Category Archives: Personal News

Podcast interview about my art practice – Danish

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Du kan høre en halv times interview med mig om min kunstpraksis her:


Signe Sylvester, som interviewer har kørt et kursus, der hedder, “Gør Kunsten til din Levevej”. Den har jeg deltaget i,  og fået nogle gode tips om, hvordan man forbliver tro overfor sig selv, samtidig med at leve af det, man brænder for. Kan varmt anbefales.

Addiction and the Depris left in its wake – New Project

Filed under Art, Exhibitions, Personal News

For over a year I’ve been working on paintings dealing with the nature of addiction and what it is like to love someone who is struggling with it. I am still learning about the way in which my life has been affected by this, both positively and negatively. These artworks are therefore a personal journey and an attempt to start a dialogue between myself as a co-dependant, (consumed by the plight of the addict), those with an addiction and anyone else who joins the conversation.

I will post pictures and sketches here in my blog for you to see, in anticipation of exhibitions in the latter stages of 2018.


This is the first time I am showing the content of this door on-line. More about that in a moment. The door is my exhibition space. It originally was made to stand outside Den Frie/The Independent exibition, because they house KE – a Censored Exhibition – every year that I feel has a counterproductive way of ‘promoting’ up-and-coming artists. It costs between 550.1150kr to enter, with no need for accountability from the panel of judges. I therefore exhibit outside for free every year with the council’s permission and I’m sure that attracts more long-lasting attention than what is happening inside. It is quite entertaining really. Aloong the side of the door frame are the words; Den Friere – The More Independent, because my decision to use public space instead of Den Frie; The Independent, makes me freer!




This is from the two week period the door stood outside Den Frie. The painting itself describes the feeling of having a scream inside that you cannot contain. It needs to be released and the only way is for you to rip yourself open to relieve the pressure. This emotion more specifically, came from the realisation that communication with someone dear to me was crumbling to dust and I seemed unable to stop the wrecking ball from swinging. A very painful period.




The reason for the mask is that Den Frie’s Censored Exhibition KE give ‘faceless’ rejections; just a red dot on-line. So I thought I’d remain ‘faceless’. The word on the door “Censored” can have several interpretations: 1. That me and my painting are censored by Den Frie in terms of being rejected. 2. My painting being censored due to its naked horror. 3. I as a person feel rejected by another person, and the painting is an expression of that feeling of rejection. This is the main motivation for the word on the door. But the layered meaning is deliberate.




With permission from the council, I moved the door to Kongens Nytorv in November 2017 and it has been there since then. It has been visited by hundreds if not thousands of tourists and locals throughout the past 4-5 months.




Here is a letter someone wrote to me, thinking I was C. S. Lewis. But C.S Lewis is who I quoted under the painting, not me. It was nontheless very touching and I appreciate the words of comfort that were expressed to me here.




I like this message! Teresa has understood that love is worth the risk, but that it is a risk.




I like the juxtaposition of the gentleness expressed between this couple and the horror of what it is like when love goes wrong, which they are witnessing.




Compared to outside Den Frie in Østerport where it might have had 5 visitors a day, the door is getting masses of attention in Kongens Nytorv. I think it is visited every 5 mins or so and I’ve had about 60 email addresses or messages in my postbox which is attached to the door. Unfortunately I’ve found the box open at times and I think many messages have blown away too 🙁




As I say, this is the first time I am posting pictures of the content of the door, but it is almost certainly not the first time it has been shown on-line by others. You see friends being photographed as they open the door. I like the intimacy that having a painting behind a door which you have to open yourself creates.




Then, in february someone took a knife to my painting and cut it out of its stretcher! Sabotage! the wires to the lightbulbs were also cut. BUT, when you meet resistance and have a creative streak, you don’t give up or bow out.




The sabotuer did not take the canvas with them, so I decided to try sewing it back in. I pasted contact glue around the seam on the back to stop the seam from running as soon as I started to sew.




I used a strong thread to pull the canvas seam tight once the glue was dry. It was impressively effective considering the amount of tension needed to close all of the seams. I deliberately used a red thread and a varied stitch to create what could look like a sewn together flesh wound.




