Cand. Mag. in Modern Culture and Cultural Information
`I can actually paint and be social at the same time`
It is in the process that the artist Mia-Nelle Drøschler is at her best. But it is to enjoy the happiness too soon, as in it this tale, we will need to start all the way back to a far more less than ‘the good old days’.
We are writing June 17, 2010, and it is not any normal day. It is the day of the highlight of the art calendar of the International art world: the degree show of the acclaimed London-based art school Goldsmith’s. It is two o’clock and the doors have just opened. In walk critics, collectors, jetsetters, actors, in short, everything that can walk and stand in the finer circles of the upper layers of the metropolis, and among the artstudents is being whispered again and again: ‘Will Saatchi come, will Saatchi come?’
Charles Saatchi, the man behind the legendary artist group ‘New British Artists’ is both loved and hated by the graduates, but one thing is certain. With one appreciative nod from the Iraqi-Jewish, rocky publicity and art collector, a career in the big league can soon be in full swing.
In the middle of the tumult, Mia-Nelle is standing in her newly purchased secondhand dress bought for only three British pounds. She is exited. This is the preliminary highlight of a life in which she has suffered great losses, but also a number of key people who have helped define her as the artist. She is standing right here.
The good old days
The Drøschler family goes back a long time and is originally from the Danish island Funen. There are no fine sensations here, it is an endless series of first-rate farmers and then industrial workers. A selection of characters from the society, if not the bottom, then the base, those who created the values, and for that got barked hands and a rent that could simply bring them to the next meal.
The grandparents on the mother’s side worked at a glue factory and as a bookkeeper at a pharmacy, and on the father’s side both worked as cleanings staff at Frederiksborg Castle. Mia-Nelle’s mother was unemployed, while her father took care of the work as an untrained gardener at Fredensborg Castle. The outer framework consisted of a veritable micro-society, the small village was called Plejlt with four houses and a sub-total of eight children, who became the little girl´s best friends. However, it also meant that Mia-Nelle had difficulty with language when she was five to six years old and was therefore sent to kindergarden to broaden her vocalborary and talking in general.
However, the lack of language she overcomed quickly. She started in 1st grade in Tikøb Primary School, the nearby village where the family had meanwhile moved to.
But during the middle of the first school year, the family moved to Elsinore, and here the extroverted, energetic girl quickly created good friendships and thrived. Her exitement for knowledge would take no end and the top marks ticked into the character book. The small hippie community from early childhood was replaced by a social housing complex Vapnagård, and the world just expanded, which suited Mia-Nelle quite well.
Already in the 8th-9th. class she met a whole other world than the gray apartment blocks and the tightly-knit schoolbooks, and it was in junior high school that Drøschler found her greatest love to date: the visual arts. It was in the form of the not very much older Mia Sloth Møller, who herself had great, personal ambitions for a life in the service of art. She became the prime mover in a process that for Mia-Nelle has never really stopped, namely the fascination of the drawing. And she also found a day off from an everyday life where her mother’s mental health was fragile and her father absent.
Furthermore, the school road goes to Elsinore Highschool. The character book gets a little slack, because here the young artist’s spire encounters what she herself calls the ‘visual arts room’. Personalized by the school’s academy-trained visual arts teacher Ebbe Møllermark, who, without hesitation, set his student to mount large canvases on suspenseful stretchers, and without so much as an introduction to the finer details of painting, challenged the somewhat puzzled, but also extremely excited, Mia-Nelle with brushes. Already in the first attempt she hits something that pleased the mentor: two big tigers took shape, and he immediately decided that his student was worth the effort.
The high school’s curriculum, and gradually numerous classes in other subjects, was slowly but surely ignored, for it was in the visual arts room she had been upgraded to her right enviroment and found her zen.
The aupair family from hell
In the middle of Madrid, a girl is sitting and is really upset with the situation she has put herself into. She has finished high school, and unlike her schoolmates, she has not saved a penny for the big, compulsory around-the-globe-trip and therefore has felt the need to take an au pair job in Madrid. Her rescue, when the sour duties in the extremely dysfunctional Spanish home are over, was fortunately a group of Danish girlfriends she met through the agency that had sent her, and they took in the Spanish capital in fine style and made the whole stay slide down roughly. However, Mia-Nelle left the post four months into her au pair year.
Dry pockets and great grief
In all people’s lives there a number of circumstances is happening, and so it was for Mia-Nelle. On one side, visual art draws, but on the other, the urge to make a whole lot of money lurks in the middle of the gilded yuppie era. That dilemma leads to a huge detour over two years in the Multimedia and Design degree program, a good job in the IT industry and even independent business as an IT moderator and user interface expert. Mia-Nelle is flowing nicely on the IT wave, and it is being paid, so it’s a pleasure.
But one day we must once again turn our lives on our protagonists. The announcement of the mother’s death ticks in, and it becomes, in the midst of grief, at the same time an awakening. Mia-Nelle is experiencing a death consciousness. A feeling that every day can be the last. And in the midst of grief over her mentally ill, alcoholic and high-smoking mother dies in the age of 50, the images blossom from her inner retina. The apartment in Sydhavnen in Copenhagen turns into a condominium, and overnight Drøschler is a quarter of a million in Danish kronen richer, and it offers a unique opportunity to devote herself to the art.
