London-based Norwegian artist Magnhild Kennedy aka Damselfrau, who has previously showcased her work through the Fetishism in Fashion exhibition curated by Lidewij Edelkoort, keeps surprising us with new innovative shapes and materials on her main canvas, the human face. Creating a mask is like creating a new character, a veil that allows you to become someone else.
Refreshingly unpretentious, a magpie-like eye for beauty leads her work. Talking to her we learn more about the way she works and how material recycling is a key element in her work.
Tell me a little bit about yourself and your practice, when did you first come to London?
I’m from Trondheim, Norway and moved to London in 2007. I’m self-taught. I have learned most I know from YouTube and trial and error. London has been an integral part of the mask making. I started working with mainly used materials, and here there is a never ending mass of old things to take apart and stuff from all corners of the world. Pretty fantastic, really.
What is your background and how did you become fascinated with masks?
I never studied anything that is relevant to the work I do today. When I first moved to London I’d go out to club nights. Full dress-up clubbing. I made masks for an outfit and the format stuck. I have never been very interested in masks as category, that has come with the work. I’m still figuring it out, but there is a need for it. People need anonymity and privacy.
What is the inspiration behind your work, how do you choose the name for each mask?
The material is the initial inspiration. It always starts with a piece of stuff and I let the material lead the process. I try to stay away from any idea of form until it appears whilst making it. I never draw or design anything, really. I stick to that method as I feel like there is a truth to the character that appears. No over thinking. Once the piece is done, I find out what I think it looks like. Then I look whatever it looks like up on Wikipedia, checking it up in different languages, find a word, change some letters so it sits well. Is the piece more an ‘O’ or a ‘T’.
Is it you behind the mask in most images?
I do photograph all the masks on myself, it makes it a character that I can send out there on the internet. Getting it out there is a big part of it. Let it become a ‘someone’ that can travel on it’s own on Tumblr and Insta.
What are the key material manipulations in your work?
I work in textile mainly. Mostly basic hand stitching and beading.
Your work seems to have a strong cultural influence, is this something you aim to achieve or it is subconsciously done?
No, not consciously.
Any future work or exhibitions we should expect to see your work?
I’m working towards my next exhibition in London, some time late next year.
Melissanthi Spei is an Athenian born fashion artist based in London. Her heritage in combination with her creativity inspires her to create contemporary and sculptural garments. Part of her identity as a designer is to use industrial materials for something historical and old through the exploration of traditional arts and crafts and their projection to contemporary aesthetics. Melissanthi has taken an interest in exploring different parts of folklore culture around the world and ways to revive them within the fashion context.