Interview. kopenhagen.dk. Alexander Tovborg. Febuary 2007
You have to get up really close to see the all of the details of the vibrating and precise ink line drawing, but to get the whole picture you have to get some distance. We are at the solo show ”Napoleon at the party” by Jasper Sebastian Stürup (b.1969) who again manifests himself as an artist that have drawing as his main medium. he also manifests the drawing as medium and communicator. Stürup has all thou his career been working with the drawing, but he has also been incorporating sculpture, music and objects in combination with the drawing. Right now he has a giant solo show at Galleri Susanne Ottesen in Copenhagen, a show that is a must see for everyone who is interested in drawing.
Kopenhagen's writher Jasper Sebastian Stürup for a talk about the semiotic of the drawing, and the drawing as object and music.
In connection with your solo show “Napoleon at the party” the catalogue "God damn the sun" is released, it containing the 100 drawings, witch is the first thing one sees entering the gallery. Will you tell a bit about the 100 drawings, the process and what happens physically with the drawings in the way they are hung?
I started working on the drawings when i arrived in New York in 2005. There i decided to make a book with a 100 drawings, in the american letter format. Over time I have released a lot of artists' books, but this time I wanted to make a catalogue, that would have the drawings reproduced in 1:1, so I chose the catalogue format before starting working on the drawings. Then i decided that without having a deadline or theme to make the 100, witch is a great amount.
The drawings were made wile working on other projects. the process took about a year and a half, the drawings are off-course related to the larger works made in that period. i didn't make the drawings for this show, they happened to be ready a half year before the show, witch also gave time to make the catalogue. The length of the project also means that it covers the whole period instead of being from a much shorter moment. I'm really happy that they show the wide range of works from what i worked with that year and a half.
I knew that they would take up a lot of space, but wile framing, i started to sense the real size, and have become really excited about the massive way the present them-self. They have become a mix in-between the monumental and a hundred single tales you can get into. The monumental and the intimated are something i have continued working with in the rest of the show, going up and down in scale, and the way i have used the rooms.
The show is called ”Napoleon at the party”, what is the background and concept for the show and it's tittle?
For once the title is mine and not taken from a song. It springs from a sculpture and drawing that is repeated in the show, incl. on the cower of the catalogue and my tables. It's a drawing after a Napoleon sculpture, it opens in the chest, the original Napoleon sculpture has some carvings where it opens, properly the story of his life. In my version he opens up as a bar cabinet, by drawing e.g.; a wine bottle it gives the size of him, making him full human size.
A lot of the drawings has to do wit a party that is headed for the end, I thought that Napoleon was good for this as in a Waterloo of the party, you might say that he is a kind of logo figure for the show.
That is also why I have used him on the poster, where I have dressed-up as Napoleon, I'm wearing a hat and cape, but the rest is my own everyday clothes, including my favorite t-shirt, a skeleton torso, it's also in some of the drawings. the poster is printed 1:1, instead of having my hand inside the cape, i have a glass of whiskey in my hand, wile having a hard stare, it gives a kind of ambiguous welcome to the show.
A lot of your works social and recognizable environments, wile other are more abstract. This is both in the contrast in-between the narration and the figurative, but also in the contrast in-between the abstract and the tight formal lines in your works. What kind of scenes are you creating?
I'm not the type to only work with one environment, instead I'm moving in several environment, and sometime at the same time. This time there are many parties in the drawings, as indicated by the title, but I'm always moving from one point back and forth, like a zig zag in narration and abstraction. I see my drawings as being complex relations, this can be in a number of layers. It could be a party, the crowning of a queen or two women carrying some gallons of milk. For me it's about the relation of all the images, in some drawings it appears that the persons have something in common but don't act together. With my tables i have moved this idea of the interaction of the characters and there interplay. In principal you can alter the narration yourself, so you get something that mirrors a play by moving the elements around. You can as the visitor change the narration into something different than before.
In your compositions one sense a kind of collage like approach, giving an end-result with a never-ending number of layers of narration. can you tell me about this approach?
My motives are collected from a large number of sources, and is then melted together until they end up as a hole in the drawing. But still with sense of it being made up of single elements. It properly has something to do with the fact that I feel I can appropriate and use everything, as log as it goes thou my pen, then i believe it's mine. Some come from my own photographs, some from magazines and the internet. It's a kind of collage, but should end up showing the detached and the whole as one.
Representation and symbolism is a crystalizer thou out your work. Representation as in figuration, shapes and silhouettes, symbolism as in the representation in the motifs you chose. How important are Representation and symbolism in your work?
Well, a lot of the images that i use are taken from source that i know exactly where are, But at the same time it's not important for me that you can see where they are from. In one drawing i have used images from rock bands including The White Stripes, in general i have a lot figuration from music. I have also been using other peoples artwork in my work, e.g. I have been drawing from a couple of Bernini's sculptures and Rubens's paintings. It's like collecting samples, making them mine. Personally I'm sure this generates something, you can feel it even though you might not be able to see that it's Jack White or this is the Beatles missing one, or what else it can be. Even thou it is unsaid, I believe it gives something to the viewer. In a way it's important to me wile drawing and in some way it doesn't matter at all. They are not made like this so that the viewer should be puzzled about how everything fits together, they are not created to be cryptic at all.