Back to the content: The painting is called “To Love” and deals with the vulnerability of love. Love is the strongest emotion and can lead to the deepest pain. The quote is by C.S. Lewis and says it like it is; love makes vulnerable. If you don’t want to be vulnerable, then don’t let your heart love anyone or anything. He is not saying, don’t love, he’s just explaining the natural cost.




So here is the new improved version of what I presented originally, now with life-experience similar to the theme of the motif itself. Thanks to the saboteur. I couldn’t have done it without you! Maybe there is a story here about scars in life making us somehow more beautiful, if we are willing to take them and work with them.


The Masked Painter Returned

Filed under Art, Exhibitions, Personal News

Just a quick note and a few photos:

I did not enter Den Frie’s Open Autumn Exhibition (Kunstnernes Efterårsudstilling) this year because my absolute biggest art challenge that I could have undertaken was rejected in the first round – my Otto Frello portrait. So when that happens, you know that this is not a place you wish to exhibit. They are looking for something else and I will not feed that to them. Instead I found out that the ground in front of Den Frie belonged to the council and not the gallery, so I booked that space from the council and proceeded to do a LIVE performance, or happening for a week from the opening day. It was liberating being able to question the status-quo and use the council’s space to question the art world’s censorship. It must be said that I was difficult to overlook and there was a fair amount of interest in what I was doing.

Here are some photos from the Happening.


DSCN3858 DSCN3744web


Left. A photo of me talking to some of the people who came to the opening. Right. A portrait of Danish art critic Peter Michael Hornung who reviewed last year’s exhibition and gave it only 3/6 hearts. He wasn’t impressed. This year’s exhibition was, in my opinion better, but I agree with Peter that there are probably a great many people who art part- or full-time artists who do not enter for this exhibition because of its censorship style. He also said that getting into this exhibition is not credited with a public breakthrough like it used to. These were the kind of quotes I used on my board.






DSCN3838 DSCN3745web

Left. The weather was misty, rainy, windy, but not freezing cold, which was the one thing I had worried about. I was very grateful for my tarpaulin! Every morning of the week. I had to go and check for a lake in the tarpaulin. Every day except one, I found one. Right. Last year, Torben Sangild, one of the censors came over to where I was painting and engaged with me. He wrote an article and gave about 200 words to my critique of the censorship method, trying to explain why it is done the way it is done. I liked him for it as he helped put a focus on the issue which helped open up a debate on-line.




Left. Den Frie can be seen behind me with some of the visitors on the opening night. Right. Jan Falk Borup commented on Sangild’s article. He pretty much stated that the censorship method in general wasted a lot of people’s money because they were already disqualified because their work just didn’t fall into the category of what either the censor board or the gallery is looking for.




Left. Just before they closed the doors I and a friend managed to sneak in through the doors to have a quick look round the gallery. We took a few snaps. Right. A quote from an art blogger who stated that Den Frie doesn’t really introduce us to anything new and hasn’t done that for a long time. In fact this year’s exhibition looked more like a retrospective exhibition from the last 30 years.


It was a brave move to seek permission and work on something of this scale just outside the gallery. Brass-necked even. But I believe in asking questions like this of the art establishment because I will not be the only painter who feels ostracized. And I also wanted to make a statement that just because you can paint portraits that look like they belong in the Golden Age, doesn’t mean you can to performance art and the likes. See you next year 🙂

In The Red Corner

Filed under Personal News, Uncategorized

In the Red Corner

“An aspiring young artist (with mask) stood outside KE – the Artist’s Autumn Exhibition held at Den Frie 1) during the Opening and painted a picture. The Scottish/Danish multi-artist explains why.”

Hekla Hekla 2)


On the 11th September I remember back to last year when I submitted five biographical portraits to KE. Everything I submitted was rejected without the possibility of feedback. I greatly regretted that I had given my confidence and my precious money to a ‘blind’ jury panel. I was angry and deeply disappointed. In 2013-14, I spent over 200 hours painting the best and most challenging portrait I might ever paint. The portrait is of a previously rejected Danish artist, now very well known and with increasing respect from the art scene. The painting alludes to many of his quirky ideas and character traits carried down to the smallest detail, as also he did it. His mischief and stubbornness were caught in his gaze. The painting’s reverse was also used as a canvas, because it was in his spirit to do something like that. It’s the kind of portrait you cannot paint unless you have love, understanding and a great enthusiasm for the subject. I could not resist the temptation to try one last time; to enter KE on the basis of this work.


