HuskMitNavn - RememberMyName

INSTALLATION AT LINKÖPING KUNSTHAL, SWEDEN, 2014
INSTALLATION AT LINKÖPING KUNSTHAL, SWEDEN, 2014

Click here to preview works available by HuskMitNavn - available for purchase on Tuesday, February 16th 9AM PST.


Written by Caleb Neelon

Looking across the Atlantic from the shores of a chaotic and angry America, there’s something about Denmark that seems to indicate a country where things are smooth, well thought out and just imperfect enough as to not be annoying. HuskMitNavn means “RememberMyName” in Danish, and for the past two decades, he has become one of Copenhagen’s best loved and most successful artists, working in media ranging from painting, drawing and murals to installation, cartooning, product design and social media. His strength across all media is making work that we relate to right away, with the immediacy of that morning. The mundane things. Getting the kids out of the house. Completing daily errands on a bicycle in the rain. Doing it when everyone is a little bit grumpy.

HuskMitNavn RememberMyNameWe don’t see the struggle in HuskMitNavn’s art making. He does not dazzle with fancy technique and displays of labor or time spent. He paints a long black fence with a single can, drawing out spontaneous characters in clean, one-shot lines until the can runs out, at which point he picks up another and keeps going. Each character is unique and interacts with the next in a different way: playing catch, lighting a cigarette, picking up something the other has dropped. By the end of the day, he has painted what must be a quarter-mile mural while using maybe only a dozen cans of paint. If he goofs, it will show, but he doesn’t, and because he doesn’t, it looks easy.
 
HuskMitNavn is a bit of a social media star, with his simple cut-and-folded paper drawings a near-daily happy surprise. Despite their popularity, these drawings aren’t for sale and live on only in the posted photos. He’s fine with that — graffiti gives a lot of practice in appreciating the unsellable. With a decade of experience as a cartoonist at one of Denmark’s largest newspapers — he stopped in 2012, just in time to trade a paycheck for eyeballs on Instagram — providing a daily smile has become a career. And as a fine artist in gallery and museum contexts, one of HuskMitNavn’s great strengths is ensuring that we approach his work with cheer. 
HuskMitNavn RememberMyName“Funny art is an open door to the art world,” HuskMitNavn explains. “Funny art can make a trip to a gallery an actual pleasant experience. Way too often people feel stupid when they look at art. They don’t understand it — they think they are not smart enough. But most of the time it’s just the artist who is bad at communicating. Funny art needs to be more than just ‘falling off the chair’ kind of funny. You can use it to portray the absurdities of life. It’s important to laugh at life; it’s the only way not to lose your mind. I try to draw situations from my everyday life that people might be able to recognize. The audience is laughing at me and at themselves at the same time. I want people to feel not alone. When they look at my drawings they can see that there is another fool on the planet going through the same things as them.”
 
Still, for all its everyday-ness, there is a distance to HuskMitNavn’s work. For one, “remember my name” is all there is to go on: His real name is not public, his home life is private, and he doesn’t show his face. He keeps his social media activity strictly focused on his art, not his activities. It’s a separation that began when he was a young graffiti writer, for obvious reasons. Today he’s one of Denmark’s best-loved artists, but he maintains the separation to stay normal and private — at least, what normal and private meant before social media. He is a dad — the visual observations in his work are too clearly from the trenches of parenthood to fake it — but we don’t need to know more.
HuskMitNavn RememberMyNameHuskMitNavn’s painted characters draw us in with smiles but have tensions behind them that are quite real. He can dial these tensions up or down depending on the circumstance, of course. He has done several murals and interior works at libraries and other youth-oriented centers around Denmark and Europe, and these clearly welcome viewers in, but in his paintings, the angst is more readily on display. The daily difficulties presented in his work remind us of the litany of minor ills in Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. They are individually minor: The closet is empty and the dirty-laundry bin is full; the bus pulls away without us; traffic; something stuck in our shoe. But on a daily level, these things multiply up to anger and despair and sometimes violence.
But that is of course our daily life: getting past the annoyance of the moment, being able to find the patience to take a deep breath and exhale frustration away. Everyone loses, all the time, and HuskMitNavn’s art reminds us that the task in life is to lose gracefully. Of course, there are some winners in his work. Like any graffiti writer, the punk-ass teenager is a strong spirit animal within HuskMitNavn. So it makes sense that the most purely triumphal characters in his work are the teenagers who have just gotten away with something — usually some act of petty vandalism. For these artists, the victory, in that moment, is complete.

HuskMitNavn RememberMyName

Click here to preview works available by HuskMitNavn - available for purchase on Tuesday, February 16th 9AM PST.