Rose Eken on inspiration

Part of Rose Eken’s work includes recreating some of the rubbish that we as a society leave lying around - empty bottles, cigarette butts, junk food - in glazed ceramics. However, the Danish artist, born in 1976, always makes sure to add a shift or a twist to the recognisable world, whether she works in ceramics or embroidery, miniature, drawing or video installation.

Interview by Kasper Steenbach

About Rose Eken

Visual artist Rose Eken (born 1976) graduated from the Royal College of Art in London (Master of Arts, 2003) and has lived and worked in London, Berlin, New York and Copenhagen. At the age of 16, Rose began working as a stage technician for live punk, rock and hardcore concerts at various venues in Copenhagen, which had a major influence on her art. 

Her work often spans music, fan culture and darkness as a colour tone, as well as existential phenomena. She is known for her ceramic installations and miniature sculptures of everyday objects such as morning coffee, make-up and fan t-shirts. Rose has exhibited at ARoS Aarhus Art Museum, Horsens Art Museum, Hjorts Fabrik – The Ceramic Factory & Museum of Bornholm and internationally in New York, Paris, Istanbul and Berlin, among others. 

Rose is exhibiting a series of cast bronze sculptures in Nørgaard paa Strøget for the art event CHART 2023, and launching an extensive collaboration with Mads Nørgaard, which includes t-shirts, silk scarves and a #101 Rose Eken edition.

Do you have a mentor who has been a key inspiration to you in your art?

No, I wouldn’t really say that I have. Maybe I have a lot of them. Maybe none. But there have definitely been several people in my life who have had a big impact on me creating the work that I do. People I’ve looked up to, who have supported and inspired me.. When I turned 16, I became a punk and dyed my hair green, my mum gave me Emma Goldman’s “Anarchist Memoirs”. Her story and her struggle have stayed with me throughout my life. As has my mum, who is pretty badass and a fairly spot-on type. There are also a number of female artists and musicians I’ve used as a mirror: PJ Harvey, Kim Gordon and Sinéad O'Connor were and still are sources of inspiration. Tracey Emin, Louise Bourgeois, Sarah Lucas, Rebecca Horn, Leonora Carrington, Dorothea Tanning ... I could go on. Svend Wiig Hansen (Danish sculptor, painter and graphic artist) was a great inspiration to me in my childhood. I met him when I was 5-years-old and he helped me select works for my portfolio when I applied to the Academy. It was actually one of the last times I saw him before his untimely death. He was a great character, and unfortunately, he is currently a far too overlooked Danish artist.


"I remember looking out over the venue filled with hundreds of trampled plastic cups, barriers and other debris, and thinking: I’m going to reproduce this in ceramics."

Do you have specific sources of inspiration that you use?

It depends on where I want to go with my idea. Inspiration is a fluid or intuitive thing, and some ideas form slowly, others are just suddenly there. But the obvious ones are conversations with friends, walks, music, books, geeky websites, libraries, Insta, exhibitions, sci-fi, fantasy, tarot cards, memories, dreams... A few years ago, I created a huge installation consisting of several thousand ceramic objects, and basically it was an idea I got after a Slayer concert at Copenhell in 2017, where I was hanging out in front of the stage with my friend, waiting for the whole move towards the exit to become a bit less crazy. I remember looking out over the venue at the hundreds of trampled plastic cups, barriers and other debris and thinking: This is what I’m going to reproduce in ceramics. It became the ‘Aftermath’ installation, which is now at Horsens Art Museum ... if you’re ever over that way.


Have you ever felt like you were repeating yourself in your art? 

Sometimes you just hate your own visual language. But then again, that’s just the way it comes out. Three years ago, I reached a point where I was getting bored - I had kind of solved the puzzles of what I was doing and it just felt like I was repeating myself. As an artist, it’s important to keep daring to ask questions. The courage to pull the rug out from under yourself. Staying inquisitive. However, the problem is that when you succeed at something, others want to put you in that box, and it can be very difficult to then break out of it. For example, I’m known as the person who makes ceramics out of all sorts of things we recognise from our everyday lives, and yes, I definitely am that. But I am and have always been so much more. Basically, I have always worked in many different media, video, sculpture, installation, painting and embroidery - to name but a few. I’ve spent the last few years determined to do other things - exploring new or just different materials and daring to just be in the process and to just create for myself. To brave the dark and build new, perhaps more multi-faceted universes. Maybe my art has become more mature - at least that’s what my friend claimed yesterday. My approach is certainly different, and that’s really what’s most important - the process. That it remains a challenge for me. That I’m having fun. That I’m learning something.

Explore the collaboration between Rose Eken x CHART x Mads Nørgaard – Copenhagen at here and watch the reel with Rose at @madsnorgaard here

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