The work of Danish artist Cathrine Raben Davidsen is expressed through manifold media, and always with a strong sensation of the material, whether it is paint, print, drawing, ceramics, set and costume design, or objects created from fur, feathers or embroidery. Throughout her career, with a recurrent focus on historical figures and spiritual matters, Raben Davidsen has been preoccupied with questions of identity and how identity is linked to memory, history and the way we perform ourselves. Through her obvious staging of her compositions and her use of figures like the mask, puppets and historical characters, her work has links to theatre and dance. From early on she has also drawn inspiration from the history of art and from a variety of textual references associated with Western and Eastern mythology and literature. However, the cultural history and spiritual cultures of the many places she has travelled to around the world, such as Egypt, Japan and India, are also a constant source of inspiration for her choices of both motifs and technique.
Conversation with Cathrine Raben Davidsen
Where are you from and where do you currently live?
I grew up in Copenhagen, Denmark, where I still work and live.
When did you become an artist and what was your first project?
After high school at the age of 19 I decided to go study art in Italy, because we had travelled there a lot in my childhood. My very first big art project was at my first art school in Florence. I had bought a pheasant bird at the local market with feathers and all. And I did a series of very large paintings using beeswax, feathers from the bird, barbed wire and gold leaf. Each morning I would take the bird out of the freezer and then paint for a few hours until it started smelling. It went on for some time until I finally had to throw it away. I still have the paintings.
Did you study art in school, if so where?
I attended art schools in Italy and in the Netherlands before I began my studies at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen.
What inspires you?
I get my inspiration from lots of different places. I love to travel, which I do as much as possible with my family. However our country house in Sweden is my favorite place in the world and I get a lot of inspiration from being there as well. It is located on top of the Hallandsåsen above Lake Västersjön in an old nature reserve surrounded by pine, juniper, wild raspberries and blueberries. There is a magical silence there that I have not found anywhere else in the world.
Any particular artists?
There are many artists, but two artists that I really admire are Marlene Dumas and Mamma Andersson. Common to both of them is their brilliant mastery of the material and the ability to paint everyday matters related to being human that we can all relate to. Additionally, I am particularly fond of painters such as Kai Althoff, Miriam Cahn, Julie Mehretu, Chris Ofili, Enrico David, Jules de Balincourt and Camille Henrot.
What are some of the ideas behind your work?
Historical accounts, works of fiction and mythological material combined with personal memory is often the starting point for my work. I like to experiment and to constantly move towards new territories. To be curios and to always do my outmost are my mantras. I work in various medias and most recently I have started making ceramic lamps and I am currently in the initial phase of doing a collaboration with the amazing Nina Yashar from Nilufar Gallery in Milan, which I could never have imagined. It is super exciting and challenging.