Kasper Sonne is a Danish painter who grew as an artist and built up his experience and work around the world – from Berlin to London, from New York to Copenhagen again. Existing in the present, but shaped by all those past experiences, Sonne finally lets go of those places and times. This is the essence of Last Goodbye, a title taken from Jeff Buckley’s homonymous song, free from the limitations of the image and characterised, at the same time, by graffiti’s visual vocabulary and by an Edward Munch’s aura. Sonne’s debut solo exhibition can be found at Maruani Mercier Gallery, Brussels, until March 2nd.
Hi Kasper, how are you doing? It is a pleasure to talk to you. You’re currently having a solo show in Brussels, Last Goodbye – congratulations! The title invites us to think about the past, maybe about a specific moment in time or space. Can you guide us through this dynamic new series of paintings and what it means to you?
Hi Lucrezia, it’s a pleasure to speak to you as well. The title of the exhibition is also the title of one of the paintings in the show, based on a photograph I took of my studio building in Brooklyn, New York. It was an old, rundown warehouse that I fully renovated when I took it over ten years ago and I’ve had many good years there. But now it’s time to let it go so painting it was sort of a last goodbye to a place that has meant a lot to me and that I will always have fond memories of.
Also, as some of our readers may have already noticed, this title is inspired by Jeff Buckley’s song. How does music influence you, if at all, and your painting process?
While the title is taken from a Jeff Buckley song and I often listen to music while I’m painting, I don’t look to it for inspiration. For me, music helps create a certain atmosphere in the studio and is something to keep me company while working long hours in solitude.
Covering fifteen years of your life, it seems like this collection represents a very personal journey. What do you think it will convey to your audience or what would you like to pass on to them through this emotional reconstruction of the past?
I don’t think my journey and past are important for the viewers to engage with the paintings. I hope that they will have their own experiences when looking at them based on their interpretations of the artworks.
Considering the timeframe of the exhibit, can you explain why you chose these pieces and the connection between them?
All the paintings in this particular exhibition are inspired by images that I’ve taken of places and situations that for one reason or another have a significant meaning to me. However, I’m not trying to paint an actual image, they are just a starting point, a reason for me to make a painting. Then in the process of making it, it becomes about something else – about the experience of making the painting.
How we interpret our surroundings and make sense of our world has always characterised your work. Your childhood home is Denmark, and you had a studio in Brooklyn for ten years, and now you are represented by Maruani Mercier in Belgium. How did these opposite geographical, but also social and artistic, locations inspire your art over the years and this upcoming exhibit?
I’ve moved around a bit and have lived in Berlin, London and New York, and it’s been vital for me to explore different places and cultures. I’m now based in Copenhagen again because I have a wonderful son there, but I’m still utilising all those past experiences in my work today.
What I found incredibly intriguing is that the source materials used in your paintings are a collage of various fragments that create a single image. How come you chose to never paint directly from a photograph and what is this unique artistic process like?
It’s a way to free myself from the limitations of the image while still anchoring my paintings in something that I find meaningful.
Regarding your style, you stated to be not interested in depicting reality, but in visualising a mood and your choice of colour seems to uphold this artistic aim. Can you tell us more about this and how you select the juxtaposed colours for your palette?
As a kid, I loved to draw and I fantasised about becoming a cartoonist. Then in my early teens, I turned to painting graffiti and the colours of that period are basically the same that I use today. They somehow stuck with me and over the years have become part of my visual vocabulary.
You graduated from The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts and have roots in design and graffiti. How did this artistic past of yours, academic and professional, lead to this almost archival exhibit?
What I am as a whole is an accumulation of all my past experiences and as an artist, I channel everything that I am into my work.
Apart from music and your formation, is there any particular past or modern painter that inspires the construction and deconstruction of reality that is so present in your work?
Many painters inspire me, both past and present, but two that I always return to are Edward Munch and Mark Rothko. What I ultimately hope to achieve in my work is to express the level of intensity and the range of emotions that I experience when standing in front of their work.
You just achieved a career milestone as the solo exhibit opened on January 18th. Do you already have future projects and, if so, can you tell us something about them?
Right now, I’m working on a comprehensive catalogue of my work together with the team at Maruani Mercier. It will span twenty years of my painting career and feature an essay written by the curator and scholar Dieter Buchhart. I’m really looking forward to that being published soon.
Lost in Hollywood, 2023
Years Gone By, 2023
Salt of the Earth, 2023
Room with a View, 2023
Last Goodbye, 2023
Figure On a Beach, 2023