Frodo Mikkelsen is a self-taught artist living and working in Copenhagen. He started by the age of ten by making graffiti, something that shows clearly through his paintings today, as his images are characterized by simple figures in bold colours. There are three works by Mikkelsen in Nuuk Art Museum, all from 2013, bearing the somewhat cryptic titles Food pits… (Madhuller…), Black polar bear in ice cave… (Sort isbjørn i isgrotte…) and When the ice is gone, there’s food… (Når isen er væk, er der serveret…).
The different figures in the paintings are easily discernible and clearly distinguished from each other; we see for instance a bear, a whale, a tree, a landscape covered with snow. It is not as easy, though, to actually recognize all the elements there; apart from the more obvious shapes, we also find some cryptic elements such as floating coloured boxes. Such elements catch our attention, as we are not able to identify them immediately.
Quite a typical feature of Mikkelsen is that all three of these works are centred on an animal. Animals are one of Mikkelsen’s “tags”, as the artist himself calls them. In the world of graffiti, a “tag” is a sort of signature, and they serve the same function in Mikkelsen’s paintings. The stylized figures return repeatedly in his works, along with the more abstract elements (i.e. plain colour-fields), making it possible for the viewer to quickly identify the different works as being made by the same artist – in that way they function as his “signature”.
Because of their graphic character, the works also appear to be a part of some cartoon universe. It is as if each painting were actually an image out of a cartoon – the rest of which we need to complete by ourselves. Also typical of Mikkelsen, all the titles end with three suspension points, encouraging the viewer to continue the story. Let’s look, as an example, to When the ice is gone, there’s food… We see a whale, laying and wriggling on a rocky ground. In the background, towering over the whale, is a hilly landscape. Maybe the whale is stranded on the bottom of the ocean – but if so, what has become of all the water? The whale is enveloped by blood-red flames – perhaps because that is what the title refers to as being the food served? Yet one still wonders to whom it will be served in such a deserted landscape.
The other two works are equally uninhabited, but on the other hand we find the same animal in them both: the polar bear. The polar bear is portrayed in these images as a mighty being; in Black polar bear in ice cave… it raises itself over the surroundings, while in Food pits… it is on the prowl. The polar bear is the king of ice to Mikkelsen. Mikkelsen has himself never been to Greenland, despite having always been fascinated by this country. However, he has flown numerous times over Greenland – and he has never seen houses from the flights, only rocks and ice. “So I have always fantasised about it being unpopulated, oh so beautiful and with animals reigning.”
The works are thus a form of expression for Mikkelsen’s fantasies about the Greenland he has only heard about and seen from a distance; a Greenland where animals prevail in the deserted scenery.
“Behind the Art – Frodo Mikkelsen!” is written by Laila Lund Altinbas.