Gabriel Bødker: The Undiscovered Artist’s Journey

Getting your art noticed is a continuous uphill struggle without a curator, gallery, or some art organisation, not including the time to produce a body of work.

It can make the process to become recognised overwhelming, particularly for an undiscovered artist. Navigating these hurdles is emerging artist Gabriel Bødker embarked on a journey to get discovered by launching his debut exhibition in the centre of Copenhagen.

Gabriel Bødker

I believe that most things are possible as long as you twist and turn one’s impossible ideas into something more tangible.

Gabriel Bødker

Inspired by the aroma of life, Gabriel views art as a commemoration of moments, depicting his consequences in neo-expressive arrangements consisting of a combination of text and immersive colours.

In this interview, Gabriel talks us through his creative process, inspiration and why he decided to do everything independently.

Q: For those who don’t know you, can you please introduce yourself?

A: My name is Gabriel Bødker Johnson – I’m a painter. I’m 24, half Danish, half Nigerian and I live in Nørrebro, Copenhagen. I picked up a painters brush in late 2018, and from that very moment I never let go. I’m self taught and only started selling work in February 2021 through my own website. Besides painting I also work with installation. I’m proudly naive at heart and an expert when it comes to thinking ‘what if?’.

I believe that most things are possible as long as you twist and turn one’s impossible ideas into something more tangible.

Age of Consent
Q: What is your inspiration, and why do you do what you do?

A: My inspiration comes from everything. Which I know sounds pretentious but I honestly get inspired by leaves blowing in the wind, overhearing conversations between strangers, the political state of the world, the sound my friend makes when he’s fast asleep – the list goes on and on.
But at the core I would say: People.…and how we’re our own worst enemy.

I do what I do for a variety of reasons. Art for me is a celebration of life and life is beautiful. The beauty I experience doesn’t come from the positive sides of life but more the relationship between the good and the bad. So I paint to celebrate life, in order to support charities and shed light on causes that are
important to me, as a way of therapy where I get to reduce the endless trail of thoughts
inside my mind.

Q: Can you tell us about your creative process?

A: As mentioned above I am inspired by many different things and I therefore write a lot of notes. My paintings start either on my phone or in my notebooks. I don’t sketch before I go to canvas, but what I do, is write titles for future paintings in my notes and more often than not I can visually see that painting in my mind just from the title I’ve written – composition, colours, words, objects – everything. I don’t know why or how that’s possible and you should think it makes painting easy, but It actually makes it more complex – for me at least.

The picture I see my mind is always my starting point, but I’m never able to get to look
exactly like it. I try and I try but never seem to succeed. My ‘mistakes’ are what makes my
work ‘real’, at least that’s what I tell myself. Thereto there is music, there is always music.

the bird & the bees
Q: You just opened your own gallery in Copenhagen, can you tell us more about your decision to do this?

A: I did it for a list of reasons that have grown over the years. Never hearing back from any of the galleries I’ve contacted almost made me doubt my work, which I couldn’t allow. I honestly and truly believe in my work – I don’t believe in myself but that’s another story.

It’s 2021, there’s so many new ways of doing things and as far as I’ve read it doesn’t say that you need a gallery. I knew that this was the only time where I could rent a building this size at that location due to covid. So I spent all my money on the rent, borrowed the money for the deposit from my grandparents and now I had a building for a month and a bit on the busiest street in Denmark.

I was there every single day throughout the duration of the show for around 12 to 16 hours a day. I would get up around 11, be in the gallery around 1, and open at 2. From 2 till 8pm I was open for guests. Then between eight in the evening till 5 the following morning I would be painting new work. Not that I was selling that fast, I just figured that the rent was so expensive that I better give the building a run for it’s money.

Gabriel Art Show – Copenhagen

There were 4 floors where on the ground floor I had a more traditional gallery in one end whereas in the other I had set up a studio. I thought that doing something at this scale would attract attention from the different galleries in Copenhagen.

