I was immediately drawn to Christiane Spangsberg’s work. Maybe it’s the simplicity of her oddly intimate single line faces, or the hues of rich blue that feel as deep as the sea that first attracted me. Whatever the catalyst for my admiration, speaking to Christiane only enhanced it. The same depth and simplicity that exists in her work also exists in her, as an artist and an individual. She is curious, self-aware, and has an insatiable hunger to understand the world around her.
Our friend Louise stopped by Christiane’s Copenhagen apartment, where she often works (right there on the little patch of wooden floor), to capture her in her element as she prepares for her first, and highly anticipated, New York exhibit.
Can you tell me a little bit about your life and childhood? Where are you from, and was art always present?
I grew up in a town called Vejle in Denmark, close to the water where I lived in a small apartment with my mom. I went to private school which was quite academic so my mom sent me to drawing class. I was always drawing, but we didn’t have a lot of money so we didn’t own art or really talk about it.
How did you get into painting, when and how did you start?
I have been painting and drawing as long as I can remember. In the beginning, I had to learn how to see, how to scale for proper proportion. My mom taught me to work with different techniques, so for a while I did a lot of aquarelles. In school I would draw with my friends, we mostly drew horses. Drawing was a love/hate relationship for me. I needed it as much as it drove me insane. I wanted each drawing to be perfect, and I would see no other way than to compare it to my own self-worth. If “it” was perfect then “I” was perfect. In my teenage years, I stopped drawing for a while and when I picked it up again my style had changed.
How would you define your work and the type of artist that you are?
I always find this such a hard question. Because how do we know who we are? I feel like I’m just a regular person. A girl, who occasionally happens to paint to understand the world I live in. As a person, I feel like the river. In constant change. Always moving and seeking for something else. But how would I define my work? Simple yet complex. I try to minimize the complexity of what I perceive in order to understand, but I don’t know what I am trying to say until the work is done. And even then, the meaning can change over time. To me, defining the type of artist I am is the same as defining the person I am. I am everything and I am nothing. I am sensitive and fragile but also very strong. I think an artist can be everything, and in the end, it’s up to the person who’s defining the art or artist to explain what they see.
What do you hope your work achieves or invokes?
I honestly just hope it invokes something. I rarely think about other people when I create a piece of work, but at the same time I have a need to share it. I want a reaction. I want to know if people feel something too. I hope they do, and I hope the feeling will change, that the meaning of the work will change as they do.
What are your main sources of inspiration?
My own psyche. The human mind. Understanding the complexity of our own species. It can be different themes I want to understand in a deeper way. Sometimes isolation inspires me. Even though it is hard. And architecture. Imagining a room with great white walls.
You’re currently using a lot of blue paint – can you talk about the significance of the color?
I found this blue color three years ago in the art shop. I knew I wanted my own blue, a signature color. I like its depth, and its warmth. I like the movement it can make. The energy. I like its calming attributes. I never use it with water. Just the blue. I want to keep everything as simple as possible, but then work with it. Same with the paper I use – the quality speaks for itself. Sometimes we have a tendency to add more: color, forms, water etc. I want to remove, let the materials and form speak for themselves.
You’re having your first NYC show in June! How are you feeling? What are your goals?
Each day is different. Sometimes I feel terrified; I feel so small. And then I get angry with myself. And I tell myself it’s not about me, but about the story. But then I get scared again, because I start to wonder if the story is good enough. NYC has shown attention for a long time and I want to make you proud. But in all of this I hear my mom’s voice saying, “Just do your best, I expect nothing else from you.” So that’s what I’m trying. My goal is to do the best I can do, and hope that people will come and say hi and have a nice time!
What are some of your goals for the future?
I really like having these small exhibitions, and I hope to have many more in the near future. I hope to meet a lot of people, say hi to them in real life, and not only on Instagram. I hope to publish an art book or magazine. I hope to do more things for other people. I hope I will have a huge apartment with great white walls with a nice man and cute little babies.