She starts her tour-de-force at the Copenhagen Artschool, which is a preschool for the finer art academies. In particular, one of the school’s teachers, academy educated Peter Holck, became the source of inspiration for Mia-Nelle’s career as a visual artist. ‘I’ve always said it was Peter Holck who taught me how to paint’, she expresses bluntly, emphasizing that it was the good, figurative painting for which Holck was especially exponent and seen in Drøschler’s works that day today. And the party doesn’t stop here, after two years at the the Copenhagen Artschool, Mia-Nelle is admitted to both the prestigious Dutch Academy Gerrit Rietveld Academy and to the gold-striped, star-studded Goldsmiths University of London. And she chooses the latter.
The Black School
We are in a cluttered room at the address New Cross in the south-east part of London, and there is a call for criticism of God knows at what time. This time, however, the honor has accrued to the undergraduate student Mia-Nelle Drøschler, and it is her works that must be critized in the next hours. All of her fellow students, whom she considers as part of her really good friends, have been transformed into lucrative wolves whose only ambition is to score cheap points with teachers and tutors by providing spiritual and toxic interpretations of the work’s obvious shortcomings. And it keeps going. Hour after hour. It will not end. But what Mia-Nelle brings from this and many other similar sessions is the mantra: ‘It is the question that is the important thing – not the answer’.
One day, she happens to meet a tutor in the hallway of the school’s hallowed halls, and, as she makes aware of the lack of answers from this exasperated school, she gets the message: ‘Them (the answers) you will probably get in ten years time’. But before then, school life and the endless array of highly competent guest teachers and the introduction to the art and art theory of the world once again gets Drøschler to undergo a transformation. Back in time at the School of Fine Arts, she acknowledged that being an artist is a full-time job, but at Goldsmiths she also finds that it is an eternal process of recognition and that it is in the process that the art vibrates in earnest, makes sense and becomes relevant to its observer.
Well through her graduation show there is good news in Mia-Nelles inbox. She has been spotted by a newly opened gallery called ARCH402 in London, and her large format in particular arouses the enthusiasm of the gallery curator. The gallery is perfect for precisely works of this kind with its distinctive vaults emanating from a closed subway station.
She gets a year to paint the work for the exhibition, it gets set up and then … nothing. We are writing 2011, and the financial crisis has ripped and bitten in the art world and in investors’ investment cravings to such an extent that the entire mole is left as a torn corpse of lost dreams and unemployed artists.
Especially the middle class, the so-called ‘mid-career artists’, are bleeding. The market has simply responded by taking an interest only in the big names, and in an effort to protect their investments , there have been far between visits to the galleries to buy newly produced art despite ridiculous spot prices.
While the crisis is raging, Mia-Nelle makes yet another of her most distinctive and surprising decisions. After the motto, ‘Rather a big fish in a small pond’, she moves to Glasgow in Scotland, falls in love with the idea of having a house, dog and car, and then she goes quietly but surely to a halt. The relationship is shrinking, she may only be allowed to paint in the garage when the car is not there. But over time she stops even this and starts drinking more heavily. However, from an art-historical perspective, the period is not entirely wasted, as she actually is invited to a solo exhibition at the Danish Institute in Edinburgh in 2013, but it is also a small ray of light in an otherwise very dark room.
The fog dissolves
We are not talking about a person who is letting her demons rule after the bitter drink of defeat poisoning her tongue. Drøschler definitely puts the plug in the bottle and leaves the highlands. Back in Denmark, she goes to her new life with curvy neckline and embroidered sleeves. As an art teacher at Copenhagen Artschool, slowly but surely she enters the Danish art world, establishes contacts, participates in group exhibitions, creates the exhibition The Island Of Many Dreams at Bie & Vadstrup Gallery in ’14, and becomes permanent member of the artist association Corner on Sophienholm to great media attention.
And then she does something that affects her as the artist she is today. She starts to travel. She has already benefited tremendously from an epoch-making journey to the jungle of Borneo, which taught her that nature, as much as the portrait, can be the starting point for an exploration of the mind. And with the help of a number of international residences in i.a. In Rome and Berlin she expands her artistic palette and today stands as the exponent of the finest found in expressive painting. This – coupled with the work of drawings and prints – makes her a distinguished representative of an artistic work of incredibly high quality.
We are writing August 23, 2019.
The place is the sleepy, classic Danish provincial village with its important Danish historical significance, Skælskør, and a few ordinary locals come walking through the city street, armed with thermos, cake dishes and folding chairs. They are heading down the tunnel, where ‘that crazy lady’ has been seen to make a total artwork of unprecedented dimensions. More precisely, a twice 27 meter long painting in the city’s undisputed longest concrete tunnel. And quite right. Here they find the artist Mia-Nelle Drøschler in the finest form. Without sketches, with her mathematical, analytical and programming-savvy brain, she has started from one end, she works systematically towards the other, and although the interest in the project has overwhelmed her and also caused a little irritation, she reverses the situation as usual to the positive. Because, as she jokingly puts it, in my favorite one-liner: “I can actually paint and be social at the same time.”