Frodo Mikkelsen Interview
Skulls and black silhouettes of men on horses are some of the recurring symbols that define Frodo Mikkelsen’s artistic style. This Danish artist first started out doing graffiti and soon became a painter and a sculptor. Today, he is exhibiting his work worldwide. He shares with us his personal, imaginative, and unique insight on art and his advice on being a successful artist today.
How did you first start off your career as an artist?
Well, my career started way back. When I was 8, I saw Danish artist Frank Rubins’ studio in Smaaland, Sweden. He had made some big canvases, with a cow skull, that his son Simon and I had found in the woods. That was the day that I said: “I want to be an artist”. Two years later in 1984, I found myself, through graffiti. I did my first canvas in my father’s studio (Knud Mikkelsens) in Stockholm, the winter of 89-90. A self portrait, Ugly as hell.
It was in 2001, that I had my debut in the Danish art scene. I got in, with three paintings on the artists fall exhibition ( KE ) at the contemporary art gallery Den Fri. From there, one thing just took onto the next….
I always worked a lot. When I was younger I was working in the studio 12-16 hours a day in my studio, all year around for many years. Now, it’s more like 10-12 hours a day. I always work on many projects, shows and medias at the same time and always did. It’s good for me, that I can jump from one media to the next. If I have worked on paintings for a long time, and then get fed up, I can move to make sculptures. It gives me peace, and it helps me to never get bored. The day I think it is boring to make, I will stop!
Do you believe education in art is necessary or an asset?
Well, I “only” have the three years of education, called the Free Youth Education (DFUU) offered by the Danish government for young creative people, rather than just sitting with a book. I hated school from day one, so this was my break .The goal after the three years of different art schools was to make my debut. I did that in 2001, on KE exhibition. So this break helped me on the way to becoming a pro. And I am now.
I had tried to get into the Royal Academy of Art in Copenhagen ten times without luck. In Denmark, it is very important to come from one of the three states funded art academies if you want to make it big. I just kept on going hard. I did it without it. It made me who I am today, and now I’m happy that I never got in! I did it by myself. So I guess it’s not necessary.
Is there a particular artistic movement that influences you?
The graffiti movement has been a part of my life for almost 30 years now, and means a lot to me; it was a crazy experience and I made friends for life! In the art world, the first I read and heard about was Danish Ex-skolen, and Cobra. Henry Heerup has been a big inspiration for me.
What do you feel is the most important way to market your art today?
The most important way to market my art today would have to be to show, work, show, work. Exposing my work around the globe, at cool places with amazing artists. I have good loyal galleries today, that are doing a great job; Mohs in Copenhagen, Munch Gallery in NY, Gallery S.E. in Bergen, Norway and Bongoût in Berlin ( Now a print studio ) printing small books and prints. But also online, like my website frodomikkelsen.dk and tools like Facebook have been a big help over the last years.
I have so many dreams and wishes for myself in the future, but I still have no idea how I will get there yet. However, an example is, when I got my first NY gallery (Jack the pelican presents, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn ), I went to NY every six months, and I went knocking on the doors. After, 2-3 years of going back, the gallerist suddenly said “You don’t give up do you”, and he let me in. I was there for some years, and it was beautiful. They closed down, in the beginning of the financial crisis. I now have my new gallery in NY, Munch Gallery, is owned by a Danish woman, that I met through the Mohs exhibition in Copenhagen, and eventually, one thing led the next. She is doing an amazing job; selling my work and getting me into museum collections, like at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. So I guess, my way was to work hard and not to give up.
What do the symbols of skulls and the black horse represent and why are they recurrent in your artwork?
I started working with tags in my paintings such as the skull and the black silhouettes. These are just a couple of tags, I have like 20 different ones.
The skull I started using in 2002-03, but in 2005 it went crazy and I painted skulls every day. It goes back to the day when I was 8, and saw Frank Rubin’s painting, but now I also got books on the Mexican tradition, day of the dead, and it was not until I went to Mexico, that I met people more crazy about skulls than me. The black silhouettes, is often myself, as a lone cowboy on a horse, a bear, or something else…But it also helps me with my graphic idea, I love hard graphic. Black figures, bright colors and white background.
What are you future projects?
I’m booked for a long time. My next show is in January 2013. I first have the Art Herning art fair, with Mohs exhibit. Also in January, I have a show in Singapore at Art Stage Singapore, with Gallery s.e. In February, I have a solo at Gallery s.e. in Bergen, Noway, and one week later a show with Fie Norsker and Kottie Paloma in Mohs, in Copenhagen. I’m going to New York in April and May, to start up production for my solo at Skive, a new art museum in Denmark. In January 14, at the same time I have a retrospective show, at the same museum. The same month I’m in a drawing show in NY at Munch gallery, and then art Herning again. Before that in 2013, there is Art Copenhagen, and a group show at Heerup museum in Copenhagen. I just showed at Fanø art museum, and right now I’m showing in Copenhagen, at the Christoffer Egelunds gallery’s winter show. I’m going to start getting more gray hairs… Pure love.