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Rains Journal Vol. 13: Frederik & Oliver

March 28, 2019



Photos: Nikolaj Thaning Rentzmann

Young, newly graduated, and the talk of the Copenhagen art scene, collaborative artists and friends Frederik Nystrup-Larsen and Oliver Sundqvist have seemingly glided their way from students to recognized artists. With a portfolio boasting objects found in the world-renowned Noma and their first solo exhibition, titled “Soft Boxing,” at Copenhagen’s Eighteen Gallery, these two exemplify strength in gut-reactions and answering tough questions with beauty first, beauty always.


 

Rains Journal: So, how did you guys meet?

Frederik: We were both at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts at the same time, but we studied two different things. I remember there was a dinner and I put this number on that we both really liked. That sparked a conversation. And then all of a sudden, we started to cook together.

Rains Journal: Music and food brings people together so that’s quite beautiful, but did you have any first impressions of each other?

Oliver: I think the first time I remember Frederik is during the first days of school. It was a party where he had some makeup on, and I was like “woah, who is this guy?”

RJ: And then Frederik, you with Oliver?

F: It was the same party, and I remember I was sitting in the window. It was one of these university parties with games and whatnot and there was an award show for the previous weekend we were all with each other. Oliver won prize after prize, so he came to sit with me in the window to sort of hide. I think he was kind of embarrassed.

RJ: Ok, so a modest winner. And from that moment, you saw this guy obviously has some talent, so let’s make some art together.

F: Nah, it was more about drinking and meeting up with people—and just having a good time.

RJ: Yes, party first. But you both obviously also respect each other. Because beyond a friendship there’s this professional relationship. How do the two of you match up in your work?

O: I would say that we are very different but think similarly. Because we have different backgrounds it makes for a really strong partnership—and we are both very impulsive and ready to do something in the now. We never plan anything. It’s more like, “let’s do it now,” and then we do it.

 

 

RJ: Has there always been a strong draw to something creative?

O: Yeah, I never thought about doing anything else. Of course, one dabbles with ideas—like perhaps, I’d like to be an architect or something else creative—but nothing wildly different.

F: Instead of going to university to read in the library, I was just always quite eager to make stuff.

RJ: Now that you two are graduates, what is it like to be working artists in the quote-on-quote “real world”?

F: When you are studying it’s a lot about the process—looking into theory, etc., —and you have so much time to look into the final decision. But when working with a client, you are working on much tighter deadlines; so, you have to be much more comfortable with your intuition and just make a decision.

RJ: And you two are being so well received. What do you think it is about your work right now that is making it interesting to the tastemakers of the world today?

O: One can create a various amount of theories, but everything is very one-off and handcrafted, making it easy to see the reflection of two humans in the objects. I also think there’s quite a bit of positivity in our objects that people are drawn to.

F: Yeah, I think being super honest is key. And I think people are especially into this at the moment. A lot of things come off as fake or lacking transparency because of all of these social versions of ourselves, but we are just working on things that we like. And just simply taking up themes that come in to our minds.

RJ: Being honest to oneself is historically such a luxury. And we’re not immune in today’s world.

F: It’s also something that you can do when you are young—or at least more easily. We also have the advantage that we don’t have to make a lot of money right now, because we are just ourselves. And because of this, we can afford to take more chances. It’s a really nice place to stand.

O: So much in this business is also about being—how to say this… we also go out and that helps. We are networking with a lot of people doing the same thing as us. And that’s a big part of helping our work get out into the world.

RJ: Sure, so there’s a lot that goes into it aside from the art itself, but there is an honest element of your work even down to the materials. Whether it be cement for vases at Noma or the plastic that you’re using for the Eros Torso project, there is a raw element that elicits a particular response. How do you go about finding your medium for particular projects?

F: I think we are just very curious about materials and try to match the most suitable material with that certain object. And we are always curious to explore what sort of materials could be interesting to work with. There’s a constant development of finding the perfect materials to work with.

O: There’s also definitely something about patience-something that I’m not sure any of us really have—and then you just sort of need to decide on a material to get started on the object. All of the material in our work is something that is readily available, not something we need to have produced and sit around waiting for it to arrive. When there’s an idea, we really value being able to act quickly to allow the creative energy to come to life in its purest form.

 

 

RJ: Asking oneself, “What do I have and what can I make out of it?” speaks to the Scandinavian, handcrafted heritage of design. Would you guys call yourself Scandinavian designers?

F: We are from Scandinavia—born and raised with this heritage—but I think we are trying to make a more international approach to our work that doesn’t necessarily have to be from Scandinavia but could be from any particular place.

O: When we are creating something, it’s not in our mind to land down into the pocket of Scandinavian work. But when outside the country to show our work, people often comment, “Oh, yes, you’re so Scandinavian.” So, I guess everything one is surrounded by, of course, makes an impact without even realizing it.

F: I think we have had a really great advantage growing up in Copenhagen. Everything surrounding us has been whispering to our aesthetics and how we see functionality. Perhaps it’s more exotic for people living somewhere else than Denmark.

RJ: You guys sort of split your time between Nørrebro—Copenhagen’s more diverse, eclectic enclave—and London. So more or less in a long-distance relationship. But how are you managing the conversation between the two cities?

F: Yes, you could put it that way. We call each other nearly every day. Sometimes I try something in my studio in London and then Oliver tries it out in Copenhagen. And then we get two case studies to compare. But it definitely provides a challenge, especially as we finish projects.

RJ: And you’re about to finish a project. The new lamps to be shown here in Copenhagen.

O: Every time we talk about our work, we have a little trouble in putting words on the things that we do. On one hand, we just like to call it a sculpture and on the other we like to call it lamps—simply because it has light. It’s sometimes hard to see one’s art as an object, but that’s part of the joy in creating for us. It’s interesting to create objects that are sort of in-between art and function, giving people something to discuss how they would interact with the objects. So, yes, the sculptures have a light and I guess that makes them into a lamp.

RJ: What inspired this project? How did we come upon fight sports?

F: That’s a really good question. This is definitely the project that we have talked about the longest time. The whole thing started with an interest in physical language and in movement and figuring out how we could freeze a moment. So, we started to look into all of the Asian fight sports, like tai chi, karate, but also ballet and dancing in a club. We imagined that you would freeze all of these movements and make it into one three-dimensional form. So, we put ourselves in these movements and then froze the iron around the shape of our bodies.

 

 

RJ: Was it a process of creating something that says something bigger—or a process of creating something gorgeous, i.e. food for the eye?

O: I think the idea is always born from a question and this time it was more of a positive one. Often times we work from questions that are more critical, but this one started out as an experiment with something new. And I think when you want to say something it’s always easier when it’s tasty to the eye.

RJ: Allowing yourselves to revel in art for art’s sake, but how is it in translating that thought process into the commercial work that you do?

O: I think functionality is the last thing that we think about.

F: Yeah, definitely form first. And being very critical along the way. Perhaps it’s not a common way of approaching commercial design, but for us we are definitely interested in creating something aesthetically pleasing before anything else.

O: But I must say that aesthetics is also a type function—that’s our function at least. I remember when we made the concrete pots, we didn’t want them to have holes for a plant at first, because then it definitely wasn’t a vase. It was simply an object with a form.

RJ: But in your work, is that your intention? To bring form and beauty into the world?

O: It is a bit of an ugly world at the moment, and art can definitely provide some relief.

F: It was something that we agreed upon at some point—that we wanted to create something aesthetically pleasing and positive in the outcome. The question behind it could be negative or critical, but the outcome has to be beautiful.

 



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