“Playing with colour is probably the closest you can get to making magic,” says Gitte Möller, a fourth year fine art student whose works range from paintings with oil and acetate collage on board to MS Paint creations. In and of themselves, Gitte’s artworks often function as self-contained worlds comprised of various architectural structures like castles, high-rises and stairs alongside recurring natural symbols like birds, suns, clouds and sharks. Making art is a way for her to order and rationalise – in her own, non-rational way – what is happening in the world around her.
Were you always aware that you wanted to pursue a career in the arts, or was there quite a journey to discovering this?
To be honest, I was pretty confused about where my life was going at the end of high school and for a few years afterwards…I was definitely not convinced that I wanted to be an artist. Of course it was something I had always loved, but I couldn’t really gauge its utility out there in the real post high school world (I had some quite hectic, utilitarian ideas about things as a teenager). Anyway, I thought I could paint as a hobby, but I’m pretty bad at multi-tasking, so that didn’t happen. I had taken a gap year and started a general BA, and then finally switched to an art degree at Michaelis (where I was of course lucky and fortunate enough to get a place). I am now in my fourth year, and don’t regret my choice for a minute, as painting has saved me from being an angry confused mess. In any case, a career in the arts can take so many different forms, so I’m looking forward to finishing my degree and discovering what this involves.
How has your work developed over time, and what has driven these changes?
When I was younger I always thought that my work was very clichéd and was always waiting for the day that I could make what I saw in my mind’s eye instead of what looked like high school biology diagrams on acid (my high school paintings). There is no way that I would have been able to develop my painting, both conceptually and technically, without being at university. Doing lots of different projects and trying out many different materials and ways to make work has made a massive difference. There are obviously risks involved in pursuing art in an academic environment, which is that it can sterilize your work instead of cultivating it. I think the key is not be scared or embarrassed to say what it is you want to say (paint what you want to paint), even if it comes out crudely at first, or if it takes a lifetime to refine.
What role does fantasy play in your work?
I suppose my work contains elements of surrealism and expressionism, but I think I’d rather like to describe it as magic realism. My paintings and other works often function as little self-contained worlds, but I don’t really think about these as fantasy. It’s a way for me to order and rationalize, in a non-rational way, what is happening in the world around me. Of course there are things I choose to show and things I choose to leave out, but because I very often use symbolism and juxtaposition in my work, and what I don’t show is often just as important as what I do show. Maybe it’s a bit like a scary movie where you never get to see the monster, or watching a butterfly trapped in a glass case.
What are you influenced, inspired and informed by?
Wow, a lot of things. The artists I like to look at influence me no more or less than my everyday experience of the city, going for a walk, listening to music or any kind of feeling I might have. I have a very corny selection of modernist painters who I always like to refer to, but I also really love certain types of medieval painting, religious iconography, cave painting, photoshop pictograms, etc. I enjoy anything where symbolism is used cleverly and unapologetically.
What mediums do you work in/with and why?
I mostly work with oil and acetate collage on board, but I also paint on butcher paper and canvas paper. I often collect things which I turn into sculptures or installation. These will be clay, plastic or natural objects. I have also recently painted on some rocks and will soon be refurbishing a diorama which I made last year. I like oil because of its versatility and collage gives me the opportunity to create more complex pictures. In fact, collage changed the whole game for me.
Your use of colour is very unusual, and particular. Could you tell us more about this?
I have always loved colour since I was very little. I think my use of colour was restricted for a while by the bad paint that I was using and a lack of exposure to different kinds of painting. I saw a Kandinsky ‘composition’ painting and Matisse’s ‘Harmony in Red’ in Amsterdam. These really changed the way I think about what a painting can do. Living in a city I am obviously also exposed to many different colours and textures, synthetic and otherwise, so these wind their way into my work. I also like to go diving in the ocean, where colour and texture is beyond this world. Playing with colour is probably the closest you can get to making magic.
What themes, motifs or symbols seem to reoccur in your work?
I often use architectural and natural elements in my painting to give structure to the composition. These include castles, temples, towers, high-rises, tents and stairs. Natural symbols that seem to recur include birds, suns, moons, leaves, trees, clouds, sharks etc.
Is your art-making process quite spontaneous or methodical in nature?
I would have to say my process is almost completely spontaneous. Though I sometimes use a simple sketch for my bigger work, I never know exactly what my paintings are going to look like in the end. My method is just to collect lots of pictures and objects and have these around me in my studio. The less restricted I am the more productive I become. It is also more exciting for me this way.
Do you view art as a primarily expressive outlet or as a communicative tool? Or perhaps it’s a combination of these two?
A combination. Art is obviously a great way to express ideas that are otherwise difficult to express through language, but to be honest, the communicative potential of painting in the ‘fine art’ academic environment that I was trained in is very small: It is a space that is accessed by only a tiny part of the population and so obviously its communicative potential is very limited. The other problem is that it a lot of people find the gallery/museum/white cube environment sterile and alienating, which makes it difficult to engage with contemporary artworks that are shown in these spaces, no matter how great they are. In any case, part of why I am excited to leave university is to explore alternatives/solutions to this problem.
What are you currently working on and working towards?
I am graduating at the end of the year, so I’m working towards my exam and our class’ graduation show which opens on 7 December.