‘Drawing and Memory’ Art Show at NIKI

Signe Kongsgaard Mogensen & her works at the Dutch University Institute for Art History (NIKI)

Until April 19: LIVING FORMS: DRAWING AND MEMORY. Dutch University Institute for Art History (NIKI), viale Torricelli 5, Florence. Open Monday – Friday, 9 am – 5:30 pm.  Buses 11, 12 or 13.  Free admission. 

Effervescence, movement, and evolution are some of the words which come to mind when viewing Living Forms, a collection currently showing at the NIKI. Created by Signe Kongsgaard Mogensen, the exhibition silently reveals truths about time, language, and memory. These ideas have also clearly played fundamental roles in her artistic journey to creating these unique drawings. 

Mogensen’s collection contains secure circular and biomorphic shapes which play with the idea of shades and expertly incorporate blank space. The pictures synthesize to leave one with a striking concept of art and stem from the artists’ authentic journey for self-expression.  Inherent is the importance of the artistic process itself and what it teaches the viewer.

The name itself, Living Forms, came after the exhibition had been assembled and Mogensen was explaining the pieces to NIKI director Michael Kwakkelstein. The title references the continuous layers she applies as the entities evolve and, as she explains, “become.” These enchanting organisms are not just simple pictures though, but rather, they are meant to teach their audience about the universal principles of time and language.

Each drawing is a product of the weeks to months needed to materialize on paper and thus reflect the time required to produce them. Disconnected from the world’s demand for productivity, the quantity of time incorporated is often absurdly slow by contemporary standards, thereby emphasizing quality and the process itself. Just like the continuity of their circular shapes, this time span falls into a silent rhythm.

This evident rhythm is also designed to produces a universal language. Strikingly similar to words, her pieces also organically have their genesis from within, with patterns applied using the same simple materials: paper and a pencil. Mogensen plans to expand upon this idea as she together with Michael Kwakkelstein (NIKI), Dennis Geronimus (New York University) and Anna Stigsgaard (literature researcher) will explore the intersection of language, poetry and drawing at a round table discussion, scheduled on March 22, from 9:30 am to 1 pm  at the Dutch University Institute for Art History. The event is free and open to the public.

Mogensen grew up in Denmark, but after a brief visit in high school felt an inescapable connection to Florence and a desire to return. A few years later, she moved to the city to attend a private art school and, afterwards, was invited to work under the artist Piero Fantastichini. During this time, she traveled between Italy and Denmark, creating under her mentor while studying at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Conservation of Monumental Art. Following this, she took a break from drawing and devoted her time to studying art history at the universities of Rome and Copenhagen. She graduated in 2010 with a M.A. degree in Italian Studies and Art History. 

Her studies led her back to Tuscany where she completed a M.A. thesis discussing the works of Jacopo da Pontormo and worked at the Uffizi for a number of months. After this, she traveled back to Denmark to work as a museum curator, a position she held for three years. When thinking about her past work, she acknowledges that these experiences have provided her with the necessary practical skills needed for her present show.  

Living Forms can be traced back to her beginning in art and undoubtedly synthesizes her experiences with all of the pieces she has studied throughout the years. Mogensen has been drawing and crafting things since she was three years old, and although her education and museum work marked a hiatus in her art, she couldn’t hold back for long. In her free time, she found herself drawing once again, with art flowing out from her fingertips. To embrace her call to be an artist once again, however, she had to face her fears. In the previous years, her romantic image of an artist had been shattered and replaced with a more realistic one, leaving her feeling overwhelmed with doubts about making it a living. She, nevertheless, concluded time was too short to waste, and was determined to cling onto hope whenever she has doubts about being an artist.

Overcoming her fears allowed her art to take shape and grow, resulting in the 10 drawings individuals now have the opportunity to enjoy in her present show. These works officially began in 2015, evolving during the four years she has devoted to them. Initially, they were circular, but eventually their shapes started expanding. The drawings themselves are all on the same paper, Fabriano Tiepolo 100% cotton, a background that combine perfectly with the color and charcoal pencils she uses to create her Living Forms.

Mogensen expects to continue to let the language of her art develop, unsure of where it will go. On this topic, she notes, “Sometimes I dream that they become big, big drawings, but I must admit I ask if I am able.” This statement stems from once again from the idea of time and her awareness that it is limited.  

For additional information, visit the artist’s website.  (kimberly brooking)