As her debut exhibition draws to a close in Sydney, we sit down with Danish artist Christiane Spangsberg, whose Matisse-inspired nudes have the online world captivated
Who? Born in 1989 in Vejle, Jutland – the large peninsula that contains the mainland regions of Denmark – artist Christiane Spangsberg has always been fascinated with drawing. “Drawing is a process for me to express my inner feelings and thoughts. It’s in me,” she explains. Although she initially began at a young age, imitating objects and studying at drawing school, soon Spangsberg became impatient with her inability to perfectly capture the world around her, and this frustration led to her abandoning drawing all together. It was only in 2010, after an encounter with Picasso’s line drawings of animals, that she once again approached art, this time with renewed energy and a restored belief that “imperfection is the foundation for our uniqueness”. This newfound strength in the power of her perceived imperfections allowed her to continue her artistic pursuits, creating striking line portraits and blocked images that made an instant impact on her online audience.
What? Working from the floor of her Copenhagen studio, with black and blue Indian inks on aquarelle paper, Spangsberg soon cultivated a distinct aesthetic: “I have one favourite colour of blue – indanthrene,” she tells AnOther. She draws inspiration from Fauvism, and quickly developed a signature style with a loyal following. “Fauvism to me is interesting in the way the artists used different techniques,” she continues. “But it’s also the story behind Fauvism I find interesting. They were called ‘the wild beats’, they did something new, they used fast and wild brush strokes and brought in a lot of bright colours to express themselves.” Other inspirations include Matisse and his cut-outs: “I love this approach. Instead of adding, you simply remove and create forms and shapes.” What does she want people to take away from her art? It’s a simple but admirable aim: “I hope that something in them has been awakened.”
Spangsberg’s bold approach made waves on the internet, where she first found her following. After stylist Aurélie Pinar spotted her Instagram, and commissioned Spangsberg to produce work for the prestigious Paddington Inn in Sydney, collaborations continued to appear. She soon found herself working with Australian swimwear line Matteau, and even collaborated on a candle with Maison Balzac. Her affinity with Australia grew so much that she was invited to hold her first gallery show at Jerico Contemporary in Sydney.
The resulting exhibition, A Summer in Nude, focuses on Spangsberg’s preoccupation with the warm season, but also with its connotations. “Thinking of Australia, I was reminded of summer,” she says. “The lightness of summer, the ocean and the naked body. Its sculptural forms, its imperfection and beauty.” She’d also started experimenting with the technique of blind drawing at the time, a process that seemed as delicate and vulnerable as her new subject.
In her choice of subject matter, Spangsberg holds a particular fascination for the body and “its simple beauty – imperfection. It’s so fragile, but at the same time so strong. It’s soft but hard. It’s like the surface of the ocean covering the true beauty within. As a culture we have become frightened about the naked body.” Spangsberg’s nudes are impenetrable, created by what appears to be a whisper of pen, pencil, or ink; they are minimal, but fiercely present.
Why? 2017 marks the first year that Spangsberg’s work has moved out of the online sphere and into the material world. It’s been a success, thus far, too – this first exhibition sold out in four minutes on the opening night. With a cult internet following already under her belt, Spangsberg is the definition of a modern creative, establishing an artistic path on her own terms. “I work from a need and a sense of wants,” she says. After conquering Australia, the artist has her sights set on France, and then England, with a collaboration with London-based label J.V. Reid already in the works. We’re certain we’ll be seeing a lot more of her.
A Summer in Nude runs until January 23, 2017 at Jerico Contemporary, Sydney.