The MoCA presents
an interview with
The MoCA conducts interviews with prominent artists who have gained wide recognition, as well as emerging artists who have shown exceptional potential in their fields. The published interviews help our readers learn about some of the most promising artistic voices of our times.
The MoCA conducted an interview with artist Jasper Borup. An aspiring painter from Denmark, he narrates his odd story that helped blossom the unique character and flair in his works. Long attracted to Aboriginal and African art, he feels liberated and care-free in his complex and abstract creations.
I was trained as a carpenter and then worked as a construction technician.
The MoCA > Hello, and welcome to THE MAGAZINE OF CONTEMPORARY ART! Before we start, we recommend our readers to check out your profile page on our website to see your artistic expressions so they can get acquainted with your art.
The MoCA > Let’s start by knowing who you are and what you do…
My name is Jesper Borup, and I live in Copenhagen, Denmark. I’m 47 years old and come from a typical Danish family. I was originally trained as a carpenter and then worked as a construction technician, but I have always preferred carpentry. It is more fun and makes you feel liberated. After 10 years working as a construction technician, I decided to become an artist full time, because I found it to be cathartic.
I can draw freely what I love the most, and I focus my efforts on producing these drawings.
The MoCA > Now let’s dig a bit deeper into your background. What kind of life experiences have propelled you towards deciding to become an artist?
To be honest, my life experience has been characterized by several obstacles. I was not allowed to be myself. My father was not very loving. From the time I was a little kid, he treated me harshly. It was almost like I could not be myself, neither in my work, nor in my spare time, because I had this social anxiety. Life felt hard, and at 35 years of age, I found myself with a serious case of depression. I could not understand my own life and the people around me. And today I still don’t understand why some people can be so mean or why they lie to you. So I finally decided to get some help from a psychologist. I was in therapy for many years, trying to figure it all out. I decided to be an artist, because I like to draw and because I can be myself when I work. I create, and I use my effort to produce my art. I like to talk about myself and my unique life experience. Suddenly, I was invited to join a group of artists, and they helped me get off the ground with my career as an artist, so I could live from my art and make myself better known in the world.
The MoCA > Creativity itself is evolving in all of us, and this is all the truer in us artists. What has artistic evolution been like for you? What has been most influential in sharpening your artistic skills?
I began to become interested in the graffiti art from the 1980s, along with hip-hop and skateboarding. I started to draw graffiti on school bags and was earning money from it. My passion for abstraction came later, when I saw a guy from New York do some amazing abstract art. At that point, I began to become interested in tribal people and their art, in how they paint their faces and bodies, and how they altered their lips by inserting big plates in them, and putting on fascinating earrings. The art of Aboriginal people is beautiful, with the way they use colors and dots, and so is African art, with their creative masks, patterns and colors. I like the Native American tepees, their use of feathers and patterns, and their relationship to nature. For me it's all very liberating, they could do whatever they wanted without anyone having to impose rules on them. This is why I have felt their inspiration in my own artwork.
What has been most influential, I think, is that I have tried to produce my art without any fear. I dare to do it, and this is where my art looks different, with the abstraction and details. The details can be terrifying, but I do these so that people have something to look at. I try to make it amazing, to make it look interesting and different.
We need to live relaxed lives, have less and do less, so we can live more in the present, and allow ourselves to be ourselves.
The MoCA > The philosophy of art has been constantly changing over time. What does this change mean to you?
I don’t like it when people want to decide over artists and make rules about how we should act and live, and how we must create art. I like to be able to be myself, to create my art the way I want to, and to tell others about my life experience, about who I am.
The MoCA > It’s quite interesting that you’ve had technical education in carpentry. Was this something you always wanted to do? And how has the knack for construction influence your artistic interests in a positive manner?
To be honest, I wanted most to be a carpenter, but my family didn't think this was good enough. They looked down upon it, and I didn't understand them. So I went further and completed a higher education, just so that they would be proud of me, but whatever I was doing seemed still never good enough. Today I feel freer. I can draw freely what I love the most, and I focus my efforts on producing these drawings. I do not have people in my life trying to decide whether I am good enough.
When I was drawing construction designs on my computer, I had to come up with a clear-cut solution, without worry, and produce a simple, solid building. To do that, I first drew sketches of the building on paper, to see the construction solution more easily, and then make it more detailed and perfect on the computer. The sketches, the details, and to remain fearless – these are the attributes I have taken with me into my art. I wanted to be able to create my art in a way that I am in a state of power flow. I don't care, I just do it, and suddenly I am satisfied with the result, just like the construction designs that I once drew.
My story always has a central message: to be yourself and not try to fit in with people.
The MoCA > It’s impossible to look at some of your works without acknowledging the looming presence of Nordic art, especially when we look from our non-European vantage point. Have you ever consciously noticed this?
No, I have never thought about my art in that way. It came to me as a surprise, in a good way, maybe it’s because I have grown up with it. But when I think about it, it might be because I also like African, Aboriginal and Native American art.
The MoCA > You often use vivid coloration in your works. When we consider your work “Love,” the yellow patterns on the red pigment becomes at once prevalent. This was also done in mixed media. What type of feelings are you trying to convey in this work?
It is my own frustration and anger about my own life and about people around me. It’s about how a person can be so selfish and mean and destroy a sweet kid. He was not a loving father, he was idiotic, and these kinds of people are everywhere, I don’t like it. This is also why I’ve drawn an African face in the background, with hearts coming out of the mouth, to illustrate how we need to do less, to stop, to chill more, be kind, make love and say loving things to each other. If people would just wake up and consider doing that instead of all that working and growing, and not let the idiotic people win, then I think we would end up with a better and happier world. I don’t consider material goods, money and entertainment to be important things in life. For me, it’s love that creates happy people. I think that too little love, or no love, and idiotic people are the reason why we see evil, anger, war, killing, violence and frustration all around us. In my opinion, we need to live more relaxed lives, we need to have less and to do less, so we can live more in the present, and allow ourselves to be ourselves, without judgements and so many rules, to live in peace, love and harmony.
The MoCA > What’s the normal process in which you create your works? In other words, how do you execute them?
For every piece I make, I try to say something from my own life, and mostly that inspiration comes from Pinterest. I always start out with a sketch of what I find, and then do it differently. Then I transfer the sketch to my canvas or paper. I try to carry out my work without any anxiety, where I can make it so that it flows. First, I draw the background, mostly in graffiti, then I draw the face from the sketch I had made. The painting will then evolve, with abstraction, keywords and details, until I am satisfied with the result. The hidden facts behind the abstract, I do it because I have had bad experiences with people in my life, and I do not trust them. I find them to be too evil.
The MoCA > Has there been a constant source of inspiration that has driven your artistic career? Or do you find different inspiration each time that drives you towards creating a new piece of art?
In the beginning, I was constantly searching for how I would create my art. Today I mostly find what I will create on Pinterest. I use my effort to create my art in my own way, and each time I tell my story, it always has a central message: to be yourself and not try to fit in with people. This is why I draw tribal people and why I find their art so invigorating.
It’s not all just about looks. More important is what you are inside.
Expression & attention
The MoCA > The works are often filled with geometric patterns that seem to arise from the more representational figures in your works. What makes you choose these faces and figures? And do you see the lines and arcs to instinctively stem from them?