Room 1

It didn’t. But it did attract around 350 people, which to me is incredible as I was completely unknown as a painter this being my debut show, and now I’m less unknown. I even made back the money i spent on the rent and paid back my grandparents. That said I’m not exactly going to Fiji next week.
Art should be for everyone if you ask me. A lot of the work sold, has been sold to people whom has never bought art before. I’ve been told that my prices start too low, but my youngest customer was 17 – she now has a small unique painting and that to me is priceless. The youngest guest was 4 and the eldest was 82.

A large group of young teenagers had their first art experience during my show which to me is equally
immeasurable.

I think as an artist today you have to make a quite strange decision;

A: Do you want to be renowned as an artist in the traditional art world?
B: Do you want to do whatever you want, and do it yourself?
Lastly, How bad do you want it?

Q: Your work has a running theme featuring text and a fusion of deep colours. Can you tell us the motivation behind this?

A: Most of the contemporary art I saw as a child I thought was awful. Not because it was ugly per say, but because I didn’t understand the idea behind the work. And if there was an idea, that idea would often be so abstract that as a child I wouldn’t even bother try to understand it.

I’m not saying that everything has to have an idea behind it, but back then – no one told me that. Which makes me think that I must have been quite a square child. Without it being a conscious decision, looking at my work I think what I’m trying to do is making sure that everyone who looks at my work gets an idea of where I’m coming from.

Maybe it’s me on a personal level soaring after being understood, as I’m often misunderstood verbally and my actions are too. When it comes to colour, the idea behind the painting often dictates the colour and the narrative. I see colours as a visual soundtrack, the film being the painting. Everything has to fit together – directly or indirectly.

Q: What was the first piece of Art you created that cemented your path as an artist?

A: The wooden viking ship with plastic bag sails which I built when i was 6. I believe it was my first experience where I had an idea, got the materials and turned it into something.

Q: In your opinion, what is the lasting impact of Art?

A: Depends on the eye and the needs of the person looking at it.

My Dad in London
Q: What do you think about the current state of the art world?

A: I couldn’t say as I’ve never had anything to do with the established art world, mind you I only started observing it in late 2019. However I can say that looking in from the outside, to me it feels quite narrow and old fashioned. Dare I say boring?

My debut art show was largely inspired by Keith Haring’s ‘The Pop Shop’ and the art scene in New York during the eighties. From what I’ve read it seems to have been such a vibrant time where artists really dared. Today it seems that because of all the options we have available, largely because of the internet – many dream and few get around to ‘doing it’ whatever that may be.

Q: What are your thoughts on NFT art and the current NFT market boom?

A: The only thing I’m missing is something thats not just on a blockchain that lives on the internet, something physical. The child in me would like to own something physical that then comes with a blockchain. If I’ve understood NFT’s correctly the past sentences should make sense. I’m trying to figure out the narrative for a series of paintings that exist in the physical world whereafter they are to be animated and set to music digitally. The original NFT then comes with a physical painting.

Q: What role does the artist have in society?

A: Being painstakingly honest. The artists that have and still inspire me are brutally honest. To me, you can feel if their heart isn’t really in it. There are no rules in ‘art’ and therefore I see it as being of the absolute highest priority. Being honest doesn’t mean that your art has to be serious in terms of motif. Me being honest is me being me, more often than not slight sarcastic.

Q: What’s next for you as an artist?

A: There are 2 projects being discussed between myself and potential collaborators. They’re both quite exiting to me as I never thought either of them would be remotely possible. I will do my best to keep working independently which will require me to be better at asking for help. Something that I have yet to master.

Otherwise more depth, more shapes, more objects, less speed, new figures (motif) more interactivity on canvas, and most importantly LOTS of counting rice. It’s been a pleasure being here, thank you so much Art Plugged. And If you’re an artist reading this, feel free to reach out if you think I can be of any help.

https://www.instagram.com/gabrielboedkerj/

©2021 Gabriel Bødker, All photography by Nivikka M. Andersen

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