There is a lesson to learn from the infinite variety in nature and the innate complexity in even its most simple forms. Steeped in the Scandinavian tradition of art and design inspired by natural elements, Henrik Simonsen employs the inexhaustible richness of nature as metaphor for the vitality and vulnerability, the passions and weaknesses, inherent in the human experience.
Drawing is central to Henrik Simonsen’s work, stemming from the directness of the mark-making process and the simple way lines on a surface create shapes and forms. All elements are drawn freehand, even in repetition, to maintain the life and strength of the line and therefore its direct connection to the feeling that motivates it. In recent work, paint and colour have developed a greater integrity, especially when poured or thrown at the canvas, contrasting drawn lines with an abstract element and imparting to the work a nebulous quality suggesting the shifting moods at play within formal expression. Simonsen is interested in the role of history, both as an influence and a creative element in his work. He follows an organic process where elements are allowed to ‘grow’ onto the canvas in layers, informing one another in their creation. The resulting imagery documents this process while creating a sense of time having passed on the canvas rather than one frozen point in time.
Existing besides the element of history is an increasing sense of stories. For this latest body of work in particular the fairytales of Hans Christian Andersen. The tales, which like many fairytales encompasses sorrow, death, evil, and man’s follies, paired with everyday-life themes of love, nature, injustice, suffering and poverty, becomes intertwined with the plants, flowers and insects on the canvas. The paintings do not serve as illustrations of the tales but the tales becomes imbedded in the life of the paintings.
Decorative elements inspired by 18 and 19 century wallpapers and Japanese and Chinese screen painting and fabrics are at turns obscured or revealed amidst a more contemporary take on the minutely observed taxonomies of naturalist still life. This historical attempt to tame nature in architectural interiors is punctuated by pours and splatters referencing to a sort of mental graffiti betraying feelings too unkempt to be contained in a civilized space. The overall sense is one of contemporary emotions breaking free within the polite restraint of history’s drawing room.
Echoing the very nature of its subject matter, Henrik Simonsen’s new work represents a subtle evolution of form to meet its ever developing function as a field-guide to the artist’s observations and experiences along the at-times overgrown path of existence.