In the studio: Magnus Frederik Clausen

In the studio: Magnus Frederik Clausen

Copenhagen-based artist Magnus Frederik Clausen, who has had a previous life in film as a director, reflects on his relationship with painting, the origin of his Work series and the exhibition projects that he has planned for 2024.


SSM: Where are you answering this from?

MFC: Copenhagen University Library KUB Nord, I was the first one in this morning; nobody else was around except Mr. Skeleton.



SSM: Is there a space or place that is most important to you?

MFC: My family's holiday house in Sweden. My parents, my mother's three siblings, my grandma and granddad bought it when I was one year old. The house is in the middle of the forest, and you can stay there for weeks without meeting anybody, which completely differs from my life in Copenhagen. I'm attracted to places that I have been continually revisiting while growing up.
My memories of this space have changed over the years, from when I was a child to a teenager to a young man to a parent, and now I am bringing my kids there. The house has become wise with my life. In some periods, it has been years since I went, but I always return.
Once, I made an open-air studio in the forest, carrying a table and all my materials out into the wood and leaving it there. When I was not around, I let nature do its part and visited it daily during some landscape studies. It was a funny collaboration with nature.



SSM: What was the first work of art that left an impression on you?

MFC: I don’t remember. Different from now, I used to hate museums, galleries, and art. When now, it’s something I spend a lot of time on. I think my relationship with painting also runs on a love/hate relationship.


SSM: Your paintings in our current show depict clocks in various shapes and forms. When did your Work series begin and how did it come about?

MFC: The clock paintings started around December 2020/January 2021, when I had to teach my oldest son to read the clock. I then drew a series of analogue and digital clocks in a sketchbook, and my son had to translate each clock to its adverse on the opposite page. While doing this homework, I realized that I could orchestrate the making of an artwork using a simple translation system. Thus, the concept for the clock paintings series was born and I conceptualized a system whereby the translation process would serve as the foundation for creating intricate artworks.
Since then, I have hired several assistants to paint these works for me, and each of them contributes to the project with their gestures and temperament, just as different musicians would play the same song differently. While initially, I attributed my motivation for painting to my love for observing artworks, my perspective has evolved over time. I've begun to question whether my affinity for painting stems solely from enjoyment or if there's a deeper significance to its presence in my life. This introspection has led me to consider the possibility of a more complex relationship with painting—one that transcends mere preference and delves into the realm of necessity or inevitability.
Thus, while I continue to explore the nuances of my artistic practice, I'm confronted with the realization that my relationship with painting may be more multifaceted than I initially perceived.



SSM: Are they more painting or performance?

MFC: Paintings are objects and can only be seen where they are. But you could argue that they are the result of a structured performance behind closed doors. What you wish to call them is not of such importance to me. If I decide to call it a performance, it will just guide my eyes in what directions my future work will take, and vice versa.



SSM: Have you adapted this process of translation in the past years and if so, how has the work changed?

MFC: I have mostly worked with the collaborative aspect of my recent work, which I have explored in other projects with different people. For example, in my solo exhibition Werkgelegenheid at Billytown, I hired local people that I met in The Hague to come to my residence studio at Billytown and paint still-life paintings for me, of various pieces of bread I would buy from the bakery every day.


Magnus Frederik Clausen Desembrood (Yaping), Version 2, 2023


SSM: You've had a previous life in film as a director. How has informed your artistic practice today?

MFC: Two of the most important things I learned from film were:
1. I'm not schooled as an instructor/director, so I avoid working with actors who speak the language of film instructors, but I work with amateurs instead.
2. I always love how films come together and are not the result of a single person's work, but many people's contributions. This knowledge I still find helpful and an inspiration in how I work today.


SSM: What are the 5 most essential items in your studio?

MFC: My office chair, my work table, my wall with windows so I can look out, my CD/Tape player and my collections of CDs and tapes, and the coffee machine.



SSM: Can you tell us what you're working on for 2024?

MFC: 2024 is an exciting year; I'm finishing a new series of coal drawings for an upcoming show at 2nd Cannons in Los Angeles. It's a show I'm much looking forward to seeing coming together. It will be with LA-based artist Brian Kennon, Danish artist Finn Reinbothe and me.
Later in the year, I will open a solo exhibition at The Tail in Brussels with a photographic body of work that I'm working on and then back to LA, where in the autumn I will have a duo show at CASTLE together with Yu Nishimura. And then finish the year with a group show at Opdahl that Norwegian artist Kenneth Alme and I are curating.



SSM: If you could collect work from any artist – dead or alive – who would it be?

MFC: I'm collecting Danish paintings from 1850-1930. It's mostly stuff I can still get for a reasonable price, things that are overlooked or forgotten. But if I had the money, I would love to collect a Wróblewski painting or Medardo Rosso wax and plaster sculptures.


Medardo Rosso Ecce Puer (Portrait of Alfred Mond), 1906