It is the 18th Sep – Scotland’s Referendum on independence, and I’m sitting in Edinburgh well aware that the whole world is watching us to see what the next hours will mean for Britain’s future. It is also the day I hear KE’s verdict on my work. I log on to their website with butterflies in my stomach. But that which meets my gaze is yet another sorry, faceless, hostile red dot! Not a single judge recognizes my work. I am curiously empty of real anger, because now that my back is against the wall I’m ready to fight my corner. I will not accept the outcome this year. My brain is churning with ideas on how I can turn the disappointment into a new and suitably creative response – and proof that traditional painters can of course handle a more spontaneous, modern expression if necessary.


Today, the 24th September a family member in Denmark refers me to an article journalist Nils Thorsen 3) has written, about rejection. It inspires me further to implement my idea. I will confront KE as anonymously as my own rejection was, and I therefore make a plaster mask.


Maskemaleren ProtestmaleriFrellokollage

Clockwise from top: Protest painter outside Den Frie, The Frelloist details, Painted letter done outside Den Frie.

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Protestaktion udenfor Den Frie/Protest Action outside Den Frie

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I det Røde Hjørne

“En ung håbefuld kunstner (med maske) stod udenfor til efterårsudstillingens1 fernisering og malede et billede. Her fortæller den skotsk/danske multikunstner hvorfor.”

Hekla Hekla2


Den 11. september husker jeg tilbage på forrige år, hvor jeg indsendte fem biografiske portrætter til KE. Alt hvad jeg indsendte blev afvist uden mulighed for tilbagemelding.
Jeg fortrød kraftigt, at jeg havde givet min tillid og mine dyrebare penge til et ‘blindt’ dommerpanel. Jeg var vred og dybt skuffet. I 2013-14 brugte jeg over 200 timer på at male det mest gennemførte og udfordrende portræt jeg måske nogensinde maler – et portræt af en tidligere afvist dansk kunstner, nu særdeles kendt og med stigende respekt fra kunstscenen. Maleriet hentyder til mange af hans spøjse ideer og karaktertræk, udført ned til den mindste detalje, som også han gjorde det. Skælmskheden og stædigheden skulle fanges i blikkets udtryk. Maleriets bagside blev også anvendt som lærred, fordi det var i hans ånd at gøre sådan noget. Det er sådan et portræt man ikke kan male med mindre man har kærlighed, forståelse og en stor begejstring for emnet. Jeg kunne ikke modstå fristelsen til at prøve en sidste gang at komme ind på KE på baggrund af det her værk.


Det er den 18. september, Skotlands afstemning om selvstædighed, og jeg sidder i Edinburgh velvidende at hele verdenen – og Bornholm – vender blikket mod os for at se hvad de næste timer vil betyde for Storbritanniens fremtid. Det er også i dag jeg hører dommen fra KE om mit værk. Jeg slår op på hjemmesiden med lidt sommerfugle i maven. Men det, der møder mit blik, er endnu en sølle, udtryksløs, fjendsk rød prik! Ikke en eneste dommer anerkender mit værk. Jeg er mærkelig nok tom for rigtig vrede, for jeg mærker en kampklarhed i mig, man kun får når man er trængt op i en krog, og jeg accepterer ikke udfaldet i år. Min hjerne knurrer med ideer til hvordan jeg kan omdanne skuffelsen til en ny og passende kreativ respons – og et bevis på at traditionelle malere sagtens kan klare et mere spontant, moderne udtryk hvis nødvendigt.


I dag, d. 24. september, henviser et familiemedlem i DK mig til en artikel journalist Nils Thorsen3 har skrevet, netop om afslag. Den inspirerer mig yderligere til at gennemføre min idé. Jeg vil gå KE i møde lige så ansigtsløst som min egen afvisning var, og laver derfor en gipsmaske. Jeg kaster en tanke til Peter Smeeth som malede “The Artist’s Fate” med dæmoner, der står om ham med hvide masker på, mens de udmagrer ham for alt hvad han indeholder. Mit eget vragede maleri laver jeg en kopi af med den hensigt at hænge det op udenfor KE på ferniseringsdagen.



