Mette Rishøj: Where chaos and harmony meet
By Heidi Kokborg | Photos: Mette Rishøj
Mette Rishøj is not your average artist. She purposefully makes her work process a bit tricky, to capture the creative energy. Through her paintings, ceramics and paper works, she tells stories, and she is not afraid to push the boundaries – because that is where art happens.
Mette Rishøj did not grow up in an art family, yet she found herself at a folk high school for art not just once, but twice. The first folk high school left a lasting impression on Mette Rishøj, but the second changed her life.
“My teacher Elmer told me that I was just as talented as the students he taught at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. He told me that I was an artist. So, I just went full speed ahead, and when I came home, I told my family I was going to be an artist. They laughed a bit, but I was absolutely certain,” says Mette Rishøj. She was right, and her talent earned her a career that, today, encompasses Danish and international galleries as well as museum shows.
“I have a desire to tell my stories, but despite what people think, being an artist is not just having a channel of inspiration from above. It is a lot of hard work every single day,” she stresses.
Leftover coffee, dirt and recycled fabric
Mette Rishøj considers herself a contemporary artist as she tells the stories of our time. For a long time, she has been deeply fascinated by the chaos and energy in the interaction between humans and nature. She was fascinated by all the things we can build and invent, but also by how the same energies can leave a trail of chaos and destruction.
At first, her paintings were powerful, forceful, and colourful. However, more recently, the artist has been increasingly interested in expressing these energies through the stories of the materials she is using. Perhaps as a consequence of the Anthropocene age, Mette Rishøj finds herself captivated by texture, layers, materials, structure, and surfaces as an evolution of her artistic expression.
“I often use recycled fabric from charity shops as canvas, and even old fishing nets. It creates structure, layers and depth to my paintings,” explains Mette Rishøj. The artist also never washes her brushes in the sink. Instead, she uses the leftovers on her new paintings. She simply drips and wipes the brushes on a white canvas, and lately, she has been experimenting even more in her atelier.
“I use leftover coffee and tea on the paintings, even dirt from the floor. I leave my paintings on the atelier floor overnight to suck up old floor stains, and then I just empty coffee cups, leftover painting and whatnot over the floor and the paintings. This creates depth and allows me to play with layers, and of course randomness and chaos,” explains Mette Rishøj.
Something at stake
It is exactly this sense of randomness and chaos Mette Rishøj loves. “I never look at a white canvas; there is always something there. But because it is random, it challenges me. I need to create harmony in the chaos. There might be a bit of green in the right corner, a bit of purple in the left corner and a bit of coffee somewhere. Something that both works with me and against me. Something that creates structure and depth to the final painting.”
While others might find it daunting, maybe even nerve wracking, to look at a canvas full of paint, coffee, and dirt, Mette Rishøj finds it exciting. “I don’t want it to be too easy. I want it to be tricky, surprising and challenging. I believe one of my strengths is that I dare to fail. That is how I keep growing as an artist.”
Indeed, Mette Rishøj’s art, whether it be ceramics, paintings, or paper works, is full of energy and expression, just like herself, and she is not afraid to push the boundaries.
“My paintings are not simply decorations for the wall. They have a deeper meaning. I always ask myself and my art students ‘what does the painting or the piece of art mean?’ If you are creating art and only thinking about how it looks on the wall or in the home, that is a big mistake. It has to have meaning and emotion. That is the most important thing,” the artist says and rounds off:
“There has to be something at stake. I want people to look at my art and have an experience. It must be more than just beautiful, although beautiful is great, but there always has to be something at stake. Something that is moving. Disturbing. You need to feel that the artist herself is at stake.”
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