Soren Martinsen in Country Song in x-rummet at Statens Museum for Kunst in Copenhagen

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Soren Martinsen in Country Song in x-rummet at Statens Museum for Kunst in Copenhagen
Søren Martinsen (f. 1966), Through the Woods, 2007, Oil on canvas, 220 x 500 cm.

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK.- Depression, drugs, and picture-perfect landscapes. The contrasts are outlined in the blackest of black humour when the artist Søren Martinsen pokes holes in common preconceptions about rural idylls in this autumn's exhibition Country Song in x-rummet at Statens Museum for Kunst from 6 October 2007 - 24 February 2008.

Based on a true story….."It ought to be simple. Living in the countryside, tending to my garden and my art; being happy with my family. But I brought something with me from the city: my drinking, my drugs, and my depression."

The words are Søren Martinsen's own. They appear a little while into his latest video piece, Selfportrait, which is part of the exhibition "Country Song" in x-rummet. The hubris-laden voiceover becomes the starting point of a fictionalised story about the artist's own move away from an alienating big city to a still-but-differently-alienating family life in the country. For the reality of the transition to a rural existence is far removed from firmly established clichés about harmony, peace and quiet, positive isolation, and contemplation. Instead, the journey turns out to be an uninterrupted downward spiral of rage, artistic torment, substance abuse, a fatal trip on snow-slicked country roads, and a very dead deer.

Quaalude Country - Escapism and social Utopias have cropped up before as pivotal points in Søren Martinsen's art. Examples include the video pieces Into the Freetown (1996), Wrecking Ball (1997), and Shadows and Magic (2001), which apply their de-romanticising optics to the Christiania community, the Roskilde Festival, and the Copenhagen art scene.

In x-rummet, audiences will encounter a dark universe pregnant with psychological significance; a universe which establishes a dual movement as its point of departure. The space is expanded by the seven large landscape paintings which light up the dark walls, but it is also contracted around the video screens which form a circle around a blood-red carpet on the floor. This spatial duality between the external and the internal is enhanced by the contrast between the panoramic paintings and the claustrophobic video work. The landscapes are both poetic and seductively lovely with their painstakingly detailed surfaces. By contrast, the Selfportrait video piece and its fragmented, hand-held, realistic aesthetics creates an impression of being rough, unabashedly honest, and autobiographical in nature.

The duality is not, however, quite as clear-cut as that. Similarly, Søren Martinsen's ode to the countryside operates on far more levels than is immediately apparent. The depressive state depicted in the video slowly permeates the paintings. Upon closer inspection, the surreal, dreamlike nature of the frozen, empty landscapes grows oppressive, eerie – even horrifying. By the same token, Selfportrait lays bare a number of stylistic approaches which address and probe the relationship between the documentary and the staged. In fact, it does so to an extent where the work goes beyond its starting point in the artist's own life to effectively provide an ironic comment on the concept of the eternally suffering, alienated outsider artist. Finally, the end of the film opens up the possibly of reconciliation; perhaps even a happy ending.

About the artist - Søren Martinsen (b. 1966) studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen (1989-95) and Goldsmiths' College at the University of London (1993-94). Through his career, he has worked with painting, photography, installation art, and video, and he has contributed to a wide range of exhibitions in Denmark and abroad. During the period 2003-06 he was the artistic director of the exhibition venue Overgaden – Institute for Contemporary Art. "Country Song" in x-rummet at Statens Museum for Kunst represents Søren Martinsen's first major solo exhibition at a Danish art museum.

PLEASE NOTE! New location for x-rummet - x-rummet has moved from its customary place by the Sculpture Streen to room 300 at the top level of the white museum building. Free admission to the exhibition. Main sponsor of x-rummet: Nykredit.

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