream to visit is the MoMA in New York and also Guggenheim.

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