Medur fra toppen: Protestmaleren, Frelloist detaljer, Maleriet som blev malet udefor Den Frie.

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Emotion series 2

Filed under Art, Personal News

After the Frelloist portrait it has been hard to get back into painting. Painting The Frelloist/Frelloisten drained me because it was like cracking a really, really hard code, or like spewing everything you are and have into one performanc,e or like fighting goliath. Nothing but your best will do. Regardless of the reception of the work, putting your all into something is going to take a while to replenish. The new inspiration didn’t necessarily come from the happiest place. But that is the great thing about art; it can turn difficult things into positives. This series of paintings are a release from the tight precision work of Frelloisten and has allowed for a more expressive approach to figure painting. My inspiration came from the people around me who are struggling with various issues. Suddenly I just had to process these emotions. I threw a piece of paper on the floor after an unsuccessful, uninspired bit of painting. I poured some of the turps I’d cleaned my paintbrushes in onto the paper, spread it around and started developing a face on the paper with my leftover paint. What emerged relayed some of the desperation and helplessness I feel in one of my friends – several of my friends in fact. Emotions was spilling out of me onto canvases laid on the floor. I was able to move the paint around on the oil saturated surface, tipping the canvas no occasion causing dribble effects. To not sink into a hole of helplessness, I have also painted a few pieces that reflect a more hopeful existence.

The Scream

The Scream

The Scream 2

The Scream 2

My Friend Joan Mitchell

Filed under Personal News

Kathleen Joan Mitchell detail

Some of you will know that I struck up a strong friendship with one of the very elderly ladies at the care home I’ve been working at for nearly 2 years. I always saw this job as a form of social art. I wanted to value a group of people who have in effect been shut away. In a way it’s nobody’s fault, but the truth is still, there are magical stories behind the doors of these homes that would blow your mind. Joan Mitchell did not just have one of these stories, she was also still a vibrant, humour-filled character when I met her at a sprightly 102 years of age. That fact alone – that she was soooo old and still zimmering along without much need of assistance alone made her my hero.


Then came her humour. She made me laugh so much. I plugged into her to give me energy for the day. She was interested in other people’s stories and open about her own – her old flames, marrying her older cousin, her enjoyment of the high-life in Sumatra, Indonesia – until the missionaries told her that it was not right to have servants, until the 2nd world war broke out and she was incarcerated under the cruel Japanese. To think I was sitting in front of a woman with so much history and experience. A woman who could wake up after a nightmare of being stripped and beaten that just had to be connected to the prison camp she was in 70+ years ago. To know that this woman devised a way of sending a message to her husband by hiding the message on the elastic of a pair of trouser she was given permission to send him. The nearly severed elastic would go and he would need to repair it and find the message – which he did. This is who I was sitting in front of. A highly intelligent  woman who would have liked to have become a doctor. In stead she had to settle for becoming a pharmacist under her father’s training. This knowledge would come in handy during her 3 years in prison as she was able to make medicine from the herbs growing wild. There were so many things that made Joan special, but what I really fell for was her humour. After a bout of illness that knocked her out for a few days I walked her down the long corridor from the dining room to her living quarters. On the way she remarks “This corridor is just long enough, that by the time I get back to my room…” (I was expecting something about her being worn out, but I had to laugh when I heard the end of the sentence),” …by the time I get back to my room, my breeks are, just about to, you know, slip off! And at my tender age of 103…!” To hear words like this from a prim London lady like this is what made Joan exciting to be around. She was never too civilised! In fact, I did lead her down a corridor another day, when I heard her say from behind me in a posh London accent “Disaster!”.  I swivelled round to find her green knitted skirt lying around her ankles! Thankfully the petticoat kept things decent.


Joan Mitchell. Rest in peace my dear friend. I hope I’ll meet you again some day.


PS. I and a local school boy are planning to make a documentary film about Joan in the near future.

Leah Robb