Mikkel Ørsted


“I think art is a way of living and thinking”

AT: Where are you from and how/why you start engaging to art?

MØ: I am from Denmark and I grew up in the countryside in close contact with nature. It has always been natural for me to express myself creatively and through art. It is a way for me to transform and explore my impressions of the world and the society in which we live.


AT: When did it become serious?

MØ: In a way art have always been a serious thing for me, but throughout the years it has become more and more serious. I attended a Danish folk high school in my early twenties, because I considered if art should be playing an essential role in my life, and after the stay I moved to Copenhagen where I soon after found a studio with other artists. In the next three years I applied to art academies nationally and internationally and finally, in 2014, I was admitted to The Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen.


AT: Are there any person that have been significant in your progression as an artist?

MØ: It is very difficult to highlight certain people, who have played a significant meaning in my progression as an artist, because it has always been important for me to have as many different conversations with as many different people as possible in my progression as an artist. There is so, so many ways to understand the world and the art in. But that said, I also think it is important to hold on to certain conversations with certain people, for example the lector at the colour lab at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen – we have had an ongoing conversation for the last five years about art. I do not think it makes sense to mention specific people or artists – for me it is about the whole; that is, all the qualities of the different conversations compared. It is a mosaic of conversations.


AT: What’s your first approach to the work? Whare does your process start?

MØ: First of all, I think art is a way of living and thinking. I am always open to new inspiration and it is never to know when new inspiration emerges. I paint paintings in my mind, so the process is actually eternal. When I’m in my studio and begin on a painting, I always start by consider which canvas I want to use; for should it be linen or should it be cotton? Or should it be coarsely woven or finely woven? The choice of canvas means a lot for the outcome of the work. And then I create different systems, which are interwoven with the fibres in the canvas. I very rarely have a fixed opinion or notion of what the work should end up looking like, but sometimes a motive haunts my mind and then I feel like I have to paint it.

AT: What are your favorite tools and materials for working?

MØ: I use brushes, airbrush and markers and in addition many different kinds of acrylic paint from different brands, because I try to find the best texture, pigmentation and color saturation. And in many ways, my studio is a laboratory of tools, where I try to find out the physical ability of the materials.


AT: Do you leave your work open to interpretation? Or do you think the viewer should engage with your work in a specific way?

MØ: First and foremost, I create art that I find interesting as an artist and as a human being. And for me, a work is like a sketch, or a way in which I can get closer to an understanding of a certain thing or a feeling. The art must reach beyond the art itself through the questions that arise in the meeting with the viewer.


AT: How do you feel while you are working? Do you think of the final result?

MØ: I have some particular systems and ways regarding the development of the painting. Sometimes I use a whole day, days or even weeks where I fill a painting with a system that I have develop. The systems contain many repetitions and at times it can become quite meditative for me to do. In a way, the abstractions happen in the same movement and suddenly it is all about endurance. The spontaneity. The bodies movement. It is a span between minimalism, expressionism and the figurative. It is very different what I feel when I work on a painting, because it contains so many processes and there is always something at stake, so one day you can feel frustration and irritation and the next day you can feel an enormous joy when the painting comes into place and the motif speaks to one. There are many facets to it.


AT: How do you understand when a work is finished?

MØ: One day I can feel that a painting is finished, but the next day I can start a new painting and if it looks like the painting, I painted the day before, then it does not feel finished, because then I am already interested in something new – so it’s a lot about the very moment in which the painting is created. I am interested in making paintings that speak to me and that leave me with a wonder. So, for me, it’s always up for discussion about when a painting is finished and often it takes a month or two or even years before I know if a painting is finished.

AT: Where does the inspiration for the work come from? Do you find inspiration outside or it’s all inside you?

MØ: For me, the inspiration is a very abstract thing. The inspiration can be a sound, a color, at pattern or an art work, but I do a lot to seek out new inspiration; it can be a walk in the nature or it can be in reading. I find a lot of inspiration in philosophy and in science. It is both internal and external conditions that apply to me when it comes to inspiration.


AT: Do you think art can be learned or is it something innate?

MØ: I think everyone has an artistic potential, but I do not think everyone can become a good artist. And as I see it, as an artist you have to be driven by an eternally curiosity for the world that is around you and you have to keep asking new questions all the time. The artistic industry is tough, so if you want to make a living from your art, you must first and foremost be persistent.


AT: Are there any artists that influenced your works? Why?

MØ: I am inspired by artists like; Agnes Martin, Anni Alberts, Frederik Værslev, Emma Kunz, Hilma af Klint, Hammershøj, Peter Doig and a lot of other artists. I am very inspired by our cultural history and I find a lot of inspiration through this.


AT: How important is for you the role of social media?

MØ: On the one hand, I think it is necessary to free myself from social media and give myself the space and peace needed to make art, because I can quickly spend a lot of time on Instagram and that time will I actually prefer to spend immersing myself in my artistic practice, but no matter how I turn it around, social media is an important and fantastic tool in the artist’s life in 2021.

AT: What’s your opinion about the contemporary art system nowadays from your point of view as an artist?

MØ: I think it’s good that art is being spread to a larger and more global audience, but I may be worried about art, which is not doing so well on social media and which is therefore not getting the attention it deserves. Social media is in many ways like an inexhaustible archive, so when you look at art digitally, you can drown and lose track and I think that is a shame, because art and immersion go hand in hand.


AT: What do you find to be the most challenging or daunting thing about pursuing art? What is the most rewarding part of working as an artist?

MØ: For me, art is twofold; on the one hand it is a great blessing and on the other hand it is a great curse, for I am constantly thinking of my art. I can feel despair and frustration for long periods if, for example, I have challenges with a painting and at the same time I can feel satisfaction and a kind of redemption when a painting ends the way I want it to look.


AT: What do you do outside of painting?

MØ: First and foremost, I am a painter, but I also work in other media, for example I am currently making sculptures of ceramics and otherwise I experiment from time to time with sound art and graphics.


AT: What are your goals and expectations for the future?

MØ: My goal is to have a life that I find interesting and that is filled with art in all shapes and forms.

Mikkel Ørsted (b. 1988) is a Danish visual artist currently living and working in Copenaghen, Denmark.

"My work is generally based on dual opposites. On the one hand the strictly formal, the mathematical, the industrial, the controlled. On the other hand the informal, the body, and the state of improvisation touching on the previous unknown – the transcendental moment before we identify a phenomenon".