Studio Visit: Danish Artist Sofie Bird Møller in Berlin
Jurriaan Benschop from Berlin 23/12/2013
Recently Sofie Bird Møller moved to a studio in Glogauer, one of the larger atelier complexes in Berlin Kreuzberg. Rents have gone up here, like elsewhere in the centre of Berlin, but the workspace is good, offers light and a view on colleague artists at work in neighbouring building. Here Bird Møller does her experiments with paint on fabric, paper, photography and other materials. As an artist she could be called an interventionist, since mostly her work consists of a response to an existing image.
Bird Møller grew up in Denmark and left the country 18 years ago. She studied in Munich with Günther Förg (1952-2013) and went to London for a two-year study at Byam Shaw before settling down in Berlin. Although she returns occasionally for exhibitions to Denmark she doesn't consider moving back. Berlin serves well as a base for her work. The city offers freedom and anonymity: "I still feel that there is a sense of freedom in Berlin, it hasn't been completely gentrified yet, which means, that there is still the atmosphere here of possibilities. And so many young, creative people come here from all over the world to take part in that energy."
Bird Møller started out as a painter working on canvas, doing for instance interiors, but after some time she dropped the traditional canvas format to start interventions on photography. "One holiday I was reading Spiegel magazines when I got annoyed with all these advertisement for expensive cars. I started to paint over the cars and replaced them with blobs of paint, that got wilder and bolder with time..." She developed a practice of covering images from magazines and catalogs, often depicting women, with paint, thus changing their identity and the rhythm of their bodylines. With paint she ads gestures to the existing image, as well as texture.
"Right now I am working on a long row of collages, where I use photographic material of about hundred years old. This material consists of 'cartes des visites', the early form of the business card. They were miniature photos mounted on cardboard, which one gave to friends and family, they were enormously popular throughout Europe, and soon after also in the United States. I also use early pornographic photos. Most human and all pornographic features are hidden behind a gesture of some sort, almost in all cases arms, that I have cut out of various magazines. In addition to that I am experimenting with clothes to see whether there is something interesting in there for me."
In the studio is visible in how many directions the artist is thinking and working. Bird Møller found an old worn pair of black boots in the rain on the street, took them to the studio, dried them and covered them with lot's of layers of paint, the top one shiny ruby red. What she will do with the shoes, that could invoke Andersen's fairy tale, is not yet clear. Also she is working on t-shirts with prints. She buys them in second hand stores and adds a layer to the design. For instance a print of a girl who shows her middle finger to the viewer is covered with three colored dots. Her face has become invisible.
On the table there is a collection of photos showing the hands of the German chancellor Merkel. In news magazines and papers these hands are studied with care, since they appear to speak a significant language, supporting the message she wants to transmit, or trying to cover things. Bird Møller is interested in the body language as it shows up in the media and everyday visual reality. In this case she's experimenting with the political body language, not sure yet if a good work will come out. The studio, this should be clear, is a space for experiment. What we see here is not necessarily what will end up in exhibitions.
An example of a finished series is Las Rudas, showing interventions with paint on black and white photos of erotic wrestling. The artist found the pictures in Mexico. They are both playful and violent. The obvious eroticism underneath cannot be seen anymore. Another finished work is city light poster which used to be an advertisement for clothes, with a life size female model. It's part of a series called Interactions for which Bird Møller covered her own body in paint and then made a print on the figure of the model – challenging the size and forms that are used for advertisement.
Body and paint. Those are the basic ingredients to be found in Bird Møller's work. One could read the images as political comments or feminist interventions, but these are just possible readings of the work, next to an aesthetic point of view. The work appeals as an active and emancipated form of viewership, recycling and re-interpreting the stream of daily images.
Sofie Bird's Møller's work can be seen in the "East of Encino, North of Moca", Group Show at Jancar Gallery, Los Angeles (7 dec. 2013 till 11 jan. 2014) and in a solo show at Sassa Trülsch Gallery, Berlin from 14 February 2014.