But it gives you a large distance to the viewer?
To me it's very important that it doesn't get to precise, even though my work never have been so narrative as now. There are a difference, manly that there are a more clear narration, but properly with the same abstraction as before. I don't have explanatory elements in my compositions, you are still alone as a viewer, you have to invest yourself in the work. If everything is explained, then I'm bored right away, if I'm bored the viewer is sure to be bored. I'm keeping the drawing and narration open, without loosing the vibrant story i give the drawing.
The fragile, light and self assure line, are terms one easily can connect with your approach to the drawing technically. One can still sense a great play with the the field and self assigned challenges. How do you consider the drawing as your medium and as communication?
First off, it has to do with the fact that i love to draw. Wile making this show, i have had it really great drawing, I hope the playfulness and trying different stuff shows thou, they are all made with a surplus. The thing about the line has to do with my favorite pen, that i love drawing with, with that pen i can create this universe. I do off-course also use other pens and materials to achieve other goals. I'm very fascinated with the one take line, that ink has. If i make a mistake it will either be part of the work or I have to start a new drawing. But exactly what my line does I don't know.
The drawing is your favorite medium, and your always testing it's limits for how far you can camouflage it in the materials and still call it a drawing. Fx in the way you use a heavy spray paint on paper. In this show you have three new experiments, a kind of installation, drawing on t-shirts and drawing on mirror-foil?
I have never worked on t-shirts before, but I have worked on fabric before. Fx there have been fabric hanging on some of the drawings, or as a kind of collage with fabric on wooden boards. I'm mot thinking that I should do something new, but what i want to do with the work. That is more interesting, than the first witch i only see as form. What i really like about the mirror-foil, that i have been drawing on, is that the further away you stand the more blurry you and the drawing is, then the closer you get the sharper you and the images gets, at some point you have to choose to look at the drawing or yourself, when looking at the drawing you disappear, or when looking at yourself the drawing disappears, this way you are both there and not, in a way the material dissolves itself, this happens a prolonging of the narrative of the work. And on top of that you have the room you stan in appear in the mirror, that space that i don't define in the drawing. With the t-shirts, I have chosen some persons in the drawings, that could be waring the t-shirts. And at the same time they are t-shirts i would like to be waring myself. for me the t-shirts are in the same vain and as a prolonging of with my works narration, it seemed obvious drawing on the t-shirts. I have cut the t-shirts in halves, so that you cant ware them. I did this to make them objects, instead of actual t-shirts. If i should make a t-shirt it should cost something else, to be more available, and to be printed in a larger edition. Here there's only one of each, and i treat them as a drawing. I'm removing the function of the t-shirt, but keeping it's shape, a kind of the idea of a t-shirt.
During the last couple of years, you have also been curating. You have here in Copenhagen curated a show called ”Always crashing in the same car”, with large names like Marcel Dzama and Elizabeth Peyton, and yourself. How do you separate the role as curator and artist, and how have it been curating?
I don't feel like a curator, and I only curate shows that I'm in myself. basically what I do is to create shows that i would like to be in. It's also has to do with creating something that otherwise wouldn't be done. With the show ”Always crashing in the same car” that you just mentioned, I have made it with artist I have met in New York. I simply invited artists that I believe are great artists, and also like them. It is a mix of something social and at the same time create a possibility for showing something that otherwise wouldn't be shown in Copenhagen.
At the moment I'm working on a book project, that will be shown in Copenhagen and in New York, sometimes next year. It's curated in the same way, it's gonna be a handful of artists each doing an artists, book. But I have to realize the economy, so maybe it will be one book. The book as communication is important for me, and it's fun to work with the project and the other great artists, to make one or more new books. The book will consist of works made for the book, so that the book will be a work of art in-itself.
Music means a lot to you personally, and you are using the music often, specifically the lyric for naming your works. How do you integrate and work with the titles of your works?
Usually i only use titles when i give name to a whole show or a book, not for single pieces. Fx the title of the catalogue with the 1000 drawings, called ”God damn the Sun”, it's taken from the group The Swans. it's a very dark but beautiful song. the book before that was called ”Just another diamond day”,it's both the title of a song and album by Vashti Bunyan. Most of the titles comes from the music i listen to wile working, wile listening there is sometimes single lines that get stuck in my mind in a way where i appropriate them and make them mine. sometimes i use them straight, and sometimes I change them a bit. You could say that the titles comes from the same matter as my motifs. The text on the yellow table comes from an Egyptian basilisk that stands in New York, it's an ode to Ramses, the text is surrounded by figures among them David Bowie and one from Flaming Lips standing next to a skeleton or Bob Dylan who is burning his keys. But as the viewer you don't need to know who's who, the figures are just acting in the space the work creates.