Lars Bjerre sits beside a hatchet embedded in a tree stump; its blade is wrapped in pink yarn. Elsewhere, a tank-top is stretched over a wooden frame and decorated with slim cursive: “Ceci est un tricot de corps”. Hidden beneath the low rumble of his voice, Bjerre’s humour is surprisingly playful—I ask him about the trumpet the tucked away behind his desk chair.
“I started to learn, but there’s something wrong with it.” When I ask what was wrong, he pauses and then laughs, shaking his head. “There’s nothing wrong with it. It was just hard.”
Born and raised in Denmark, Bjerre studied psychology in Copenhagen before moving to London to get a MFA in painting at Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design. Still, traces of his fascination with the human mind embed themselves in his latest work, “#614051”. The show takes its name from the HTML hexadecimal code for the rich purple of an aubergine’s skin and includes three paintings framed by a thin purple trim, as well as spray-painted wood crates displaying twelve yarn aubergines hand-knit by his assistant in Copenhagen (Lars' mother, I later learn, is an excellent knitter). During my visit, the paintings hang on the wall of his studio, waiting to be shipped to Copenhagen for an upcoming solo show.
“No matter how hard you push on the skin of an aubergine, it won’t break,” Lars muses in his studio overlooking the Spree. “But on the inside, they’re quite soft and spongey–they are very much like humans.”
A clear pattern of pairing portraiture with a deeper and almost certainly darker humour emerges when flipping through his archive. His “Hunter’s Delight” series, for example, explores the tradition of hunters being photographed next to their (dead) trophies in a morbid celebration of the sport. Bjerre sourced thousands of these images from Google before painting a selection of them with distorted faces: the blushing cheeks of grinning gnomes replace the smiling men kneeling next to a felled black bear in one image; a literally pig-headed man crouches with his pet dog alongside a dead boar in another. The ersatz portraits continue into Bjerre’s most recent project and he believes that they help viewers relate to his work.
“They’re called ‘The After Party: I, II and III’. I think everybody can identify themselves with these people: it could be the art world; it could be business; it could be a competition,” Bjerre explains. Laying down oil paint in thick sweeps, he both obscures the faces in the crowd and captures the dilettantish dance through small-talk of a black-tie event. Standing next to an Anna Wintour lookalike in the first of the series, there’s a bearded man moving a familiar purple blur towards his open mouth.
“Is he eating an aubergine?” I tentatively ask.
“Yeah,” Lars chuckles. “That’s me.”
Lars Bjerre,"#614051" is on view at Galleri Oxholm in Copenhagen from 16 January 2015 until 8 February 2015.
Text by Nathan Ma