||Abstract of interview with Ulrik Crone in relation to his exhibition Disintegration at V1 Gallery, Copenhagen. The Art Site www.Kopenhagen.DK By Gitte Skjødt Madsen.
It’s been 3 years since you’ve had your last Solo-exhibtion in Copenhagen. Has there been any changes in society, in these years, that have had influence on your work?
Ulrik Crone: Well, it’s not that I haven’t been doing Art in these past 3 years. I’ve just had exhibitions other places than in Copenhagen. Partly in Paris, where I’ve been living and working, and in Jutland (DK) and Corea, as well, in connection to the World Championship (Football). A part from that I’ve also participated in various group-shows. I think society has changed, for sure. On a basic level, there has been a change in government in Denmark and I think in some way that society has become more divided into groups. Funny enough, it was the same in the 80’s when we also had a non-socialist Government.
At the same time as this change in the Danish government was happening, you were doing Cartoons for one of the most right-wing News Papers (Jyllands-Posten red.) in Denmark. How was it?
At the time I didn’t have any difficulties talking with the people there. You were communicating in spite of some barriers and we were accepting each-other even though we knew that we were of different opinions. After the change in government the attitude became more hostile, something like ”Now it’s our show and we don’t even want to have you in it and listen to what you have to say”. I was fired or, as it was put, ”my contract wasn’t renewed”. The time of experimentation was over, it was all about values and fighting to keep them. It was all just another way of telling us, who did not agree with their and the government’s right-wing philosophy, to just shut up. Now it is some kind of war between political positions and I actually think that’s a pitty. At the end the Danish society is just some middelclass-allotmentgarden-hullabaloo. And Denmark is that small a country that it should be possible to communicate without seeing it as some sensible left-wing hippi-ish ideas that should be fought and opposed without any questions just to please some hicks in jutland who want to continue to use and abuse the pesticides and fertalizers that all end in our drinking water.
Earlier you’ve commentated on society in general where as now you’ve become much more precise in your subject-matter. Why is that? How come?
I think it has been fun and interesting to treat something more specific and precise. Of course you can try to say something about everything at the same time, but sometimes it’s interesting to narrow yourself and your subject-matter down a bit and see what you can get out of that.
Looks like there’s much more painting on the V1Gallery - exhibit compared to earlier. You’re combining photo and computerprints. Have you experienced an increased urge to paint or do you think it’s totally random?
There are some things that you can’t express through other medias but painting. There is something that happens unconsciously because of form and colour. But I neither can or will let go of my believe that it has to have meaning and content. It has to contain some elements of what I’m living in my day-to-day life. I would like to say something about some concrete topics and I would like to express it by art. I can’t just get rid of the subject-matter and make a painting about ”The Chimney Sweep says hello to Mister Dandelion”.
Sure, I have become more specific in my subject-matter. In some way I’ve had the space to make the form and the content a whole, like a classic painting in dialogue with other medias such as photo and computerprints. Earlier I’ve been joking that if my right to do visual art was ever taken away from me I would just express myself through other medias. That it was not the act of putting the brush into the paint that interested me. But now, however, by working more specifically with content and by using digital techniques, it’s like all of a sudden there’s more room for the form in the painting. Suddenly I think it’s terribly interesting to put the brush into the tin of paint and put the paint on the canvas. So actually it’s true that it’s much more about painting and about making use of the language I think it is. If you want to say anything about painting then I would say that the ultimate media to express painting is by painting itself.
In the gallery you’ve made a big wall-painting which gives alot of associations to the political Art from the 70’s and to the Punk-aestethics in the beginning of the 80’s.
The big wall-painting in the gallery is about the structures of power and about ideas that generates values. I wanted it to have the aestethics of a bad photocopier and of Demo-publishing. You know this insisting and know-all way of explaning something with diagrams and figures, like it was a scientifically fact, when it’s actually a totally subjective consideration. And at the same time I wanted it to give the feeling that it is possible to capture something that confused and inpenetrable and analyse it with these figures and diagrams.
It’s obvious that this wall-painting is inspired by your time in the Punk-milieu in Copenhagen, but at the time being, you weren’t doing ”Punk-art” you were more inspired by Cartoons and american Pop-art, right?.
When I started hanging about the punk-scene it was something about, me being so lucky to have the right age, being at the right place at the right time, when it happened. Of course there where people, perhaps even luckier than me, who had been around there since 1976, but after all I was only 15 in 1979 when I discovered what was going on. I think it was so fantastic because it was extremely mindblowing. You had this scene and milieu where you could do exactly what you wanted to and express yourself within whatever genre and media you wanted. The music-scene had also descended a level closer to the audience. The 70’s was dominated by all the big stadium-rockbands like Pink Floyd and Deep Purple. Then the Rockmusicians had all become gods and seemed very inaccesible when they were on stage. So as I were saying, the music-scene came down a level and everybody was allowed to play. As long as you could play a few chords you could make music. It was a extremely mindblowing thing to discover that it was just something you could do if you wanted to. At some time, in the beginning of the 80’s, the punk-milieu and the art-scene merged. At the same time the art-academistudents like Peter Bonde and Claus Carstensen, who made ”Heftige Maleri”(Violent or Wild Painting, ed.), were hanging out and about the punk-scene. They were messing about putting two pieces of paper together in some kind of conceptart when all of a sudden it was legitimate to smear paint on canvas again. So maybe they had the same mindblowing experience of everything being possible.
