Mie Olise is a Danish constructor, filmmaker and painter. Her work blends architecture, art and philosophy to explore abandoned places and desolate structures. She has an MFA from Central Saint Martins in London and MA from the Aarhus School of Architecture. She’s exhibited all over the world from New York and Los Angeles to Berlin and Mexico City. We met up with Mie in her Copenhagen studio.
My work is very much about construction and deconstruction. I’m interested in how places hold specific stories or feelings. I paint factories and ships to evoke the feeling of abandonment, the feeling of something lost. Those structures are a visual language from my early days–I grew up on an island, sailing a wooden ship that my dad built. When I paint, the turpentine smell reminds me of ships and harbours. For me, the smell of tar or feeling of wood gets to my stomach in the right way.
This type of painting is emotional and romantic. It’s about letting yourself go all the way. I decided to paint this way even though, at times, it’s not perceived as modern. There’s been a big war on emotions in art. It’s not good enough to do something because you follow your intuition. When I realized that there’s all this energy against the way I like to work, I decided to really stick with it.
On bike journeys home from the studio, I’m almost flying because I’m so excited about something I’ve discovered. The biggest change in my work happened while I was in school in London. Before school, I mixed colours on a plate and painted pretty dry with cheap brushes. Then, I went to the art store and bought these delicious flat brushes and started mixing colours in a cup instead of on a plate. It made the whole freaking difference. It was so wet and I’d take the brush from the cup and it made these drips and I was like, ‘Whoa.’ It felt so right to make those kind of drips. That same night I started painting parallel lines and they still show up in my work.
When you are far away from home, you have that distance to see your life with perspective. You don’t have as much angst. I’ve been travelling to escape that angst. I did 5 years in architecture school in Copenhagen, went to London for 3 years, then New York for 5 years and now I’m back in Copenhagen. As soon as I feel like a place is my home, I need to go. I don’t like the feeling of being dependent on a place. It’s difficult to cope with.
Your work can grow in a new environment because you’re alone and you can do whatever you want. No one has expectations. It’s such a wonderful feeling to be new in a place. It’s like your first year of high school. You’re so awake, alert and curious. As long as Copenhagen feels new, it’s going to be fine. I built a cabin with the wood from The Silent Station project at the Nikolaj Contemporary Art Centre. It has doors and a little garden. I’m excited to start working out there.
–Mie Olise, as told to Studio Beat
photos by Matt Lundy
Visit Mie Olise’s website here.