You have to wonder what type of person would be behind a porcelain figurine of a unicorn being sodomized by a dog in military uniform. The answer would be Louise Hindsgavl; a tall, blonde Danish girl with a goofy sense of humor and a knack for telling the flawed fairytales of modern society through her sculptures.
The aforesaid piece, Hindsgavl explains, “Was the first one that really broke the nice girl role, the first piece I knew my mom wouldn’t like,” she says with a chuckle.
“After that, everything was open to me and I stopped caring what people thought. It was a great freedom to feel – to rock their world a little.”
Unapologetically graphic and honest, Hindsgavl uses delicate white porcelain to construct not-so-delicate scenarios; exploring often-sensitive subjects from female circumcision in Africa to pedophilia to the potentially damaging effects of nanotechnology on future generations.
She shares with me her concerns about toying with genetic material, a subject she says inspired the “Human Desire” half of her exhibition Human Desire and Last Minute Pleasures showing at Galerie NeC on Hollywood Road.
“Nowadays we can create anything we desire in a laboratory. The attitude is now like, anything goes just because it’s possible. I’m not sure if it’s a good thing,” she says. “We have no respect for how far it can go. The next generation will have to find out for us.”
She elaborates by telling me how fertility in Denmark is at an all time low because of chemicals her generation were exposed to when their mothers were carrying them during pregnancy, as well as the chemicals used in genetically modified crops which have led to girls as young as four years old going into puberty. “That’s super disturbing to me,” she tells me in what was perhaps the only time she stopped smiling during our conversation.
What inspires the concepts or stories behind your porcelain figurines?
I have always been really interested in telling stories and spent some time finding different ways to communicate them when I finished my schooling. It wasn’t fancy or cool to tell stories at that time in Denmark or Europe. I then discovered silver and porcelain pieces from the Rococo period that were used to create conversation and tell a story but the things depicted in them were too nice or too idyllic and like fairytales and they told had no edge and the figurines were soon considered kitschy, boring and out of fashion. So I explored the possibilities in using porcelain figurines to start telling stories about sexuality, uncivilized actions and all the dark sides of the world.
Growing up, the fairy tales I liked always included some sort of transformation through investment or pain. I feel like there needs to be some reality, somebody who acknowledges that the dreamy, idyllic is not real stuff, the real world looks different and that that’s okay! I think that’s very in line with Hans Christian Andersen’s story, The Emperor’s New Clothes. I like to think of myself as the little boy who stands up and says, “Well, actually you’re naked.”
Where the boundary sits between art and porn is an age-long argument, given your art includes a lot of eroticism, where do you stand on this?
I think those who are eager to describe it as porn are the ones with the issues. I mean, why ignore that which is absolutely normal? Sexuality is part of being human. Some people have very advanced sexual lives and some don’t.
With my work, it’s hard to imagine that it is porn when it’s made of porcelain and it’s mythological creatures – not humans - doing the actions.
That’s an unusual question, thank you for that.
So why is it that you chose to use characters or mythical creatures as opposed to humans?
Throughout history, mythology has been a way of depicting our world. I feel that if the stories are placed somewhere else, away from this world, we are more willing to read, hear or understand them. My guess, or my theory is, if I were to use humans that we would recognize it as ourselves and therefore become offended.
I want people to read into my pieces, to get close. So by sneaking behind the filters, the masks and everything we put up to protect ourselves – I think it’s a good way to get close to the audience.
One character that is particularly prevalent in your exhibition is Bambi. Is there any reason for this?
I like the contrast between the innocence and the guilty. They represent, to me, a certain blankness or unawareness to what cruelty they’re doing. I believe that you choose to be cruel and at some point, you stop reflecting on the consequences and add some innocence to ourselves to aid our conscience in getting away with doing rough stuff like “oh, oops, I wasn’t aware of that, heh heh heh.“
Porcelain is a very civilized material; you have to have a refined civilization to deal with porcelain. So to have the porcelain do uncivilized stuff is an interesting paradox.
Your characters are hanging or their limbs are stretched far from their bodies – why do you put them in such awkward, unnatural positions?
But I Think they’re quite natural! Some of them are hanging which is awkward, yea, but sometimes it feels like that when you’re alive. You feel tied up or you feel your freedom is minimized. Sometimes I hear people saying “oh my god! I feel exactly like that!” when they see a particular piece and hearing that is fantastic. I aim to create a feeling that it’s okay to feel tied up and not being able to handle a situation because I think too many magazines or TV shows around us tell us how fantastic we have to be to be good people but it’s absolutely impossible to be perfect.
What about the pieces that include non-porcelain objects such as tassels, wood and even taxidermied animals?
I like the tassels because they represent the same bourgeoisie as the porcelain – they underscore the civilized expectation people have of my artwork from afar.
The taxidermied animals are a play on what’s real. I like to imagine that the characters in the pieces are thinking that they are in their own real world. It’s a parallel to how nations usually think to themselves. For example, I’m Danish and I could say that every Dane is the best person in the world! We’re right about everything! I think this goes for every nation I think and when an intruder comes into our world, everything is challenged.
For the porcelain pieces it’s fun because the porcelain thinks its real and then something from our world enters their world and challenges them. All these parallels are fun to play with.
Have you had any interesting reactions to your art?
In New York, a guy thought that I was a really mean person and that I was encouraging violence and assault. But I’m not! I mean, I don’t believe I am. It was surprising to me as I assumed that most people from New York are quite open-minded.
When did you realize you wanted to become an artist?
When I was a kid I was digging clay from the cliffs near my uncle’s summerhouse and building sculptures with it. But I really wanted to be a scientist in biochemistry; I love science and I think that has also enabled me to create my artwork because I have a flair for physics and chemistry. I actually applied to study geology at university but I never really started because I also applied to go to art school and they accepted me. I thought I’d just give it a year and it was so exciting, challenging and tough so it was like “ok, I’ll do one more year…and another year…”
I had some great teachers who saw who I was and understood what I was trying to do – it’s fantastic when you have this kind of teacher. It makes a world of difference.
How did you come to team up with Galerie NeC?
Well, Alain had seen a piece of mine at a gallery in Paris and I think he just kept bumping into my name after that. He wrote an email one day and came to visit my studio in Copenhagen. We ended up having a little lunch, a bit too much wine – I was a little pissed when I went to pick up my son from kindergarten (laughs) oops! Mom’s been working! – But yes, it was great fun and we agreed to collaborate. I had a very tight schedule so my first show with them wasn’t until April last year and now we’re working together again in Hong Kong.
Is art something you encourage your son to get into?
When he was two and a half he drew a - what do you call it- a bappa-pappa? You know, the little blob figure with stick arms and legs. I was so thrilled because he was so young! But after that he completely gave up on drawing (laughs). I do encourage him to use his imagination when he plays; I think playing is a great thing for kids to do.
As a Danish artist how do you feel about recent boom in Asia’s art market? Does it change anything?
Well, I got to come here because of it. I think as a result, the world becomes smaller because the influence begins to come in every direction. Now we can bond and become tied together - I very much like that idea.