The music on the punkscene changed alot from 1976 to 1980. The 3-chord punk were replaced by a more experimenting music with moog- and korgsynthesizers, advanced drums and spectacular bass-riffs. It was a developement and that had a forwardlooking perspective on things changing to something else. On the artscene I couldn’t really see where it was going from ”The wild painting”. Honestly it didn’t really appeal to me because I had the feeling and the experience that you could do those sort of things just being a part of the music-scene. In a period of time I was messing about doing cartoons and something with a bit more ”Pop”. There were no focus on this genre as the artscene, at this time, was dominated by ”The Wild painting”. But I played live to those gallery openings in e.g. Sub-Set and Kongo. When the first hangover came on the punkscene, and it became a drugscene more than a creative milieu and everything went to pieces, there had been a total high in 4-5 years where everything was just going with 1000 lightyears/second.
Anyways in the mid-80’s I was searching for a new fixed place and turned to visual arts and started working really seriously in that direction. In 89’ I was accepted to the Royal Academy of Fine Arts and at that time ”the wild painting” was totally over. It hadn’t transformed into anything else but expression. Now everybody turned to see at what was happening in the USA where the Appropriation Art developed into what was named new-concept Art. I thought that was really exciting. I have always been very fond of the Pop Art and , in some way, it was very simular to what was happening around me in that periode of time. In the beginning of the 90’s it was a lot about art being popular and appealing. It was about communicating as widely as possible and it was okay to use the means of commercial, such as making a painting with a textual message, to achieve this.
How did it influence your work that you had to communicate as open and widely as possible?
I was caught in it in some way. I liked being popular and loved that people, who didn’t know anything about art, liked my work. In these past couple of years I’ve been doing alot of cartoons and maybe doing so I’ve got the whole thing about telling a quick story and fast communication out of my system. I realised that no-matter how popular and no-matter how much you try to communicate to the masses through visual Art, it still stays an extremely narrow field. I’ve been wanting to make more room for what you, being abit cocky, could call ”the element of research”. It’s limited how far you can reach, anyway. I’d rather take the consequences of not thinking that I’d might loose somebody in the process, and then be able to work with what art is about, may that be research, and try to do research into the art of doing art.
Still I think this show it a bombardment of colour, glitter, figures and forms. Everything shines with polish. That is something that really appeals to the more general public, right?
Ha ha. Well, then you might say that no-matter what I do, then deep down I certainly have somekind of aestethics. There’s maybe some things that is a bit unclear in their aestethics and might have a more difficult reading. But I think it’s great to do that polished look, like a new record cover, you know. It’s like that alot. You’re honest in your expression and you try to do what you want to and what makes you high. It’s not about ”figuring it out”. Then it’s just the others getting high, right?
Would you like to tell about the staging of your works in the gallery?
I’ve been working with different two-dimensional medias at the same time; photos, computerprint on canvas, that i’ve been adapting classical painting tecniques, and painting as pure painting on canvas. One of the initial ideas was that it should merge in a whole or put differently; the medias should communicate. There’s a big difference in having the privilege to have a work of art at home where one can look at it every day and have the time to read it, compared to looking at art in galleries or museums. I’ve been very conscious of that in my staging because I think you have to do something extra to get real experience of the exhibit. Maybe there’s something almost holistic in this idea of the small pieces beeing the same as the whole. If you pick out one individual work, it’s content is basically the same as the whole installation of paintings, photos, collages etc. It’s one big work of art and at the same time you can pick one piece out.
In the press release you talk about there being a symbolic parallel, set by society, between the criminals and the artists. What do you mean by that?
Well, I’m just claiming that there are some symbolic parallels to the role the artist have in society. But then that’s just my assertion. You can agree or disagree. But today you feel you’re beeing criminalized if you have a critical position to what is going on in society and then at the same time are an artist. Come on! It’s not that I’m totally paranoid but I believe that every artists have experienced while being at some family dinner, or other family gathering, to be held responsible to the claim that artists in general are freeloading on the society and that the taxmoney would be of better use in the Hospitals than as artist support. It is too easy to blame the artist because they’re visible in society as a result of exposing their work.
When looking at your work you could maybe get the impression that you’re supporting unparliamentary methods?
A lot of the motives used in the painting are related to acts of political crime. Demonstrations starting of legally and turning into riots. People who want to change some things in society and then suddenly ends up in these situations where they themselves are using unparliamentary methods. Methods they maybe, seconds before, would have sworn never to use. I think it is difficult for normal people to understand why you would turn to that form of resistance. But when you are in the actual situation...I remember the big Union Demonstrations in the 80’s. I happened to be there, bystanding, but was unlucky to be at a place that got surrounded by two police chains. They were very aggressive and started pushing the crowd. Then there are these blue collar workers, totally normal, that suddenly go beserk because of the pushing around and it turns into a very concrete situation. It’s us against them. The police, that should represent society, couldn’t control it neither. They got just as aggressive and personal and therefor aggresses the people that are standing in front of them. So it’s very concrete what happens. If you witness it you suddenly understand how things can get out of control. When two crowds of people collide with eachother there are some forces you just can’t control. When you see it in the TV you just can’t understand it at all. You can say what you want about the people starting riots and throwing stones, but they too represent a group of people that don’t have the possibillity to express themselves in a parliamantary way. Sometimes you forget that there is a big group of people that don’t have the means and human resources to enter the parliamentary system. I think it’s understandable that there’s somebody that represents this group and makes clear that they want to be seen and heard as well as anybody else.