Flowers and horses

Flowers and horses
Interview with Magnus Frederik Clausen


Starting last year, you’ve been working on a series of paintings and drawings depicting both analogue and digital representations of time (1). Is there a title for the series? How did this start?

Magnus Frederik Clausen: The group of work you refer to does not have a title, but we can call them clock paintings. It started around December 2020/January 2021 when I had to teach my oldest son to read the clock. I then drew a series of analogue and digital clocks in a sketchbook, and my son had to translate each clock to its adverse on the opposite page. So, if I wrote 20:11, he had to translate that to an analogue clock and the other way around. I’m a big fan of children’s creative output, and my son’s drawings are no exception. But what struck me beyond that, was that I realized I could orchestrate the making of an artwork within a simple system of translation. The following day, we continued the homework, but this time in my studio, with paint on canvas. Since then, I have hired several assistants to paint these works for me, and each of them contributes to the project with their gestures and temperament, just as different musicians would play the same song differently. Since I started this project, it has struck me that one of the reasons I paint is that I love to watch paintings, and with this project, I’m watching more paintings than ever before.

Threeo’clock (Noah), 2021, acrylic, oil on primed linen, 50 x 60 cm


For our collaborative publication we considered using only the drawings you made, setting the time and the mode of showing the time, as starting points and instructions for the later paintings in the series. Given the roughness of these sketches, should we consider them purely as preparitary, or as works in their own right? Are the times noted specific or randomly chosen? Why choose the topic?

MFC: Unlike the paintings, the drawings are done by me and not the assistant. The drawings are my score that I pass over to the assistant with simple instructions before the painting starts. You find paint on these paper works because they often lie around on the floor next to the canvases, so the assistants unintentionally spill paint on them or wipe off the brush. I have now used many different time units for my paintings, and some seem to have a more substantial emotional effect than others. Raising the question of what time unit to choose, I find it inconsequential as time repeats itself constantly. I have even started to think that the topic of time may be less relevant since I could use any other unit like the word ‘Horse’ or ‘Flowers and horses’, etc. The more I work with this project; it has occurred to me that what I’m trying to do is identify what painting consists of.

Untitled, 2021, acrylic, oil, graphite on paper, 21 x 29,7 cm


With the paintings being subsequently painted by different individuals credited in the title, the series explores and seemingly undermines questions of authorship and authenticity and breaks with the romanticism of a singular genius towards a more collective production model. How does this work in practice? Is there cooperation, dialogue and discourse? Or is there a clear division of labour? How does this possibly redefine the relationship between an artist and his/her work?

MFC: When we work on these paintings in the studio, the assistant is the one with the brush in the hand. My role is more like a conductor who decides when the process starts, when it stops, what time unit to use, the size of the canvas, etc. All these small decisions are part of making a painting in the end, and I’m trying to sharpen my eyes on these details. The project is about taste and the act of choosing. I have tried to hire several assistants at the same time and ask one of them to act as the conductor instead of me and then I would leave the studio and come back the following day in the hope of fresh new paintings, but it didn’t work since I hadn’t taught the assistants my taste. A taste that constantly changes. But the assistants have also started to instruct me in painting, so the roles change. Until now, it is still me who signs the paintings, but maybe we should consider changing that.

Eleveno’clock (Benny), 2021, acrylic on primed canvas, 46 x 61 cm


How do you define collaboration? How do these different collaborative projects you engage in, like for example the collective JIR SANDEL (2) or the duo Nina Manobra (3), inform your subsequent relationship with your work and thinking?

MFC: I have a background in filmmaking. The film medium, in most cases, is defined by the work of many individuals from the director, actor, camera, sound, cutter etc. I remember the beauty of working with film; the result always reflected this collaboration in a work none of the individual people involved would be able to create alone, which is the same for Nina Manobra and JIR SANDEL. In Nina Manobra, we always approach the work we do together in terms of music and refer to our time producing as rehearsals or jam sessions. Claus Haxholm is, besides his art, a talented musician. Once, we played in a band together for a short period, but I have long given up on music since I’m a terrible musician, though my big dream was to make pop music. But I have now started to believe that I can become a dancer.

Untitled, 2021, acrylic, oil, graphite on paper, 21 x 29,7 cm


What is next for you? Will you continue to work on the series? What do you wish to be possible in the near future?

MFC: At the moment, I have planned three solo shows with the project and one duo show this year. One of the next steps in the project would be a more verbal approach, where I try to investigate the project with other people through conversations, text, publications and diary. A work that will start to unfold with this publication and interview (4).

Interview by Tom Lingnau, March/April 2022


1 First shown in the duo show Time & Life by Magnus Frederik Clausen and David Ostrowski at Spazio ORR, Brescia, May — August 2021
2 JIR SANDEL is an exhibition platform founded in 2016 in Copenhagen
3 Artist duo by Magnus Frederik Clausen and Claus Haxholm
4 Magnus Frederik Clausen, Twentytwoseven, Weinspach, Cologne, April 2022


Magnus Frederik Clausen, born 1981, lives and works in Copenhagen

Artist’s page
Magnus Frederik Clausen