Arresting and mysterious, Henrik Simonsen's paintings of nature are obsessively accurate in form yet almost abstract in composition and hue. Depicting each fine blade of grass, delicate leaf and spindly twig within their natural habitat, they are a surreal fusion between landscape and Dutch floral still life. The significance of colour in Simonsen’s work is undeniable. Often abandoning realism in his pallet, he creates strong contrasts which allow the luminosity of the paint to sing on the canvas, at times giving the feel of a solorized photograph or alien atmosphere.
Simonsen's obsession for flora and fauna is attributed to his Scandinavian roots due to the region’s long standing tradition for art, design and architecture inspired by natural forms. He is also fascinated by elements of the French 'Rococo' style, especially its lack of structure, and the way it embraced the bizarre and beautiful, opulently celebrating the organic and the sensuous. This influence can be seen in works such as tapestry (2008) & inbetween (2008) where he uses repetitive motifs resembling those found in the period.
Inspired by the stories of his compatriot, Hans Christian Andersen, Simonsen interweaves dark and humerus elements of fairytale onto particular works. Innocently beautiful depictions of Hemlock, Henbane and Black Berry, are dressed with name tags resembling gift cards or the 'eat me' 'drink me' labels of Alice in Wonderland. A dangerous distraction to their true poisonous, psychoactive and thorny motives. Rather than serving as illustrations, the paintings borrow from Andersen’s tales to subtly hint at the prevailing folly of the human condition. “For me personally the draw of the subject matter is its inexhaustible richness and metaphorical ability to speak of human existence. Of life, passion and the brevity of existence.”
Each painting begins with what Simonsen feels is the most important part of his process, freehand drawings which he works and reworks. “The attraction to drawing stems from the directness of the mark making process and the simple, yet magical way lines on a surface create shapes and forms.” Creating the work is an organic process itself; the elements and materials ‘grow’ onto the canvas by splashing, pouring and brushing the paint in layers. Nothing is erased and the fine monochrome lines of graphite from the original drawing contrast with with the bolder hues and textures of the oils. This visible history is important, as Simonsen feels it gives the painting a sense of having occupied a period in time.
Born in Denmark in 1974, Simonsen studied art in his native country before spending two years studying in New York and then at Exeter College of Art and Design. He has exhibited his work in group shows throughout the UK, in America and in his native Denmark. He has shown his work alongside his collage peers Dan Baldwin and Antony Micallef. He was invited along with artists such as Carl Andre, Anthony Gormley and Gerard Richter to create a unique piece for the permanent collection of SONS museum in Belgium’s. He currently lives and works in Berlin, Germany.
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