Hornsleth’s work as a window to the age that we live in
By Grant Alexander
I first met Hornsleth due to a chance encounter. I was having a meeting with a friend that is a film editor, when suddenly he blurted out “Shit, I forgot that I have to meet some crazy Danish Artist West London in thirty minutes.” I can’t remember why or how I gate crashed their meeting, I merely remember walking around the ground floor of “The Hornsleth Studio”, as they talked on the mezzanine fifteen feet above. I couldn’t hear a word that was said, as the sound of Steve Riech bellowed around the building at an obscene decibel. I can clearly remember my ears ringing as I gazed at the spew of Hornsleth’s work, which covered every inch of wall space. I must have spent 40 minutes; gazing at these substandard works, many of which featured, what I thought was a moronic slogan, “Fuck you art lovers”.
On one of these evenings, I entered the Studio to find him behind on the relentless schedule that he always sets for himself. “I can’t waste time talking tonight I really have to finish these FOUR paintings,” were his first words that he said to me. Having painted a little at art school, I ignorantly, proposed that I could “Follow your sketching and fill in some colour.” This seemed logical to me, as the blue print was already drawn out. I proceeded to show him that I understood where the colour would be applied, and that I could “Fill in the blocks of colour that would mostly be painted over anyway.” I knew that my contribution would be entirely invisible, yet would save him a few hours. Curious, he humoured me. He watched attentively, as I thoughtfully and diligently began to “Colour in the blanks.” Within ten seconds I could hear him laughing over my shoulder. “Not like that,” he yelled, “don’t hold it like that, like this!” As wielded the brush like a machete. “It needs to be quick, cheap, thoughtless and immediate. Like the world around us, fuck this art school bullshit. It needs be from inside you!” I had another attempt, and although I knew exactly what he wanted, after a minute or two I had filled in a section that I thought looked flawless. “You should stop now,” he said, “compare what you just did, to any other section, it might look the same, but up close there is something wrong. It’s too precise; it’s not like me. If I had to paint with that precision or dishonesty I wouldn’t do it. You can’t fake this shit, its like a finger print or DNA!” At that moment, the door to the world of Hornsleth came ajar, but it would be a few more weeks before I truly walked through it.
Suddenly, a strange realisation began rising inside me. I slowly began to recognise many of the themes of our past conversations, depicted within the individual pieces on the walls. I thought of our conversations regarding globalization, mass consumption, fast food & throwaway culture, and I could clearly connect the dots. I could see why, he explicitly instructed me to paint with a technique that “needs to be quick, cheap, thoughtless and immediate. Like the world around us.”
I began to understand why he used biro, acrylic and spray paint as opposed to oil stick, gold leaf or diamond dust. As he later explained to me, “If I was going to be that pretentious, I’d really use the best stuff… Virgin cum!”